Karkade takes Takht music to America
By: Nourhan Magdi
Tue, Sep. 25, 2018
VERMONT, United States – 25 September 2018: Oud player Mohamed Abu Zekry and his band Karkade have been on a multi-state tour for almost a month. They arrived Monday in New Hampshire, their last stop.
Karkade band perform at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in the United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi]
On Sunday, Sept. 23, the Egyptian band performed at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont. Karkade is one of three Egyptian bands selected by the US-sponsored Center Stage program to take part in its fourth season this year. Talking to the band, they were excited about the audience’s reaction to the traditional Egyptian music they performed in venues across the United States.
Karkade band perform at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in the United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
Karkade also visited other states, including Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania. They will hold their last concert along with other activities and workshops in Claremont, New Hampshire.
“What is great about the program is that the schedule has other events besides the performances. So, we talk to children about Egypt, history of music in our country, and our instruments,” Mohamed Abu Zekry, the founder of Karkade, told Egypt Today.
He added that he and his band members also experienced for the first time performing with American musicians in Philadelphia at a Jazz club, saying that such openness “is unfortunately not promoted in many Arab countries.” Building on the importance of the cultural exchange program, Karkade’s founder said he dreams there will be cultural institutions in Egypt that support arts events.
Karkade band perform at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in the United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi.
Asked about how American people reacted to his music, Abu Zekry highlighted, “they reacted amazingly to the music, and I felt the people’s surprise with the different rhythm. It’s beautiful that we perform non-modern music, Takht, and we still get this enormous applause.”
Choosing to call his band “Hibiscus Tea,” that is widely enjoyed on Egyptian streets, puts fragrance to the group’s attractive oriental music. Abu Zekry founded his five-member band in December 2015, and released their first album in 2016.
Abu Zekry is a composer and musician who studied at Beit El-Oud and was a member of El-Sharq Orchestra, led by the famed Nasseer Shama. “The oud has character as an instrument and doesn’t have to be stuck in any one style,” the US monthly music digital Paste Magazine said.
In 2014, Abu Zekry graduated with a Bachelor's degree in music composition from Université Lumière Lyon 2 in France. He has been part of numerous projects and bands, in addition to composing film scores.
He also embarked on a schedule of solo and collaborative projects that took him around the globe. When he returned to Cairo, he found very few musicians who master the older styles he likes to play.
“The commercial scene today has absorbed the overwhelming majority of skilled musicians of the past few generations,” Abu Zekry told Center Stage . “There are fewer and fewer resources for culture, especially for traditional culture. There are also next to no new creations based on this heritage.”
Center Stage brings Abu Zekry to the US for the first time, where he will get the chance to introduce his classical music mixed with Sufi calls to a different audience.