Youssra el-Hawary performing at Globalquerque festival in New Mexico - Photo by Nourhan Magdi 
Youssra el-Hawary performing at Globalquerque festival in New Mexico - Photo by Nourhan Magdi

Youssra: Artists should mirror their cultures, lives

Wed, Sep. 26, 2018
NEBRASKA, U.S. – 26 September 2018: Youssra el-Hawary and her band are on the go, holding concerts as they travel across the United States and sending an honest image of themselves and their country.

Egypt Today interviewed Youssra el-Hawary in the small town of Lyons, Nebraska, one of the several stops in her one-month long tour, and listened to her experience as one of three Egyptians bands participating in the fourth season of US-sponsored Center Stage program.


Below is the interview with Youssra el-Hawary


ET: How do you see your first US musical tour?

Youssra: It is very interesting to see how people receive my music and the Egyptian songs, and how they feel about music they do not understand and are not familiar with. I have experienced this in Europe before, but this will be the first time I perform before American audience.


ET: What do you like to convey about yourself to Americans?

Youssra: I wish I can give them an honest image of a woman my age living in Cairo, my thoughts, my dreams, what things I like to change, and what I am experiencing every day.

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Audience enjoying listening to Youssra's band at Kennedy Center - Photo by Nourhan Magdi



ET: How do you think audiences differ in both Egypt and US?

Youssra: The audience in Cairo generally know me and my songs. But in the US, the audience does not have any previous impressions about the songs, so they are like a blank page.


ET: What expectations did the audience share with you about music and Egypt?

Youssra: We asked some people after the concerts if they know anything about Cairo, and if they have any expectations about the songs. We got different answers. They said they imagined weird instruments and knew about the Pyramids but nothing about modern Egypt.

I try from time to time during the concerts to tell the stories of the songs before singing, and they try to listen and know more about the society I come from.


ET: You had a multi-state tour; does the audience react differently in each state?

Youssra: The United States is such a big place; it cannot be the same in all cities. Our tour had several stops; first in Richmond, then Washington and then in Lyons that has a population of only 850 people, and I believe each place has its unique audience.

But generally, people were very nice and curious to know more about Egypt and listened carefully to our songs.


ET: What songs do you feel people interacted with the most?

Youssra: Many came to us asking about the meaning of the lyrics, especially of the songs "El-Soor" and "Jessica", and it was a wonderful experience. My songs are usually more influenced by western rhythms than compound oriental rhythms; however, we still receive audiences who are curious about our music and rhythms.

ET: What kind of activities did you engage in during the tour other than concerts?

Youssra: I really loved when we had visits to universities and schools, and talked with students, especially to those who are interested in Arabic studies. It was good to see their reactions to the songs and listen to their questions about our society.


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Youssra el-Hawary performing at Globalquerque festival in New Mexico - Photo by Nourhan Magdi



ET: How do you think partaking in the program will affect your profession?

Youssra: First, being selected by Center Stage is like a boost to us, and we are very happy with this opportunity as it makes us feel more confident about our work. Second, traveling is a good chance for me to experience connection with different audiences and perform in different venues, with technicians and sound systems. This experience will help us on many levels in the future.

ET: What can arts do that politics cannot?

Youssra: This reminds me of the saying that goes, the art is the mirror of cultures, and I think that artists should always reflect where they live and what they are going through. For me, arts are more honest than media and politics.





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