The two concerts presented songs known to the Arab world, fused with the images from old Egyptian films.
In Cairo, the band performed at the Rawabet Art Space on 29 March, luring listeners to their instruments and musical equipment.
In Rawabet, the band featured Julien Perraudeau on the keyboards, Mehdi Haddab on the electric oud, while Randa La Mirza and Wael Koudaih took places behind their electronic equipment.
Love & Revenge is a remix of hits from the Arab world and video extracts from Egyptian cinema. The concert is bathed in an electro-pop atmosphere, accentuated by a remarkable visual mix, designed by the two Lebanese artists, composer, arranger and performer Wael Koudaih (Rayess Bek) and videographer Randa La Mirza.
The concert is particularly inspired by the 1940s film Gharam wa Intiqam (Love and Revenge), starring Asmahane and Youssef Wahbi, who also directed the movie. During the concert Koudaih created an engaging remix of the movie's theme song Emta Hatearaf (When Will You Know).
“The Arabic title of the film is easy to be understood, so we decided to use it as name of the project. Love & Revenge is also an easy concept for any foreigner who does not know the film. This helps everyone to understand the idea of our concert,” La Mirza explained.
Koudaih added that, "the story of Asmahane, the Lebanese star who some believe was a double spy, and her tragic death before the end of filming, have something special that goes beyond the romantic intrigue of the movie. We found this idea particularly interesting.”
This is not the first time the musicians have visited Cairo. They performed at the Makan Center in Cairo back in 2014. At the time, the concert was limited to its two creators, old hits and video excerpts that illustrate the themes of love, woman, desire and sensuality.
A lot has changed since then and the project has evolved significantly.
“We are returning to Cairo to present our second album that consists of 12 songs. We also present some of the compositions from the first album. In fact our archives can serve us endlessly, and since we create sort of a living concert, we have a freedom to add or remove songs during each presentation. Next month, we will be traveling to Morocco to perform Love & Revenge, so we plan to include Moroccan songs there,” says Koudaih.
The unique idea of a concert that fuses audio and visual aspects dates back to a meeting between the two creators, former colleagues at the University of Aix-Marseille (in France). Koudaih was already remixing hip-hop songs, and La Mirza was working on a visual project.
“I said to Randa: listen, I work on hip-hop, I do remixes. You work in the visual sphere. Let’s collaborate. Randa however also had an idea of incorporating old videos and films into the performance. One thing lead to another, and in no time we set up the Love & Revenge project. Initially, we were both on stage in limited spaces. But when we gave the concert in theatres, on stage, we felt there was more space than we needed. This is when I thought of bringing Mehdi and Julien with whom I had already worked for other projects, on board to Love & Revenge. Both artists have a very good knowledge of the Arabic scales and their presence on stage gives the concert a more lively aspect,” Koudaih reveals.
In the first album, the two Lebanese artists worked on songs from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. “We always keep hits and videos from the first version of our concert, but we can also add other hits from all over the Arab world: Mauritania, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc.” remarks Koudaih.
Gender and identity
The voice of Lebanese star Sabah resonates on stage, singing Saat Saat (Sometimes Sometimes), accompanied by a few excerpts from the Egyptian romantic comedies Saghira Ala Al-Hob (Too Young to Fall in Love) and Khalli Balak mn Zouzou (Watch out for Zouzou), followed by more sensual excerpts from more recent films, such as Al-Raqessa Wal Siyassi (The Dancer and the Politician), Al-Raqessa wal Tabbal (The Dancer and the Darbouka Player) and Al-Massateel (The Drug Addicts).
Sabah's voice is then back, this time singing Beyoulouli Toubi (I'm Told to Stop), accompanied by some sequences from yet another film.
Meanwhile La Mirza explores all visual options: Superman, Faust, Beauty and the Beast, Journey to the Moon, Dracula, etc. In short, she wants to show that the cultures of the world have symbols, icons, shared by all. She does her editing, in the middle of a concert, in front of the public.
“The video segment is like an instrument that interacts with the music. There is a lot of flexibility on stage,” she says.
“The woman is always presented as an attractive, powerful person who controls everything. In the videos, the men just react; they are there as an accessory. The same subject can be presented in very different ways. The relationship between the bodies that move on stage interests me a lot and says a lot about the question of genres,” underlines the videographer.
With the selected songs and videos, Koudaih and La Mirza raise many questions about identity and culture in the Arab world. How are they reflected through music and the seventh art (filmmaking)? And how are they reintroduced today by modern sounds and new editing and video techniques?
At a certain moment, Koudaih invites the public to come up on stage and dance with the artists. The stage then ignites, and the remixes give rise to a moving interactive performance. Iraqi singer-songwriter Kazem Al-Saher’s hit Abouss Qalbak (I Kiss Your Heart) is rearranged by Koudaih with a focus on the choir line and adding electro tunes to it. The video sequences accompanying it, resume a series of sensual scenes, taken from the 1973 film Hammam Al-Malatili (Bath of Malatili).
Saigon, a song evoking the fall of the Vietnamese city, composed and performed by the famous Sheikh Imam, with lyrics by Ahmad Fouad Negm, accompanies the black and white video extract from an old film by comedian Emad Hamdi. This one plays the role of a man lost on a deserted beach. Desperate, he tries to drown.
With each video, the public becomes increasingly jubilant, following the electro rhythms. There were ululations of joy in the room and the applause echoed throughout the Rawabet theatre. Indeed, Love & Revenge offered an unforgettable night.