INTERVIEW: Egyptian musician Abu on his new World Cup song, inspiration, happiness and the sea

Hana Afifi , Wednesday 13 Jun 2018

Abu released a new song on Wednesday for the World Cup called Etfar3an in cooperation with Chipsy

3 Daqat Egyptian singer Abu releases World Cup song Etfar3an

Egypt's international hit 3 Daqat singer-songwriter-composer Abu released on Wednesday a new song for the World Cup called Etfar3an, in cooperation with Chipsy, two days before Egypt’s first match against Uruguay set for Friday in Russia.

With eyes full of pride, Abu tells Ahram Online how he became inspired to write the song when Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah scored the goal against Congo to take Egypt to the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

“We Egyptians know how to do many things, and when we reach something, we get surprised that we made it,” Abu says.

“So Etfar3an, as much as it carries a negative connotation, it means, share pride in your country and your abilities, and know that you will be able to make it if you want to,” the passionate artist adds.

The word in Arabic comes from the root Fer3on, which means Pharaoh, and is a verb to encourage pride, with a connotation that refers to arrogance.

Etfar3an was released and distributed by Old Metro. Music production is by Ramy Samir, who is collaborating with Abu for the third time.  

“The song’s lyrics [are] a message of appreciation for the persistence of Egyptians throughout time, and their resilience in facing all the challenges that comes their way,” reads a statement about the song’s release.

With the music video’s colorful palette of beautiful Egyptian sceneries, Abu’s radiant spirit, lyrics that inspire hope, strength, national pride and unity, along with an upbeat groove, the song is tailored to inspire joy and hope in the Egyptian people to support their national team.

The video, directed by Ahmed El-Naggar, was shot in Cairo, at the Giza pyramids, in Alexandria, the North Coast, Marsa Matrouh and Aswan, with about five locations in each governorate that represent ancient civilization and touristic sites.

The song is Abu’s first after his international hit 3 Daqat (Three Beats), a go-to song in any happy event and an instantaneous joy-maker.

In fact, Abu’s songs always inspire happiness and hope. This is indeed why he makes music, he confides.

“My purpose is to spread positivity, in every single aspect; even if the lyrics are heavy, the melody has to be positive,” Abu says, with a smile that does not leave his face.

“I really like to write the songs that I’d like to hear,” the artist tells Ahram Online. “I like to spread positivity and happiness.”

Abu's musical journey is full of fruitful collaborations, the most recent of which was with Egyptian acting and singing star Yousra in 3 Daqat.

“Collaboration is very important. There is no such thing as a one-man show,” Abu says, adding that collaborations bring a different dimension to the product.


To him, collaboration is not just physical, wherein someone is working on something with you, but also metaphysical.

“The energy of the person who came in with you for the product adds a lot to it,” Abu says.

“You will find that the Abu who is with Yousra is different from the Abu who is with Adaweya, different from the Abu with Yasmine Sabry,” he explains.

Abu collaborated with Mohamed Adaweya twice, including on a song they co-sang called Mesafer (I Am Traveling) in 2015.

He collaborated on another with Yasmin Sabry for a Ramadan ad for Chipsy in March of this year called Malhash Taam Men Gheirak (It Is Tasteless Without You), and with Alaa Abdel Khalek on the late 90s hit Dary Romoushak (Hide Your Eyelashes) in 2014.

Last month, Abu was featured as a guest artist at the London concert of Lebanese-Armenian musician, composer and pianist Guy Manoukian.

He also sang Lamma Bada Yatathanna (When He Begins To Sway) with Lena Shamamyan, whose cover of the old song is widely known.

In April, the Murex D’Or 2018 best song award went to 3 Daqat, which has been covered by musicians all over the world since it first came out in October of last year.

To date, the song has been viewed over 274 million of times on YouTube, making it by far one of the most popular videos from the Arab World.

Abu does not shy away from telling the secret of this success, a formula he knew would make the song a hit, even though it did exceed his expectations.

“From the moment the lyrics and melody came together, I said this song will be a hit,” Abu admits.

The inspiration for the melody came to him while travelling across the ocean, after which he co-wrote the lyrics with Tamer Habib.

Yousra then came as a perfect fit, and the rest was about finding the right partners, including El Gouna Film Festival, businessman Naguib Sawiris and director Mariam Abo Ouf, Abu says.

He then adds to the formula, “treating this whole video-audio project as a campaign. That’s the extra layer. It’s not a song, it’s a campaign.”

Abu, full of positive energy himself, shares some of the inspirational tips for succeeding at what you love, including good energy and a sense of purpose and intention.

“Tell you something? I swear … it is the story and experience of my life. Planning is overrated. Just set milestones, set intentions,” Abu tells Ahram Online.

“Don’t get frustrated easily. These days, we got used to get something easily … No, slowly. Cultivate,” Abu adds.

The singer-songwriter-composer was heavily influenced by his father, a Sufi poet.

“It really made me realize how strong a word can be. My dad’s use of words … made me fall in love with [them],” the artist recalls passionately.

“I wanted to employ words in the right direction by creating a mood that I can send through a melody and from which people can receive and understand messages,” he adds.

Abu's collaboration with Adaweya (Photo: from Abu FB page)

Abu has not always dedicated his life to music. He made a shift after a successful career in business.

At 24, he had opened his own menswear design business, which grew to exporting to four European markets before being acquired by an investor.

Abu decided to stay in Egypt during the revolution and at 27, and took up a job at P&G.

Seven years later, in 2013, when his brother uploaded Abu's song El-Nas Mabterhamsh (People Have No Mercy) online and it went viral, Abu took it as a sign and made a career shift to music.

“This song really touched people’s hearts in an incredible way. And I felt this is much more valuable than what [I was doing],” Abu says.

Abu is preparing his new album Sharbat (Syrup), the first song of which is the eponymous hit 3 Daqat.

Written and composed entirely by him, the album will be released in September.

“Everything and anything [inspires me]. A situation. A word. A comment. A reaction. Anything inspires me. A groove,” Abu says.

But Abu is really in his element when he is by the sea -- fishing, diving, surfing, or sailing.

His love for the sea shows in his work. Not only 3 Daqat was shot at the beach, but so was his music video Ahwak (I Love You), which came out in August 2016.

“If I had stayed and planned my exit from Procter, I would have been still working there right now. That’s why I’m saying planning is overrated,” Abu asserts.


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