Underground sessions_2989

Posted: December 18, 2006 in Uncategorized

A few days is all it takes. To fly in, to fly out, and in between make contacts, create a concept, and of course record. All the things that go into the making of an album or a movie soundtrack…

Audio artists Anders ‘AC’ Christensen and Lasse ‘Illinton’ Jensen gathered some of Cairo’s most powerful and inspiring musical talents in their vision for the soundtrack of the up-coming Danish movie, Maa’al Salama Jamil [Go in Peace Jamil]. In a sense it’s a “Sergio Leoni kind of soundtrack,” with its striking resemblance to spaghetti westerns.

Music always has friends even in far-off lands, and they were helped by many here in Cairo: Karim El Hakim boarded them and helped establish initial connections with A. Maghrabi, who organized recording sessions with musicians on violin, arghoul and accordion. In addition, Philippe Dib helped bring in some of the talent (Karima Nayt – vocals, Adham El Saeed – vocals, Ahmed Omran – oud), as well as playing the santour himself for the soundtrack.

Late in Cairo traffic for an interview at Talaat Harb’s café riche, it was fate that had the upper hand in saying how things went from here.

The Lebanese producer I was to sit down with had another meeting, but he agreed to give me 10 minutes of his time, and in a kind gesture allowed me to slip in a whole interview.

Sat to have a qahwa mazboota while I waited to check if anything major fell through and if that were the case, if he’d be kind enough to give me more of his time. When I started downloading the photos I was not thrilled with the quality of lighting. Had to get more photos.

As I sat there, one phone call led to a meal and it was then that I noticed that Haze had stepped in for a meeting with this producer. Quick hellos and nimble chits in order, we followed through and we left, him to his meeting and me to my vegetable penne- no oil.

When all was done, Gerard [Haze] waited for a few minutes while I got a few snaps in, courtesy of our kind and humble producer. We talked, then walked and talked, then after a quick stop at the kiosk, smoked, walked and talked some more. I hadn’t seen Haze since he’d married and we took this as a chance to catch up- I’m sure you know how those newly-weds get those male-bonding issues, kind of like a quiet squeak with a faint “I’m freaking out! I cant believe I’m fucking married!” drone. [maybe my own insecurities were at play here]. But anyways..

Our walk brought us to the house of another nice chap by the name of Philippe. Unbeknownst to me, and as Haze was to later clarify time and again, Philippe was recording with two musicians, One of whom- Illinton was, [to quote Haze]- “the Christian Dior of electronic music”. The other musician, “AC”, was Europe’s top double bass player, and from what we witnessed a mean keyboard player and pianist who has managed to touch on many different musical styles.

These were truly people that lived and breathed music. Anyone could see that.

We sat through a few cigarettes and a most breathtaking recording session with Philippe’s santour, then we were on our way to Karim’s house- another friend who was just back from abroad. The recording was to move there. So after Gerard took leave, Karim and I busied ourselves getting things in order to receive the musicians that would be arriving…

[confession: I didn’t do much except the glasses. Clean glasses for drinks, that was my contribution. Unless it came from a can I guess.]

First it was Philippe’s santour, then it was Amin’s turn on the arghoul and kawala, then the first night ended with Karima Nayt’s gipsy-esque vocals.

Day two.

Ac and Ellington have been out arranging appointments with artists for today’s recordings.. I had to shuttle down to Zamalek for a quick interview with a photographer.. Then shuttle back just in time to witness the accordion player.. And Omran’s oud efforts.

After all was said and done, and a lot of cheesy takeout, and video, and snapping, and of course recording.. We finally had officially arrived at the end of the sessions. Out of a party of 10 celebrating Karim’s bday and the successful conclusion of the recording, only AC, Illinton and I were still standing. It was now ok for them to talk about what it is they were doing, now that they could relax [ 6 hours before their flight back to Denmark ]. We collapsed on our respective couch and chairs, camera rolling, and managed to fill in some blanks about their music and their experience of the sounds Cairo had to offer.






Scene 1..

Right before fajr prayers,

project complete

AC playing trying out the lute sets the background music

Illinton and ego..


Illinton : it looks like somebody slept with my clothes on for 4 days.. We’ve been working like no way..

i: but that’s what actually went down..

Illinton: that’s exactly what went down..

i: you’ve been actually working non-stop for 4 days what do you expect to see

Illinton: yeah, we were dropping off on the floor..

i: but you look great for someone whose been up for 4 days been working their [asses] to the bone ..

Scene 1 contd.

i: how powerful is music as a tool of expression ?

