El-Sawy Cultural Center takes a break from hard rock
CAIRO: Much to the dismay of Cairo rock enthusiasts, El-Sawy Cultural Center decided this week to severely limit, and in some cases ban, rock music on its premises.
The decision came after overly rowdy members of the audience at the Aug. 1 “Rock Mania heavy metal concert were found drunk, some even drinking in front of the neighboring mosque.
There have also been widely circulating rumors that a woman at the concert was groped, and that some of the mosque’s walls had been vandalized with graffiti. Employees at the center said they could not confirm the rumors. The Daily Star Egypt found graffiti on walls adjacent to the mosque and cultural center.
Mohamed El-Sawy, the center’s founder, said that they will still allow soft and classic rock but that heavy metal, for the time being, will be banned. “We tried it for a while, but now we can’t, he says. El-Sawy felt the drinking and smoking, which are both not allowed on the premises, in the audience had been extreme.
Despite the stigma often attached to heavy metal, El-Sawy says he doesn’t blame the bands. “We told the bands it’s not a problem with the music, and not a problem with the bands. It is a problem with the audience.
Mohamed Safi, host of the popular show “Planet Rock, on 104.2 Nile FM, understands El-Sawy’s decision. “It’s a cultural center, not The Joint in Vegas . Their motto translates into, ‘We deliver thought and culture.’ This incident transfers into complete lack of either.
Safi said when he discussed the topic on his show earlier this week, some listeners were at first angry at the center. By the end of his show, the mood had changed. “After dishing out the facts, a majority of the people kind of agreed.
Justified or not, many bands feel left in the lurch. Taymour El-Alfy, bassist and songwriter of the local band Brain Candy, says this leaves smaller bands with virtually no performance options. “El-Sawy was the only place you could just go and play a show. All the others have big sponsors and organizers. It’s the only place for a new band to start out. It’s an easy place to play.
Although the cultural center venue will be missed, members of the rock community have made some efforts to try and fill the void. Safi suggested they try sending music to him. “They can contact me if they have demos. I’ll air their stuff.
Bands are also collaborating to try and find a new performance space. “We’ve been talking to a few organizations and bands that want to open a new venue, says El-Alfy. “But then, they talk a lot.
Otherwise, it’s back to private venues, usually rented out villas or shabby hotel ballrooms. El-Alfy dreads this option. “I hope it doesn’t go back to that, but that looks like where it’s going.
Part of the problem with the villa scene may be a reflection of the problem that El-Sawy Cultural Center faced: what Safi calls a more “uppity attitude at concerts.
“I’ve been more reluctant to go to concerts than I used to, he explains. He said some people are ruining the scene for the rest of the rock community. These people “don’t go to sit and enjoy the music, they go to get trashed. Safi says the rock music scene has changed since the 90s: “the new audience is not as chilled out as their predecessors.
Safi can’t say for sure what’s causing the change in the audience, but he says, “I think the influences are getting darker. Rock genres such as “black metal, or “death metal are getting more popular here, genres Safi won’t play on his show. They are often considered more raucous and associated with a violent image.
El-Alfy, however, says he never recalled having a problem with audiences before. “This is definitely a new thing. It never got out of hand. Some people may have snuck in a drink or two, but that’s it.
But El-Sawy stressed that he would not allow his cultural center to be a haven for any “wrong associations. “We have to re-educate these kids to make them enjoy [music] in a clean environment.
While the metal bands are suffering the brunt of El-Sawy’s decision for now, El-Alfy points out that the pendulum is bound to swing the other way soon. “As much as we need them, they need the bands. So I think that’s going to straighten this out.
El-Sawy is open to this possibility too. He claims that soon he will allow rock concerts to play one or two sets of heavy metal. If he is satisfied with the audience’s attitude, he says heavy metal may once again take the stage after a six to eight month break.