The Pussycat Dolls were clearly extremely excited about the event and much squealing occurred whenever one of their number appeared on stage in order to painstakingly thank anybody and everybody involved in the event, including parents who were thanked until the cows came home. It felt like I had walked in on a high school prize-giving. As the interminable thanking and squealing went on myself and my spirits sank further and further down in my (bloody uncomfortable) seat and I found myself wanting to flick them all on their foreheads. This was possibly due to one or all of the following causes:
a. I am of a churlish disposition generally
b. I had and have toothache
c. The American woman behind me kept answering her phone in a sing-song voice and saying ‘Hi! Stay in shape with Curves. ____ speaking, how can I help you today?’ She herself was hugely curvy.
d. High-pitched female voices outside the context of opera bring up the bile
e. I was surrounded on all sides by the dark arts of corporate sponsorship - I don't want a Mercedes, Alonso
f. Khaled Abul Naga ‘actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador and medium eye candy’ was scheduled to show up but was prevented from doing so by ‘flight delays.’ I bet he was at Thrust.
g. Being in AUC set off the old longing to have graduated from this establishment and to have had a beach and coffee shop lifestyle with minimal educational commitments and been in a gang whose other members would have been called Pussy, Meezo and Soosou. Me and Meezo - a bookish cat-loving sort with wide shoulders, real name Hassan - would have got hitched and after ten years travelling the world with Medecins Sans Frontieres we would have returned to Egypt and settled down in an ecolodge in Mohandiseen, with some goats.
Misanthropic tendencies aside, as a result of their fundraising efforts the kids have managed to donate a breast cancer early detection unit to Benha University, which is fantastic, so high five to that.
The evening itself was a night of music featuring performances by Wust el Balad and legendary songwriter Marwan Saada, about which more in a mo. As usual Wust el Balad started 39 hours late, during which time certain Anglo-Egyptian members of the audience were forced to sit on a low concrete ledge thingie under a tree through lack of chairs which resulted in loss of feeling in the posterior. What was infuriating was that the stage had been set, the sound check done and Hany et al were just sitting there. On the plus side Hany had a white top undone to nipple-level. Once they eventually started they were alright I suppose. There was one dodgy moment when, during a reggae track, Hany elected to jog on the spot a la Bob Marley which made him look like a buffoon, but this was made up for in an excellent song which I hadn’t heard before, and which I recorded so that I can enjoy it over and over again until my ears fall off.
Back to Marwan. He is a legend because he is the man who wrote Helwa ya Balady, the anthem of Egyptians in Diaspora. I was actually introduced to him by Upstairs Auntie very briefly in 2004 in the Gezira Club, but was so involved in eating a sweet potato at the time that I barely registered his presence. All these pivotal moments squandered!
Marwan is my favourite type of middle-aged crooner. For one thing he was wearing a businessman grey suit and an 80s style tie which I think he might have borrowed off my father. He was also wearing ginormous navigator-style glasses, had a rakish red handkerchief in his breast pocket and had the BEGINNINGS OF A MULLET. The look said: I have money, but I still might pinch your arse, lady! Secretly I was hoping that he had left a gentleman’s handbag backstage.
He sang with enormous gusto and had a voice like a hybrid Frank Sinatra/Charles Aznavour. He banged out old French and English standards of the type you would hear in a Los Vegas hotel lobby. He was so loud that the backing singers standing next to him were barely audible, and did that thing which old timers always do of giving it so much vibrato that scientists mistake the air disturbance this causes for some kind of freak weather condition. As a result of this, during ‘Girl from Ipanema’ the following happened:
Girl backing singer in sweet, angelic tones: que fisca impanema ronaldo bossa nova zeeo i lookatthearseonthateo [e.g. something about a fit bird in Portuguese]
Marwan: [insistently bellowing, while girl is still singing]: TALL
The effect was of a B52 bomber flying over a meadow.
I personally cannot fault a man who does that old-school thing of banging his mic in time with the beat like a baton while looking at the drummer, and whose French accent makes him sing ‘eetz a wanderfal wurld’. During one impressively long vibrato-filled note he also stood legs slightly apart and gradually raised his arm until by the time the note, and the song, finished, he was standing there with his finger pointed in the sky which for me sealed the deal.
The one fart in the evening’s underpants occurred when one of the Pussycat Dolls and a male classmate were going around with a donation box. The boy approached me and rattled it in my face and I’m afraid to say that I told a little white lie and said that I had already donated. In my defence, I had paid 60 le for a bloody ticket and I am skint. Upon hearing this Pussycat (without even attempting to mumble) said ‘no she hasn’t’ before flouncing off. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was in fact right (although she had no bloody way of knowing that!), and that I was unable to move because my knees had seized up through prolonged sitting, and that I was scared of her stupid extra extra-pointy Sex and the City slip on shoes which looked like knives I might have challenged her to a dual. As it was I added my bile to the existing stock where it will no doubt make a surprise appearance in the form of a stroke when I am 60.
This post contains a free gift of Dalida singing Messieur Marwan’s king of songs. I have chosen this particular version because it features two Dalidas for the price of one, and at the end she does that right-angled elbow dance beloved of middle-aged women. Upstairs Auntie dances in exactly the same way.
OK as usual Youtube is being an arse. Dalida follows.