When non-Egyptian elders think of Egyptian music, the first artists that come to mind are Um Kalthoum, Abd el Wahab, and Abd el Halim. Youngsters will automatically start reciting words from the latest Amr Diab or Tamer Hosni songs. However, true Egyptians know that the music scene is not complete without their King, Mohamed Mounir.
Mohamed Mounir is from el Noba, the region which makes up southern Egypt and encompasses the famously touristic governates of Luxor and Aswan. Nubians are as close as Egyptians get to the Sudanese in terms of appearance and culture. They are also notorious for their kind hearts and gorgeous smiles. But not much more is known about these people. Rather, not much more was known about them till Ahmed Mounib began to slowly emerge with song expressing real human sorrow, joy, and love. Although these songs were not hits during Ahmed Mounib’s time, Mohammed Mounir sang them and they gained momentum, which eventually escalated his career.
Undoubtedly, Mounir is a symbol of a faction of our generation. Not everyone understands his musical choices and my personal advice for first time listeners is to find an avid and practiced listener to guide you through in the beginning. Mounir’s sales are not as high as someone like Amr Diab or Nancy Ajram simply because his music requires digestion and slow listening. Not because of their beats or tempo, but rather because of their unconventional lyrics, messages, and sometimes traditional connotations.
For one to truly understand the essence of Mounir’s music, he or she must attend one of his concerts. May 6, 2011 saw the first of these experiences to be held in Dubai. It was a night of grand proportions with The King singing in the shadows of the Burj Khalifa. Unlike most male and female musical divas, The King, as he is called by his followers, did not leave the audience waiting for him to appear. From the moment he stepped onto the stage, an entirely different aura could be felt all around. Was it the sense of freedom from tradition? Was it that he had brought a small piece of Egypt to Dubai? It was neither. It was actually just Mounir’s carefully joyful personality.
For three hours, he serenaded his more than captivated audience with old and new songs. There were several failed attempts to end the concert early. But every time he would signal that he was closing, the entire audience chanted, “The people want Mohamed Mounir”, a chant so familiar to the entire region. What was special about the songs was not that everyone knew them by heart, but that they were close to the heart. Each of us had a story with each song.
Never have I seen such a euphoric audience at a concert. Never have I seen a more united audience either. So even though Egyptians chanted for their political freedom, musically they still chant “Long live the King”.
- Mariam Khafagy
Image Credits: Time Out Dubai