‘We are here to boost the morale’: Ahmed Zeidan, Egypt’s ROOM Art Space & Café

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 25 Mar 2020

With the curfew in place, ROOM, the well-known independent art space and café, gears for a different pattern of music offerings for its audiences

ROOM Art Space & Cafe
September 2019 concert at ROOM Art Space & Cafe

The lockdown on all artistic venues and the recently imposed curfew drove ROOM Arts Space & Café to step in with a different approach to reach audiences.

ROOM Arts Space & Café, known simply as ROOM, is among most popular independent creative spaces, which since its founding in 2014 has attracted customers and audiences to numerous events, including music concerts, film screenings, and karaoke nights. Less than a year ago, ROOM opened another branch, a much larger space, in New Cairo.

Prior to imposing the curfew, Ahmed Zeidan, founder and manager of ROOM, launched an initiative of live concerts streamed on Facebook and YouTube. One such successful concert, featuring singer Nouran Aboutaleb and bass guitarist Samer George, took place on 22 March.

“The live concert proved very successful and brought over 25,000 views on our Facebook page, a much larger number than other concerts we used to stream live prior to the lockdown,” Zeidan told Ahram Online,adding that some 5,000 or 6,000 views were usually recorded for ROOM’s concerts prior to the lockdown.

The live concerts that would entertain people in their homes were planned for 10pm, yet with the new curfew in place, the plans had to be modified.

“It was only yesterday that the curfew was announced and we are still thinking about new ways of reaching out to our audiences. We are studying different options,” Zeidan said.

He stated that ROOM is planning to provide two kinds of activities: prerecorded concerts, which would be then uploaded on Facebook and YouTube in the evening hours; and Friday live streaming which would take place in the afternoon.

“We are planning to record concerts during the day in our New Cairo venue, hoping to present a new band on daily basis, should this be possible. Then the concerts will be uploaded in the evening. Friday’s live concerts will be taking place in the afternoon and streamed live, making sure that we finish before 6pm,” Zeidan added.

Live streaming of concerts is not new to ROOM. Apart from occasional streaming, in 2018, the space hosted a series of live concerts, which brought a large interest of the audiences.
“We are ready with equipment and crew, editing, sound engineering and everything needed for such productions.”

The readiness and high quality of recording was already apparent in the live concert of Aboutaleb. Surprisingly, as Zeidan explained, the procedures do not require the presence of a large number of people.

“In the recordings there are only two people in charge of the cameras and recording and a sound engineer. We do not create any crowded environment. We also take a lot of precautions, disinfect the space and the equipment, and make sure that everyone keeps a minimum of one metre distance from his colleague,” Zeidan said.

The closing of ROOM, among other spaces, is definitely not an easy feat for Zeidan.

“We are all in this together. The decisions of closing the spaces and the curfew are definitely necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus and all that we can do is to find a way to deal with the situation,” Zeidan explained, adding that though recorded and live-streamed concerts are free of charge, ROOM provides an option of virtual ticketing for those who wish to contribute.

“The virtual ticketing is not a must, of course, and we understand that everyone has economical concerns. Whatever we collect, however, will be shared between the bands which agree to join the initiative and ROOM.”

With ROOM having developed a large followership over the past years, Zeidan hopes to offer his share of supporting people in the current circumstances.

“We are not doctors, we are entertainers. We can at least try to boost the morale of our audiences and of everyone working in the music scene, the performers as well as those behind the scenes, such as sound engineers. Situations like this pandemic severely affect the emotional and psychological state of everyone. We are here to reach out to everyone, even if in an unconventional manner,” Zeidan said.

Besidesgiving concerts to those at home, Zeidan is willing to support anyone wanting to record or stream live their music. “We are here for everyone; we can share our expertise, give advice on the phone or help with equipment; as long as we are sure that all health and safety measures are well established,” he concluded,hoping that in the coming days more musicians will reach out to audience.

ROOM Art Space & Café is yet to reveal the schedule of concerts in the coming days. Follow them on their Facebook page here.

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