Saturday, November 03, 2007

This post is sponsored by PMT

I involuntarily went to a fundraising do at the teen disco AUC yesterday evening which was in aid of the fight against breast cancer in Egypt. The whole shebang was entirely organised by a class of some 30 marketing communications students who were all there, sashaying around in their black outfits and high heels and straightened hair and looking for all the world like stray and shorter members of the Pussycat Dolls. There were some male student members of this class, approximately three. Do boys not like marketing communications, then?

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.


fully_polynomial said...

"Helwa ya Baladi" is written by Salah Jaheen!

There is no way that this douche you are describing would be able to write something like this.

Correct this immediately!

fully_polynomial said...

Ok. There is a possiblity that this marwan guy wrote the music. I'm investigating this. The words are undoubtedly Jaheen's though.

Will find out tomorrow.

Scarr said...

OK words may be Jaheen's, but I have three sources to back up his having written it:

1. The man himself, my auntie and someone who was with me that time I met him while eating the sweet potato.

2. The AUC catalogue for the event.

3. My mother.

Either this man is a fraudster on an international scale, or he did have a moment of inspiration when he penned this tune. Incidentally he also wrote another song which sold over a million records ( which he performed) and which I vaguely recognised, called Another Time or something.

He's not a douche! He's wicked. Tell me what you find out.

fully_polynomial said...

i will let you know. but writing a song means he has to have written both the words and music. co-wrote maybe is the better verb here. it is not a technicality and i am not nitpicking. while the music is good, no one would probably listen to this song if it didnt have those words (there is a french version which i am sure no one ever listens to).

Scarr said...

Yes point taken. The French version is indeed poor.

I could listen to an instrumental version of this song however and still probably feel wobbly.

Forsoothsayer said...

i HATE helwa ya balady. it makes my skin crawl. as an Egyptian-in-the-diaspora anthem i prefer "3ala baly" by aida el ayouby (an aucian herself). that makes me wobbly.

as one of the few egyptians out there who did her undergraduate degree both at auc and abroad, i have to say the auc bit was by far superior. i think, taking all your preferences into consideration, that you would have enjoyed it, but not with the pousies, meezos and susus. those people are lame, and they did not then and do not now read books.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say, i stumbled across your blog somehow while researching something about Masr. I'm also another Gippo-in-the-Diaspora, but the Brit type, and must say that I enjoyed that rant. It was hilarious, I lived in Gippo land for a year, and that sounded like my daily observations and rants of the period I spent there discovering my so called 'roots'. I can't claim knowledge of who wrote 'helwa ya baladi' but I do like it, cheesy or not it touches a sore spot for those of us who still struggle with their identity, I also like the Ayda song, but can I just say...what is the big deal with AUC? Maybe in the past you can claim it was good establishment, but i dare say the educational standards there do not inspire much confidence, plus seriously those wannabe Carrie Bradshaws did my head in!!! Someone tell these girls, people don't dress like that in western (well at least british) Unis. Either way...mate, your blog is hilarious!

Forsoothsayer said...

because of course, if girls don't dress that way in western universities, how dare the AUC girls have the gall to!

I went to two western universities as well as AUC, and i can tell you i really missed the fact that AUC girls have a sense of style, and do not consider plaid pyjama pants to be lecture-appropriate wear.