“This is their first concert outside of Spain,” says the hostess as she introduces the band Ara Musa Honra. The group kicked off the Hayy Festival at the Al-Azhar Park Thursday night. The Hayy festival will be hosting more international concerts
Ara Musa Honra entered the Egyptian scene at the Genaina Theatre with a Reggae and Funk base that often switched into Flamenco Rumba, and even occasionally surprised the audience with everything from Afro-Cuban rhythms, Cumbia to straight-up Cha-Cha. This is what they call mestizaje, which is a word usually related to the mixing of ethnicities, and therefore cultures.
With an international band - an Argentine bassist, Alejandro Veiga; a stand-out electrical guitarist from Perú, Nassu Bowe; keyboardist, Gerardo Santiago; a high-energy Spanish guitarist Enrique Redondo; Aracel Muñoz as lead singer and last, but not least, the percussive team that made them just jam so well: drummer Juan Pedro Moragas and percussionist Antonio Monedero – it was easy to grab the audience.
The benevolent weather in the open air theatre also made it easy for Ara Musa Hnora’s rhythm combination to make the audience yearn to dance.
In fact, the lead singer, Ara (short for Aracela), sang a song whose lyrics invited the audience to come to the first row to dance. No one took her up on the offer this Ramadan night - but not because the beats weren’t inspiring.
No one could resist bobbing their head to the Reggae tunes, for instance, and every single audience member wished they were on an island somewhere; Ara’s face, framed by blonde, long dreads would open wide here.
On other songs she would squint her eyes, especially when she would pitch the more Flamenco-sounding vocals.
One of the more Flamenco songs is their tribute to the famous gipsy Flores family, by doing a cover of Rosario’s peppy Rumba Flamenca, Casa en el Aire.
Ara’s voice is pleasant, memorable and constant, although she has problems controlling the volume. She sings out words continually, as if she were a natural born rapper and even at one point surprises the audience with an aggressive rap duo with the rocker-looking-crazy-energy-life-of-the-band lead guitarist.
The lead singer highlighted one of their own songs, Volar, which starts off with a very sweet, Caribbean Reggae. The first lyrics of the song say: [translated from Spanish] “I wake up with a knot in my throat, that doesn’t let me breathe. I hide behind my guitar and this is what gives me the freedom to fly.”
And, yes, Ara does play the guitar as well as sing!
Gerardo Santiago, keyboardist (GS): Ara plays guitar very well and, of course, she can perform with her guitar if she wants to [he chuckles]. We don’t forbid her from playing the guitar; it’s just that the band lineup does not always need an extra guitar.”
Aracela Muñoz, lead singer (AM): I used to sing alone with my guitar. At the beginning I won a prize in a talent contest in the Gallileo Club in March 2008. The band was formed right after that…this was the pivotal point in my career.
Ahram Online (AO): Who's the songwriter?
AM: “I am, but it is the band that makes this wonderful arrangement."
AO: What are your songs about and what influences you?
AM: In music I talk about my life; my experiences. I reflect on reality, too. For example the first song on the CD, Senderos de Gloria, is about immigration problems in Spain and how people arrive on their small boats and cross the sea in search of a better life.
I listen to many kinds of music, but possibly the biggest influence is from ethnic music. We also love flamenco, ballads, rumba and so on.
AO: How’s your musical career going and are you getting your message out?
AM: We create music to communicate messages to our audiences, but also we do it for the sheer fun of it. We love music and we love performing.
In last three years we gave 140 concerts all over Spain. The concert in Egypt is our first experience - as a band - outside of Spain.
GS: We are just like all young people who love music; we like creating it and live through it. We want to share this with Egyptian audience.
Their debut CD is titled Musaranas, produced at the beginning of 2011 and includes brass instruments, including the trumpet, trombone and sax. Although their CD only highlights six of their songs, the band’s repertoire is much longer.
As the Hayy programme continues, Maryam Saleh from Egypt performed at El genaina stage on Friday 12 August. Theatre will still host artists from Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine and India.