CAIRO: Hundreds of youths swarmed outside the Cairo Opera House’s open air theater Wednesday night, hoping to be among the lucky ones to force their way into the completely packed Wust El-Balad concert. Tickets sold out by around 8:00 p.m., and patient but wearied Opera House workers withstood an onslaught of verbal tirades from a frustrated crowd that formed around the theater entrance, as lucky ticket holders timidly slipped past. While some teens sought out the best spots to try and hear the show from outside, others clustered together planning entrance strategies.
Twenty-three-year-old Mohannad Rabie and his friends split up to try and maximize their chances of obtaining tickets somewhere within the opera house complex.
If they didn’t find tickets, Rabie was reluctantly prepared to go home: “I’ll sacrifice – you know, for friends.
Like many of the fans here, Rabie has been an avid patron of Wust El-Balad; he’s attended 10 other concerts. He says part of the reason fans attend so many shows is because the band does not release albums; the only way to really hear them is in concert.
Shady Emad, 19, doesn’t even remember how many concerts he’s attended. He says it’s possible to find recordings of live concerts, but they’re not the same: “It’s a new feel in music, and I like it on stage only.
Milling impatiently around the outside of the theater, Rabie and many other youths interviewed guessed that at least 60 percent of their age group are Wust El-Balad listeners. Aside from Egyptian teens, there was also sizeable crowd of expatriates in the crowd.
Ayana Katerina recently arrived from Italy. She became familiar with the band a little over two weeks ago, and was already attempting to get into a second concert. Distractedly glancing around the entrance, hoping for tickets, she said “I don’t know what they sing about, but I like the style.
It’s easy to see why so many people here are becoming enamored with Wust El-Balad. What many fans labeled as Oriental jazz, however, mostly seemed like a slight adaptation of Latin jazz here. The band’s sound is a blend of Latin inspired rhythms and harmonies, blended with thick, undulating Middle Eastern style vocals. The singers showed off impeccable pipes that completed with the remarkably intense and impassioned drumming.
Fadma Kesak, 22, loves the different styles that Wust El Balad blends together. “They are young, and they sing such a new style in Egypt. They’re not artificial, she says.
That’s hard to find here, says Kesak. Her opinion was echoed by several other fans. “They are the best band in Egypt, says 19-year-old Mostafa Mohammed, taking a break from wildly jumping and dancing around with friends.
Of course, he may be a little biased, considering that he and his friend, Mostafa Motz, set up an online fan club (www.wustelbaladfansclub.tk).
Asked what they liked about the songs, many patrons said there were great love songs, and also some great political songs. Mohammed’s favorite song is “Ya Salaam. “It’s about America and their American cowboy style, he says. “It describes the cowboy, and how he’s riding the whole world.
It is these kinds of lyrics that Mohammed thinks has made Wust El- Balad a perennial favorite for seven years. “The best thing about Wust El-Balad is that they have these really simply lyrics, but with really deep meanings.
Whether it is the deep meanings or intoxicating rhythms, Wust El-Balad has their audience hooked.