'Oriental Spirits meet Golden Harp': Basem Darwisch's Cairo Steps release new music video Saphir

Ati Metwaly , Saturday 28 Jan 2023

Basem Darwisch and his Egyptian-German ensemble Cairo Steps released a new music video Saphir, as part of a new project titled “Oriental Spirits meet Golden Harp.”



Released on 17 January, the new music video is part of a project that “aims to bring together the rich cultural heritage of the Orient with the timeless beauty of the harp, creating a unique and captivating sound,” reads the description provided under the YouTube release.

The composition refers to the sapphire gemstone, which as we find in the video’s music and visuals, indicates the musical beauty that reflects the culture, the passage of time, history, and nature.

Linked to Darwisch’s long practice with Cairo Steps, in which he creates a musical blend of cultures, joining Oriental sounds with music genres such as jazz, classical and world music, this project features traditional instruments such as oud and nay with the harp. While the harp is among the basic instruments of Western classical compositions, it does not make part of a typical Oriental ensemble. In this sense, the experimental blends signed by Darwisch remain very unique while opening the doors for many new musical layers.

The description on YouTube continues to explain that “the goal is to create a sound that is both authentic and contemporary, that can be enjoyed by both traditional music enthusiasts and modern audiences.”

Darwisch opens the melody line on his oud before Rageed William joins on nay, paving the way to the first strokes of Evelyn Huber on the harp. The composition that also features Max Klaas on percussion, merging the instruments to provide a walk through the blanket of time that is woven with many threads of cultures. 

The visuals present original Egyptian landscapes and their nature, the palms and the mountains, alongside ancient landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza and temple walls. The musical blend that runs through the history is underlined by the Nile, whose waters run freely through the plains and then find themselves in busy Cairo. In one shot we see the ancient breath of the Pyramids, in another, the urban density of the capital city almost touches their feet. 

This game of contrasts is additionally emphasised by the solar cycle, as we are walked from the bright paintings where sun lights the mountains and the deserts, to the city lights which like stars illuminate Cairo. 

The often blurred and overlayered images that fill several shots give an additional dreamy feel to the video, rendering a nostalgic scent of the musician's overlapping memories soaked in subtle emotions.

Just like many other compositions by Darwisch, this musical and visual mix speaks of his very own personality. Translating his life into music, it seems that he continues his research of many cultural components that underpin his complexity as a man and a musician. As such, the Cairo Steps, with over 20 years of concerts around the world and several awards, becomes a platform for explorations, while proving how music can absorb our differences into one creative offering, a fact that our daily life often finds difficult to accommodate.

This is the beauty of Saphir, a composition which, as its name indicates and as Darwisch explains, is a stone often associated with elegance and beauty. It is this beauty emerging from the oud player and other musicians representing Cairo Steps, that we find in the new composition.

Saphir is the newest track on Cairo Step’s channel. Previously, the ensemble also released a music video for Sultan featuring Ali El-Helbawy (December 2022), a music video that draws footage from Cairo Steps' latest concert at the Marquee Theatre (Cairo Festival City, November 2022) in which El-Helbawy presented the song in a new musical packaging.

Prior to that, in October 2022, Cairo Steps released Dahab, a music video presenting the beauty of Dahab, a small Egyptian town and a popular tourist spot on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula.

Among the newest unforgettable tracks by Cairo Steps is Naeim Redak (The Blessing of Your Approval), a unique collaboration between Basem Darwisch, Cairo Steps and Sheikh Ehab Younis. Released in April 2022, the composition is based on Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G-minor interlacing Sufi singing.

One of the core members of Cairo Steps, Evelyn Huber is a unique German musician who also plays with Quadro Nuevo, a quartet founded in 1996 and which music fuses sound from elements of flamenco, Balkan swing, traditional folk, and avant-garde improvisation. 

Cairo Steps and Quadro Nuevo have cooperated on several occasions; in 2017, they released the Flying Carpet album, which a year later was awarded the German Jazz Award Gold. This collaboration also saw the participation of the Egyptian flutist and former culture minister, Ines Abdel-Dayem.

In 2021, Darwisch and Quadro Nuevo were honoured with a German Gold Award. 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.

Founded in 2002 as a collaboration between Darwisch and German pianist Matthias Frey, Cairo Steps has performed extensively in Egypt and Germany, and on many other international stages.

The band brings together numerous music genres – traditional Egyptian and Oriental grooves, Sufi traditions, Western classical music, European ethnic music, and jazz improvisation – into one melting pot.

The ensemble has released five albums and multiple singles, including Oud Lounge (2012), followed by Arabiskan (2016), Silk Road (2016), Flying Carpet (2017), Diwan Cafe (2020-2021).

Apart from creating music, Darwisch also has a rich portfolio in artistic management and shares his experience through workshops. 


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