By Maha ElNabawi
Outfitted in funky-ethnic jewelry, dreadlocks, and a bohemian aura — Spanish singer Araceli Muñoz and her band, Ara Musa Honra, entertained Cairenes with musical messages of love and positivity this past Thursday at Al-Azhar Park’s Geneina Theater.
The concert was the opening performance of Al Mawred Al Thaqafy’s annual Hayy festival.
Before interviewing the band hours before the concert, I was uncertain as what to expect of the supposed “Spanish-Reggae-Rumba” band — yet another contrived attempt of cross category fusion?
Fortunately, Ara Musa Honra is anything but contrived. The seven-man band has an intoxicating chemistry and bountiful sound that engages listeners while breaking the mold of traditional Latin music.
Araceli, or Ara for short, told Daily News Egypt: “Our music is not political; it’s not about fighting and the ugliness in the world. On the contrary, we discuss love, happiness, and beauty. Our music is a form of escape from the otherwise harsh realities of life.
“These days, most musicians are singing about socio-political issues, we focus on the good in life, the little things — friendship, a passing smile, a cold beer and of course, love! Love, love, love!”
The Madrid-based band, which was officially formed in 2008, has performed over 140 concerts and has received notable accolade not only in Spain, but in other European countries as well.
Ara Musa Honra recently released their first six-track EP, “Musarañas” (Daydreams) and has already received various awards in contests such as the Trebu Festival of Musicians in Trebujena, Cádiz and the TresAguas Pop Music in Madrid.
“I named the EP ‘Musarañas’ because I wrote the lyrics in a state of dreaming, day dreaming in fact,” Muñoz said. “Dreaming is one of the most beautiful aspects of life and something that should be celebrated. That, and simply recording my first album, was a dream in itself.”
With Muñoz in the lead, the band is comprised of reggae-inspired hand percussionist Antonio Monedero and bass guitarist Alejandro Vedea. Drummer Juan Pedro Moragues, pianist Derardo Santiago and electric guitarist NassuBowa bring forth a rock influence while Spanish guitarist Enrique Redondo seasons the sound with flamenco.
“We are all multi-influenced musicians,” Santiago said. “Everyone has a unique way of playing their instrument. Each member brings forth their own style, our sounds meeting along the way.”
Muñoz added, “When I make a song, I think Reggae!” Bass guitarist, Vedea quickly agreed. This exchange exemplifies the band’s peculiar marriage of styles.
With Spanish guitar acting as their guided light and wooden bar stools as their percussions, the hotel bar where this interview was conducted came to life with an impromptu performance of Ara’s hit single, “Pa Volar” (To Fly).
Later that evening, local music lovers were privy to a 15-song stimulating performance under a starlit sky in the open-air theater of Al-Azhar Park.
While each song has a distinctive Spanish tone, the band uses fiery reggae-Latin-grunge polyrhythms with contrastingly cool, dynamic vocals different from traditional Rumba music.
Despite the obvious language barrier of the Spanish singing Muñoz, the band’s diverse musical backgrounds and engaging stage presence had audience members clapping, dancing, and tapping a toe.
Often while introducing the next song (in Spanish), Muñoz would give up realizing the language hurdle and simply shout, “I love you! I love you Egypt,” to a swaying and cheering audience.
The set list included an array of musical genres, most notably: reggae, grunge-rock, flamenco, and the occasional rap. The flamenco influence, however, can be heard distinctively through the leisurely curling harmonic lines of the Spanish guitar and the melisma of Muñoz’s singing.
The guitar-centric tracks seem to channel Carlos Santana, yet the overall sound is distinguished by a reggae-tone that bleeds through most of the music.
Muñoz kept the crowd entranced with her bouncy reggae-salsa dance moves and interactions with the Nassu Bowa; his lyrical electric guitar seemed to sing back to her, generating a playful tension-filled dialogue between the two musicians.
Co-coordinator of the festival, Charles Akl said, “I think the audience was really happy [with the performance]. The band had a notably great spirit which is the most important aspect of a live concert.”
Singing or speaking, Ara Musa Honra has a motivational message to send to the human spirit — all you truly need is love. They speak a language through their music that people can understand in any country, any language.
Ara Musa Honra’s music can be found on the band’s website: http://www.aramusahonra.com/