INTERVIEW: Egyptian saxophonist Nour Ashour on Routine, first track from his new album

Donia Mounir, Sunday 24 Feb 2019

His band's first single, Routine, exhorts listeners to break out of the humdrum and introduce a little colour into their lives

(Photo: Still from The Nour Project's video Routine)

How can we make our lives better? This is the question that Egyptian saxophonist Nour Ashour (popularly known as Nour) poses in his band’s new song, Routine, the video for which was released on YouTube on Sunday.

The track is the inaugural composition from The First Album, which, as the name suggests, is the band's first album release.

The band includes veteran saxophonist Nour on saxophone and vocal, Ousso Lotfy on lead guitar, Wael Badrawy on keyboard, Muhammad Nabil on percussion, Fady Badr on keyboards and qanoun, Marwan W. Zaki on drums and Mahmoud Abdel Fatah on oud.

Routine points to “a plague on our lives,” as Nour puts it, hoping to remind us that we need fight it and put colour back into our lives.

Beauty, happiness, craziness, smiles, vibrant colours: all these go through one’s mind when watching the music video, which incorporates a rhythmic dance music and a lot of fun.

The routine shown in the video is in black and white, broken up by the vibrant colours representing fun.

Routine was shot in Egypt and in Cologne, Germany. “The people of Cologne have a carnival every year for five days where they go outside their routine,” Nour told Ahram Online.

Over the years the Nour Project has explored the true meaning of happiness, to help us understand how to enjoy that happiness through their music. This track returns to this concept.

“Routine is something that is flat, it has no soul. We picked the idea of routine as our first song because that is the main direction of our music. There is no one that hasn’t passed through a tough phase of a routine in his life. In our song we say that routine killed many alive people. Hence for a person to be happy they have to break that routine,” he said.

The idea for the video came from Emad Mabrook, a prominent director and editor who directed the music video.

“Emad is the one that came up with all the crazy ideas and the story of the music video and he’s the one that edited the whole thing and brought it to life,” Nour clarifies.

(Photo: Still from The Nour Project's video Routine)

One could say that the idea of routine saddens Nour, as he’s seen it around him everywhere and he’s seen how it affects people in a very negative way.

“Anyone who is trapped in routine will not succeed in anything. Routine is boring and boredom brings sickness, so it is important to think outside the box and be creative, try to do the same work but in a different way,” he comments, adding that although the video was shot in Egypt and Germany, the message is much broader and addresses everyone.

“The point of this life is not to be absorbed in work, but to be happy, but how to work and be happy comes with the way you manage to break the routine.”

The second song from the album will be released on 3 March, followed by the complete 10-track album a week later. 

“We have a song called Helwa Halawa (“Very Pretty”) in which we are simply trying to say that life is pretty,” Nour said.

Also on the album is a song about sadness.

“Hazeen (‘Sad’) was created with the first group I played with. We composed the song together but we no longer perform together,” he said.

While working on The First Album, Nour spoke to the members of that band and decided to include it in his album.


Nour revealed to Ahram Online that the album contain a lot of surprises, among them Badrawy, an artist featured in the song Al-Rezq (“Blessing”).

“We were riding horses once and I heard him sing the song and I told him it had to be on the album.”

Nour has a long history as part of Egypt’s independent music scene.

His father, Hussein Ashour, was also a musician. He played saxophone, flute, and keyboard and taught music.

“These instruments were always at our house,” Nour remembers.

Nour became among the most sought-after saxophonists on the scene, performing in many venues in Egypt and internationally, and with a years-long collaboration with renowned singer Mohamed Mounir (referred to by his fans as “The King”) among his most important projects.

He was also involved the band Crash Boom Bang band.

The Nour Project is his own endeavour, stressing the role of saxophone in music.

“The most important thing for an artist is development; you have to be persistent. If you start something you have to continue it and finish it. Listen to all kinds of music as this adds to your knowledge; keep your eyes and ears open,” he comments on his dabbling with different music genres.

(Photo: Still from The Nour Project's video Routine)

It is obvious that for Nour music is his life.

“I play music because I love it, I have fun and I’m happy. The audience may love your music and make it something international and they may not. Yet your main objective should be to be happy from the inside. At the same time music is a job. There are people doing music on the side. But to be able to make the best in music, you need to dedicate yourself fully to it, no matter what. It has to become your life,” he says.

“Music has this unique magic. It is the magic of art in general. The role of music as sacred, even if the song is only three minutes long it will make you happy. Many people play saxophone and there are people who are much better than me, but what makes one special is what separates us, our music style from others.”

Nour Project’s music speaks for itself and the smiles he sees on the audience faces is more than he can wish for but he still has a very important message to people everywhere.

“Please be happy.”

That is all that Nour wants.

Nour Project has a lot of concert plans in the coming months. The band will perform in early March in Egypt and will embark on a small tour across Jordan at the end of March.

Nour underscores that the album saw passion and hard work of many talented artists, including the director, Emad Mabrouk, Hesham Sadeq who wrote the song Feena (“Inside Us”) and the song Moftah Al-Farag (“Key of Light”), Amar Mustafa who wrote the song Hazeen, Ahmed Shabaka in the song Al Rezq (“Blessings”), and Momen Ibrahim who wrote the song Feena Al-Kheir (“The Good Inside Us”), among many others.

The album was recorded in Vibe for Developing Arts studio.

(Photo: Still from The Nour Project's video Routine)

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