Shady Ahmed at the UMF launch
UMF, a web site promoting underground music, celebrated its launch last Friday at the Gezira Youth Club, hosting SimpleXity, Cairokee and Salalem among other relatively well-known bands.
The project, headed by Mohamed El Ayat, aims to promote music by creating online band portfolios. “I have been playing the guitar since the age of 10 and have received no support at all,” said musician El Ayat. “I wanted to do something about the current music scene.”
Like the team of the new music magazine Discord, one of the sponsors of the launch, feel an immense for a platform to bring budding talent to light. And the web site provides just such a platform for downloading music and the online sale of albums and instruments, allowing visitors to vote for the songs they like and promoting events.
More importantly, perhaps, it includes a database of bands and musicians from Cairo and Alexandria with biographical information and photos for, among others, Eftekasat, Egoz, Haggar & The Band, Masar Egabari, Mascara and Wust el Balad. A feature entitled “Find A Band” allows prospective musicians to fill a form and connect with bands who are recruiting. “We want to release a UMF album every six months,” said El Ayat, “made up of the best voted songs on the web site.”
For his part Omar El Deeb, the vocalist of SimpleXity, says UMF is a great addition to the underground music scene, since musicians currently face many problems in releasing their albums. SimpleXity has had its share of such problems with production; they released their first album at their own expense. However, they are aiming to release their next album abroad.
Their lead vocalist is Mohamed Jamal (who also performs with Salalem, one of the best known bands on the scene, who have also recently released an album) says that administrative work takes up a lot of their time as they are responsible for the whole production process.
As for venues, musician El Deeb says that, other than El Sawy Culturewheel (El Sakia), there are only bars to perform in. “The problem with Sakia’s monopoly is the fact that its quality is deteriorating,” said El Deeb. “It does not have enough equipment and does not try to repair broken equipment. Searching for venues is very tough; even getting the venue for the UMF launch at the Gezira Youth Club was far from trouble-free.”
He added that musicians faced problems getting in because they were not members of the musicians’ syndicate.
Jamal, another musician, feels that what is missing is the idea of street performance. Despite on-going problems, however, several bands that performed that day feel that the music scene is changing. “After the outbreak of the revolution, more underground musicians are starting to get exposure through YouTube and social networking websites,” said El Deeb.
As Jamal puts it, there is no end of raw talent that just needs to be given support.