The award was given for the album Mare by Quadro Nuevo, which includes Darwisch’s track Cafe Groppi, a composition inspired by the iconic coffee shop in downtown Cairo, as well as to Darwisch himself and the sound engineer.
“In the track, I try to explain the history of music in Egypt in the period of WWII and the following decade,” Darwisch told Ahram Online.
The musician has received many recognitions for his compositions and performs frequently with either Cairo Steps, a band he founded, or Quadro Nuevo.
“These kinds of awards have a commercial background, and although they do shed light on important artistic endeavors, the submissions for the award are linked more to the sales of the album. The nominees for the award are submitted once the album crosses 10,000 sales in the country,” Darwisch said.
Despite physical album sales being more difficult in the age of the internet, Darwisch still managed to achieve top sales in Germany. This is in addition to the fact that the music genre offered by Quadro Nuevo – the German acoustic quartet performing world and jazz music – and Darwisch, whose Egyptian and oriental background is strongly apparent in his compositions, have a select audience that is at times limited.
The fact that Quadro Nuevo and Darwisch have achieved high sales despite having their unique musical vocabulary is impressive, especially given that they are not supported by a high-profile music producer or impresario.
Darwisch explains that although many artists, like Egyptian soprano Fatma Said for instance, have achieved high sales, “the difference is that Said’s talent and artistry is supported by names like TMG [German Telemedia Act] or Sony Classics. In our case, however, we were in charge of all the costs and networking for Mare.”
Although Darwisch insists on downplaying the significance of his recent award, underlining its commercial component, the fact that it was the track he composed that was highlighted by the German Jazz Music Award is indicative of his achievement.
Mare consists of 15 tracks, with Darwisch also playing oud in Cafe Groppi and Raafat Muhammad on percussion.
“I would also like to underline the wonderful arrangement of Cafe Groppi by the renowned Egyptian jazz pianist Rami Atallah. It is a pity that the award is not offered for these contributions.”
An Egyptian pianist, composer, arranger, educator and founder of the Music Hub in Egypt, Atallah studied jazz under Rashad Fahim and classical piano under Italian teacher Elide Dello Strologo, followed by his studies at le CIM Jazz School in Paris, France.
This is the second award that Darwisch scored in recent years. In 2018, Darwisch’s Cairo Steps also received the German Jazz Music Award for their album Flying Carpet, created with Quadro Nuevo. This collaboration also saw the participation of flutist Ines Abdel-Dayem, who is also Egypt’s culture minister.
The Cairo audience will be able to listen to Darwisch’s compositions this month when he performs with Cairo Steps on 15 and 16 December. The concert will feature Evelyne Huber, a harpist who oscillates between a jazz and classical repertoire. The evening will also include Dina El-Wedidi and Sheikh Ehab Younis.