Illinton: I actually think it’s the most powerful tool.. Because you can [use it to] communicate with any creature really.. And its actually proven that by playing Mozart.. think it was Bach.. They played Bach for different plants and that actually increased their growth over a period of time, and then they played something else and nothing happened.. But its to do like with our 7 chakras, each corresponds to a different note.. And between the chakras ..we have this whole other system, but we’re not gonna go into that now..

i: you mean the meridians ?

Illinton: it’s the meridians, the chi flow, the frequencies that influence your aura and their tones, and then you have light.. Serious light.. You don’t wanna play music without light.. Because the thing is the gift we get is when we realize that we are messengers. All great musicians I feel are like messengers. They get emptied down, and they give it out as energy.. As light. And that’s Peace, and that’s Love. If it’s not done in that form don’t play music, in other words because it’s not true music.

i: it’s anti-light ?

Illinton: it’s like a fuckin blackhole dude

Everybody laughs.


Ac picks up once more on Oud.

i: you think electronica is the rock and roll of the future ?

Illinton: I don’t know.. what is rock and roll ? To me rock and roll is Elvis and shit .. Hey I love Elvis.. I don’t know what’s gonna happen really.. I think electronica is going to be a part of it.. It’s kinda shown its strong sides and weak sides now.. So I think live music really, and live musicians and shit are going to come back so big. Because there’s only that much you can do with a tool or an instrument.. Its not a thing for itself. Music is still another level.. Infinite.. You never get there.

i: so radio killed live performers..

Illinton: yes and then radio killed itself.. And record companies killed themselves too, because they got too fuckin greedy..

i: so what brings it back to live performers ?

Illinton: because.. There’s space for them now..

i: the time is right..

Illinton: yeah, it’s now. It’s happening now. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, it’s now. It’s starting to move, that’s the message.. So just kick ass. We should have no fears [about making music], it’s now that the world needs it.

i: Electronics can still be a part of live music ?

Illinton: recording-wise.. And effectivity when you record and you produce your finished product.. It can help, especially to travel around and record in weird places and weird times and come up with an amazing product. As a recording tool and a producing tool, it’s an amazing thing, but it needs to meet with life halfway. It can be a unit on its own for a while, but it can’t be a part of you in the same organic way that an instrument can. Its all about the growth of your skill and controlling your instrument that is so different, a different kind of thing…

[silence]… I believe.



Scene 4 -Philippe’s

Philippe, ego and Omran to arrive..

i: Do sessions like this happen often in cairo ?

Philippe: things always happen for sure. I am not a professional musician, I’ve just been playing music for many years. Started with a band here.. It was pretty successful and we had a big concert in Ewart Hall. That was before I played santour [ pre-qanun-shaped instrument, played with sticks, originating from the Mongols and central Asia].

i: what was the band called ?

Philippe: The band was called Zuweira. It was me, Akram, yanni, my brother.. Karima, Karima was also in this band, and Mudu, the first time he ever played a concert was in this concert. In many ways I think that concert was a sort of opener for things to come.

i: wasn’t someone playing the sitar ?

Philippe: it was yanni playing my brothers bouzouki.

Singing bird bell goes off.

Enter Omran

Omran: All’s well ?

i: All’s well..

Philippe: did you see ego [handing him a copy]

Omran: which ego, the ego the people have ?

Philippe: the ego everyone has..

i: it was nice to see some exceptional musicians come together for a project in cairo, why don’t people like you get together more often ?

Philippe: I think now there’s a lot more happening than ever before.

i: is that true, is this the right time for live musicians to make a comeback ?

Philippe: I think that now a lot of new bands a lot of young people are getting together and creating bands all over Cairo. Now the concept of bands has become popular. A lot of people are mixing with other people through artistic projects, exchanging ideas with musicians coming from abroad. There’s a lot of people involved now, more than ever before.

i: is the relationship with your instrument important ?

Omran: A lot of people here don’t respect their instruments. In one rehearsal I attended I saw two well-known musicians stand up to each other and bicker, [motions with his hands like fighting cocks] . Then all of a sudden we find guitars flying through the studio. I kid you not, flying guitars, like paper airplanes.. Such a beautiful scene. Wish I had a camera.. So I’ve seen people here dealing with their instruments on many different levels. There are those who love their instruments so much that they get no sleep unless it’s in their arms. And those who fear their instruments and keep at a distance because they feel the instrument is more than a handfull. For them it’s too much of a risk to get up and try to get to know it. And there are those who send them flying like paper airplanes through the studio.

Brief trance courtesy of Philippe’s santour..

i: a lot of people seem to think that the pooling of local talent and the participation of musicians in more than one band and more than one sound, makes them unable to maintain a strong focus in any one direction to produce a sound rich enough to grab people’s attention. Do you believe that the pooling of talents and the interaction between the young musicians, and the different bands or sounds is a negative thing ?

