Personally I always thought that if Egypt had ever had anything special or really good about it, it would be the music. Egyptian music and musicians were always my favorite and I always thought that Egyptian musicians had a lot of hidden talents and potential just waiting for the right time to come out. Knowing some amateur and professional musicians and being in love with playing some music myself, it was obvious that there are some struggles that face almost every single non-professional musician in Egypt.
One of the most irritating problems any young musician ever faces. Musical instruments and equipment are among the most expensive things ever whether it’s guitars, keyboards, amps, pedals, drum sets and don’t even get me started on saxophones. Who are we? Heirs of Sawiris?! Instruments are not cheap in other countries, but you don’t find yourself paying 7k+ just to buy a decent guitar and a decent amp!
Unless you’re a musician/band who have made yourself a name and some good money to either go to expensive studios or even have your own, you probably find yourself most of the time going to cheaper low quality studios. The place is always small and probably not so clean, the equipment is of bad quality and the sound system is not so good either. Is it possible in any way to find a cheap studio that has a neat drum set, a pair of good mics a good space for us to move? No?..
It takes a musician to understand another musician, and unfortunately most people don’t understand the inner aspects of music. Most musicians have definitely heard stuff like “Oh you’re covering a song? So you’re basically stealing it right?” or “Couldn’t you create a more original song? Because I think it’s really similar to a song I heard before“. Of course not to mention that some people start giving you some names that carry a lot of disrespect in them like ‘Tabbal’ or ‘Alaty’, especially if music is what you do for living.
Band or solo performer, if you wanna be a musician you have to find people committed enough to you and the music you play, so if it’s a band; the other musicians become part of the team, and if you’re a solo performer you have to find some musicians who are willing to play in concerts with you for money. Thing is, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If he/she is a good player; they have awful personalities, if they have good personalities; their playing is not so good. If they’re both good players and nice people; they’re not interested in the same genre as you are. Finding the right people is way tougher than it looks.
So you’ve found the perfect band members. Congratulations! Now, you have to find the perfect time that suits you and all the other members, and DON’T YOU DARE think it’s an easy job to do. If someone is busy on Friday and free on Monday, someone else is busy on Monday but free on Thursday, so naturally someone else is busy on Thursday but free on Wednesday. It’s madness!
The sad truth is 90% of the organizers in Egypt don’t want to risk it and get a new band that doesn’t have a lot of fans. The sadder truth is that they have a good point. Unless you’re a really big band/singer, most of your concerts will either be in small art spaces with a limited number of audience, or you’ll be asked to play a song or two in a concert as an opening show until the main event starts. After a while of playing art spaces, you start noticing a few loyal fans who are there for most of the shows and slowly your audience start becoming your friends.
Musicians’ lives in Egypt are tough; it’s tiring and it doesn’t pay well in the beginning, but if you ever feel down just remember why you wanted to play music in the first place, and know that you’re not alone.