Hany Mustafa is one great wordsmith. His love for music is partly fate and partly an inheritance from his grandfather, who was an electric engineer by day and a violinist by night. Music was big in his household — how could it not be when family friends included the likes of Baleegh Hamdy and Abdel Halim Hafez? But the nonstop work days of his grandfather set a family precedent that music was to be enjoyed and not pursued.
Not permitted to study music, Mustafa chose economics, a specialization which, he admits, he remembers nothing of. But music remained his ultimate passion and the air he breathed, so to speak. He formed the Egoz, a rock/new wave band, in 2003, and from 2006-2009, the Egoz were at their prime.
“Those four years were glorious for us. We were doing concerts and traveling in Egypt and asked to do a lot. Back then, you’d get into an Egoz concert and it’d be full. Then one day, the bassist, one of the core original members, decided to immigrate to Canada. So we had to stop. We had taken the decision then to not do another concert until we completed our album because it [the concerts] had started becoming boring for us. The bassist recorded the lines before he travelled for the album, but we couldn’t do the live shows without him. And then the other guitarist had to travel for work to Qatar and the drummer was getting married. So we kind of just fell apart."
But Mustafa’s talent did not go unnoticed; encouraged by friends, he decided to continue writing and recording. A self-confessed introvert, Mustafa pushed himself to put his own music online. Influenced by a trip to Nuweiba, which he says took place during one of the hardest moments in his life, in 2010 he released September, his first EP of original songs, under the name Hany Must. While Mustafa didn’t elaborate on the episode influencing his work, clues lie in his album. September’s title track bittersweetly salutes the end of a love and a future uncertain: “Here’s a toast to the day that has passed and forgotten, Here’s a toast to the moment that has been standing still, Here’s a toast to every pen that has written all my tears off, Here’s a toast to the sanity my silence killed.”
For his own solo project, he gathered friends who had been interested in playing with him on the side. The line-up included Hamed from the cover band Screwdriver, Mustafa Kerdany from Ashara Gharby, and Nancy Mounir from both Mascara and Dina El Wedidi. Their first show promoting September in July 2010 created a street buzz about this “new” talent, or rather a talent that many had not previously recognized as the lead vocal and songwriter for the Egoz.
But Mustafa’s solo success, however, came at the expense of his true passion, the band.
It wasn’t until August 2012 that Mustafa realized it was time to bring back the Egoz. The first sign came when he played as an opening act for ROCKSTOP’s Mashrou3 Leila concert. The organizers had too many bands before the headliner, and the crowd was restless. “I was the last guy before Mashrou3 Leila. I got onstage and I felt a negative vibe [everyone was waiting for Mashrou3 Leila]. I decided I was going to give these guys a good show.”
Kicking off with a Beatles cover, Mustafa’s set managed to turn the mood around for the headline act. “The Mashrou3 Leila guys were pissed because of the organization of the night, but they complimented me, especially [lead vocalist] Hamed Sinno. I play the show and I go home and I find an insanity of reaction on Twitter and Soundcloud. Everyone was saying that this show was about Hany Mustafa and Mashrou3 Leila.”
Later that month, at a concert with indie Jordanian/American singer Hana Malhas, he decided he didn’t want to play live solo anymore. “I had this burden I needed to get rid of and I had gotten to jam with my band in that period, and I missed the energy we had. So I told the [Egoz] guys if they were ready then let’s go.”
The Egoz reunited with its three original members Mustafa, Karim Safwat, and Mustafa Farid, and was later joined by Moe “Psycho” Shawqi, the bassist who also plays in the Jokers. In April 2013, the Egoz finally released their critically acclaimed debut album Temple of Small Things. The album had taken a total of three years to finally complete, but, unlike a lot of music produced in Egypt, every detail from the music to the album cover has been well thought out. The music itself is a reflection of the band’s long journey, with varying influences.
Mustafa’s lyrics are all in English, and he has resisted the post-revolution ‘return to the Arabic roots.’ The songwriter maintains that if he were to write in Arabic it’d be because it was done properly, not because he pasted Arabic lyrics to an English song. From their recent studio work, though, it seems that their newer stuff may start including some Arabic tracks.
While the Egoz’s new album has been well received, Mustafa has most recently been in the spotlight for his performance in Fabrica’s Arabic translation of the musical Les Miserables, highlights of which featured on Bassem Youssef’s show El Bernameg this summer.
That said, the songwriter looks forward to the day when his interviews will no longer be about the country, or the revolution, or the state of the ‘underground music scene’—then, as he says, he’ll know that the music is finally making an impact.
Leave a Comment