When vocalist and trumpet player Youssef Nour and beat-boxer John Sadek started their band Almena in 2015, in the inspiring coastal city of Alexandria, aiming to produce a unique sound, they agreed they wanted to reach the top of the music scene globally.
After almost three years, with the joining of Ahmed Abd Elrasol (bass guitar), Mohamed Affara (lead guitar), Adham El-Habashy (oud) and Omar Aly Abdou (keyboards), the no-drums sound of Almena proved a success taking them to London to record in the same studio where The Beatles and Pink Floyd produced their hits.
Away from love, politics and typical commercial topics, Almena chose social themes to portray the daily life of street youth with lyrics either written by vocalist Nour or poets Ahmed Saad and Moemen Ibrahim.
Despite their various musical backgrounds that varies between oriental, rock, hip hop and other genres, Almena, who depend on the beat-boxing of Sadek for their percussion section, find their uniqueness in the electronic dance music (EDM) style.
Performing their 15 originals at over 45 concerts, covering most of Egypt's cities, including the Cairo Opera House and Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and abroad in Tunisia, Morocco and the UAE, Almena saw their dream beginning to shape up.
Aloft Star UAE winners
Late 2018, they registered with Aloft Star UAE, in which the winner sign with Universal Music Group to produce a video clip. They passed all stages and won the final, becoming what could be the first Egyptian band to record at th famous Abbey Road studios.
"We just took part for the sake of participation. We didn't expect to win," Nour told Ahram Online, explaining that "As a band, you have to keep searching for opportunities inside and outside Egypt to expand your potentials."
"We don't just stay at the studio and create music. This is the most important part of the work, of course, but we also keep searching for developing our exposure around the globe."
Almena was competing against 20 bands shortlisted from dozens of candidates across the region, winning the online voting competition and flying to Dubai to play only two tracks on front of the judges. Three other acts were on the shortlist: Emirati-Honduran singer Fafa, Lebanese singer Jay Abo, and Saudi rap artist Molham.
"We didn't believe we are accomplishing the dream. All the other three on the shortlist deserve the winning prize. They were all great. We were pleased and satisfied over our performance and we were happy about the experience itself, but winning was a great surprise," Nour said.
"We worked a lot for marketing the voting campaign through posts and videos on social media. We really want to thank our fans for their great support," he added.
Recording 'GTA' at Abbey Road
Almena won with a track named 'GTA,' recording it in London and now scheduled to shoot in Dubai in March.
"It's a big honour to be first Egyptian artists to record at Abbey Road. We felt we had a responsibility to represent our country. We worked for three days in the amazing workplace where Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zepplin and many great stars recorded. The sound engineers were excited and happy about the sound we made and we loved the final output and the feedback of the people who collaborated with us. GTA is a different and developed song from what we are used to producing. We are looking forward to the shooting in Dubai. Fingers crossed," Nour said.
Almena are in the final stages of releasing another video named after the city that witnessed the birth of their dream, Alexandria. They are promising their fans a different sound.
'Alexandria' will be their third video after one for Ahly club and another named 'Saheb' in which they featured famous Ahmed Bahaa of Sharmoofers.
"Our limit is the sky," says beat-box artist Sadek. "We want to reach the top of music across the globe. We dream of winning the Grammy Award. We work on that," he concluded.
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