Egyptian band Bahgaga explores new creative territories

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 13 Apr 2022

All-female-singers Egyptian band Bahgaga is experimenting with new formats that might lead to the presentation of a fully-fledged musical theatre.

Bahgaga

In their upcoming concert that is scheduled to take place on Friday 15 April at El-Sawy Culturewheel, Bahgaga will present their regular repertoire in addition to a scene and characters that saw the support of professional theatrical mise-en-scene.

Founded by Ayman Helmy — who is also the band’s music director and composes their repertoire — Bahgaga is known for fusing songs with light acting and presenting their repertoire in a humorous manner, incorporating monologues into their performances, which is a practice that was popular in Egypt from the 1920s to the 1960s.

These comedy music monologues that resemble comic skits are especially known to the audience, as they were once performed by Egyptian comedians Ismail Yassin (1912-1972) and Mahmoud Shokoko (1912-1985).

Most of Bahgaga’s songs are composed by Helmy, with lyrics either taken from well-known poems or written by the musician himself.

Helmy, however, is increasingly shifting towards a completely original repertoire. The band was born on the idea of reviving the Egyptian creative heritage (Hence ‘monologues’), however, unlike other formations that cover the known compositions, Bahgaga aims for an original repertoire.

This feat is slowly but surely taking shape alongside the development of the new artistic format.

The result is undeniably a unique recipe that merges known Egyptian musical and theatrical traditions with the breath of a new generation’s contemporary understanding of performing arts.

Capitalising on female talents, Bahgaga’s unique creative colour has been attracting the audience for a few years already, with the band boasting a number of successful performances to their name.

In 2021, Bahgaga launched ‘Bahgaga Mic’ — a comedy-singing workshop for new female performers. The workshop concluded with a performance showcasing the new talents.

And as their fame began to transcend borders, Bahgaga performed their well-known standards during Dubai Expo 2020, which took place in 2021 due to the coronavirus.

In their new step, the band aims to set the ‘monologues’ within a more structured, theatrical packaging. As such, the upcoming performance that is scheduled to take place on Friday at El-Sawy Culturewheel will be the band’s first experiment on the way to what could become musical theatre.

“We are working more on drama and joining music with dramatical lines,” Helmy revealed to Ahram Online.

“In the upcoming concert, one of the songs will have a well-designed mise-en-scene. This is the first time for Bahgaga to present such a format,” he added.

With 12 musicians — seven instrumentalists and five female singers — Bahgaga is also inviting Mahmoud Khatib to the stage. The artist will be performing a character named ‘Escobar’ in a manner that fuses music with theatre.

“I hope the new ideas will be well received by the audience. For Bahgaga, it is also an important experiment that will hopefully lead into a richer creative format,” Helmy comments.

The full-length musical theatre performance is definitely a dream that Helmy and Bahgaga are aiming to turn into reality. With a good plan and Helmy’s persistence, the process might be shorter than we could imagine.

Bahgaga hinges on its female singers. “This is our main principle,” Helmy explains, adding that the band’s ideology lies in developing female talents to give them a platform for creative expression.

He underscores, however, that while female performers will always remain at Bahgaga’s core, “this does not mean that we exclude male artists. We already have a number of male instrumentalists. And if any of our productions require that we incorporate a male character, then why not? By the end of the day, all musical and theatrical procedures will only enrich Bahgaga’s main concept and its members.”

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