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Saturday, 14 December 2019

Cairo musicians jam through the night curfew

The Makan Cultural Centre is not silenced by the state-imposed curfew, as musicians play until the sun comes up

AFP, Tuesday 3 Sep 2013
Musicians play at Makan during curfew
Musicians play traditional music at Makan during curfew hours (Photo: AFP)
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When the curfew comes into force at 11pm, that's when Hind and her group begin playing their traditional Egyptian music, all the way until 6am the next morning when the curfew is lifted.
 
In the Arab world's cradle of culture and home of some of its greatest voices, a night-time curfew has been in place since 14 August, as a result of the wave of violence that followed the forced dispersal by security forces of two Islamist protest camps.
 
The curfew has since been gradually shortened.
 
In the Makan Cultural Centre, Hind and her band play all night, as part of a project called "The music of the curfew", born of "the sentiment of musicians who usually work at night and who felt that the curfew hit [what] they liked the most," said Ahmed El-Maghraby, head of Makan.
 
"So we decided to take advantage of it," he added. "As soon as the curfew starts, we listen to our music for hours before closing Makan at the end of the curfew."
 
With its yellow cellar walls, red-carpeted floors and red-and-black wooden chairs, the decor inside Makan gives off vibes of traditional Arabic music evenings. A wooden staircase leads to a small room filled with old instruments and wooden trunks. 
 
As Hind performs a powerful song with her eyes shut and left hand raised, before a small but enthusiastic crowd, three women musicians standing behind her play traditional drums, while seven men, including a guitarist, a saxophonist and traditional flute players, complete the ensemble.
 
"It's better to be here than at home where we can't do anything. Here we can exhaust all the energy that we hold inside," says flutist Amine Chahine.
 
Among the audience is 31-year-old Gina Moqbel who says that Cairo's "curfew turned our lives upside down because we used to stay up late."
 
Her friend Becky Harett from Nigeria said she was quite ready to stay and take in the atmosphere "until six in the morning".
 
After three hours of non-stop music, the audience is offered falafel and beans - staple Egyptian fare -- during a short break, before the musicians take to the stage again, as the marathon performance is staged in three parts.
 
By 3am, the musicians rest and Baraka, a silent movie showcasing rich landscapes and sites from some of the remotest areas of the world, is projected on a wall.
 
Finally, the audience streams out of the centre onto the city streets teeming with people in the Arab world's most populous country. 
 
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