Philippe: on the contrary, I think it’s very nice that people are interacting. Eventually they will grow as musicians enriching their relationship with their music and with others. Other styles, other ways of approaching their music. Maybe some bands are not as interesting as other bands. Maybe some bands have not spent enough time in trying to create something with depth. There is also another phenomenon that I find sometimes in extremely talented musicians. But sometimes people find success in something and because they have had success with it, they spend their time imitating themselves. Music is about communication, yes you have to live and eat and whatever, but the true essence of music is communication, at a level beyond words. Music is a language that is accessible to anyone round the world. Because if musicians from abroad come and mix with musicians here, immediately [snaps finger] they are involved in a deep form of communication. This is the beauty of music. Good music gives you so much without even realizing it. Sometimes you have the feeling that music can heal you. And it’s because you vibrate.. You become a resonant case for the music. If you like the music and resonate with it, you’re gonna have an impact on the music itself, and the music will become more beautiful. Your body becomes a resonant case that reflects these notes and tonalities on the music itself. Each space like this space, because of the space. has a tone. This room has a tone, if you reach that tonality then the sound will become bigger. Just like when an instrument is well tuned suddenly the sound, becomes richer.. bigger, even in volume I think. It has much more reach.




Scene 3

Lasse Jensen ‘Illinton’, Anders Cristen ‘AC’, Ego

Blues blaring in background of dimly lit living room

i: what is your name sir ?

Illinton: My name is Lasse Jensen, and that’s aka Illinton and I use that when I do housy techy stuff..

i: when were you born, how’d you get started with music ?

Illinton: I was born in Denmark, in 1969 and I started playing the piano because my dad, his two other brothers, and his father were arguing like mother fuckers all the time.. And I was almost 4 or 5 years old and I’d escape into this other room and close the door, and there was a piano.. So I started playing because I didn’t want to listen to their shit, and that’s the start.


Is that real ?

Illinton: it’s true!


i: so how did you get started with the music industry ?

Illinton: I was 17 or something.. And there was a house party thing starting in Denmark.. And I did a coupe of tunes and it was actually some of the first house to come out of Denmark and that area. So we went to London and did big shows, Ibiza.. Spain..just touring around. I was eighteen and living in Ibiza.. that’s when it all began to take form.

I then did more of hip hop and had a couple of tracks in top 10 and top 15 in America.. And that was in the days.. I worked with Queen Latifah as well.. Back then as well.. And since then its been going up and down and up and down.. And now its up.. It’s time to spread the message.. We gotta work a 100 times as hard.


i: AC.. How are you doing ?

AC: I’m doing well.. I’m pretty pleased with myself and Lasse’s work..

i: name ?

AC: my name is AC.. Yea everybody calls me AC so it’s my name ..AC. AC is the initials for Anders Cristensen.

i: how did you pick up on music ?

AC: my dad was a piano player and my grandmother was an organ player in the church in Denmark, and so was her grandfather. So it was always in the family, I always liked music. But I actually picked up the piano because I wanted to impress girls, but that soon turned into something more serious. Yes, it’s pretty much been my life since I picked up the piano at 7.

i: but I also hear that you’re the best double bass player in Europe..

AC: I don’t know who said that..

i: somebody said that..

Illinton: I said that. It’s true. It’s true.

AC: Everyone here has been such an amazing spirit. Coming here and Karim taking care of us, Philippe, you and then having all these amazing musicians. I don’t know if they liked the music or not..

i: absolutely amazing..

AC: it was amazing the way they gave it everything they had. Everyone was just giving the right vibes. What do I know maybe they’re all professional here. But really what they gave us is more than we could have ever dreamt. More than any expectations.

i: Care to explain what this project is about ?

Illinton: a good friend of ours decided to make a movie, and so he called Anders to lay the music. And Anders called me and told me if hey you wanna do it together. And I said yes I will.. And that was like a year and a half ago man..?

AC: almost a year and a half. But we can’t talk too much about this film. We can say a little bit.

i: whats the name of the movie ?

AC: ma’a salama jamil.. Go with peace jamil

i: whats the directors name ?

AC: Omar Shargawi

The film Ma Salama Jamil, captures Sunni vs. Shiite violence on the streets of Copenhagen through the eyes of its Palestinian-Danish director. A very violent movie, that holds a very anti-violent message.

i: if there is one thing you could say to young musicians ?

AC: rehearse

Illinton: if you don’t get it right go home and practice and do better next time. You can always do better next time.

  1. justjack says:

    Lonely musician looking to send and recieve originals via IM CHAT.

  2. islam says:

    is there somewhere where you have ur material posted ? 

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