Karkade perform at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
NEW HAMPSHIRE, U.S. – 28 September 2018: Mohamed Abu Zekry and his band Karkade have been touring the U.S. for almost one month as part of the State Department’s sponsored cultural exchange program “Center Stage.”
Karkade is one of three Egyptian bands selected to partake in the fourth edition of Center Stage, which marks debut Egyptian participation. The program brings to U.S. soil international bands and artists to expose Americans to different cultures, and expand the bands’ audience.
And now as they come to the end of their tour, Egypt Today spoke with the band’s founder Mohamed Abu Zekry in Claremont city, New Hampshire; their last stage before returning to Egypt. Although Abu Zekry lives in France, he told us that he is planning to move back to his home country.
ET: Is this your first time touring in the United States?
No, I came to the U.S. several times before during the past four years as part of other projects including the Nile Project, in which I participated in two rounds, and got to visit more than 32 U.S. states.
I do not strongly exist in the Egyptian musical scene as I have been living in France for the past 10 years; however, I represented Egypt in different tours across many countries.
Karkade's founder AbuZekry performs at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
ET: How important is Center Stage program to Karkade?
It is important for Karkade to be selected to participate in this program, and the tour is considered to be a revival for the band after its establishment two years ago.
I wrote the songs that we play in Karkade, and I meant for them to express and move through Egyptian folklore.
Karkade perform at Union Episcopal Church in Claremont, New Hampshire in United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
ET: How do did the program come to select different types of musical bands from Egypt?
The idea of Center Stage program is to present different types of modern music like Dina el-Wedidi’s and Youssra el-Hawary’s bands, as well as to feature oriental music that comes from Egyptian folklore, which is why they picked us.
Unfortunately, little attention is paid to Takht music in Egypt at the moment, and that’s what pushed me to establish our band Karkade, although I also do modern music.
Karkade band visit a high school in Claremont, New Hampshire in US - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
ET: What other activities did the program feature as part of your tour in the U.S.?
What is amazing about the program is that it includes different events beside the concerts. So, we visit schools and universities, and we got the chance to talk with kids about Egypt, the history of music in our country and our musical instruments.
We also shared the stage for the first time with American musicians at a jazz club in Philadelphia. We do not usually see this kind of openness and musical inclusivity in our Arab countries, and I dream of cultural institutions that support arts to open up in Egypt, by the time I move back and live in Egypt.
Students listening to Karkade band performance during a visit to a high school in Claremont, New Hampshire in US - Photo by Nourhan Magdi
ET: How do you see American audiences’ reaction to the oriental music you perform?
In our concerts, we saw that the American audiences were amazed by the oriental music, and we felt that they were really excited about the oriental rhythms, which are different from what they usually listen to.
It is really surprising that we do Takht music, which is a non-modern music, and we still get that huge applause.
Audience react to Karkade performance at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in United States - Photo by Nourhan Magdi