Noha Taha: Living her music career dream in Egypt

Monica Elashy, Wednesday 26 Jun 2013

Ahead of her performance in Al-Azhar park on 28 June, singer and songwriter of a band that has quickly seen popularity, Noha Taha talks to Ahram Online about her passion

Noha Taha Band

Twenty-nine-year-old Noha Taha dropped out of college in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, to follow her ambitions and passion as a singer and songwriter.

Today, her work revolves around the independent arts; a fulfilment of her dream, managing her own band, writing music and singing about current events and personal experiences. The next opportunity to hear her is at her upcoming concert at El-Genaina Theatre on Friday 28 June.

As a student, Taha participated in the performance arts.

"I was totally psyched with the idea of pop bands, or bands in general," said Taha of her childhood.

Taha graduated from Lycée Al-Horreya and collaborated with music bands during her college years while travelling back and forth to Cairo looking for a job.

 "The Alexandrian community is conservative, aggressive and judgemental. I didn’t think I belonged there: I couldn’t fake my life, so, I decided to leave," said Taha.

In 2004 she moved to Cairo where she worked in several fields not related to arts and never settled for a job. Meanwhile, she always fought for her voice to reach the people.

One day a friend and casting director, Amr Abdel Aziz recommended Grammy Award winner Egyptian musician Fathy Salama's workshop.

"I was very shaky and scared, but this was my introduction to the underground scene," and it was the underground scene of Cairo that seemed the most suitable for Taha.

"I tried to get involved in any small or big project. My first project was with composer Haitham Ebeed. We used to rehearse together on rooftops," added Taha.

Then came the Rockess band in 2007; Taha’s first attempt to establish a band.

"The Rockess' line-up included close friends: Tamer Attallah, Amgad Shebl, Mohamed Darwish and Mostafa Geweda, but Rockess never moved outside the studio walls."

In the following years Taha played with several bands, such as the Redeemers and Sweet Sound Band. In 2008, supported by Mostafa Fathy, she founded SMS, a band where she could perform her own compositions along with covers. She also performed with the Scorpionism, a tribute band to the Scorpions rock band.

"Scorpionism was much more successful than SMS; we were playing all over Egypt, such as Cairo, Alexandria and even Taba - always to a large audience," added Taha.

Though SMS and Scorpionism stopped performing in 2011, the several years of Taha's musical endeavours enriched her experience as a musician and allowed her to experiment with a variety of music genres.

Noha Taha

On her way, she was not alone.

"Ahmed El-Fekky, guitarist, singer and entertainment manager at Cairo Jazz Club was one of the friends that always supported me; he believed in me and believed that I shouldn’t stop," underlines Taha.

In 2012 she was introduced to the band with whom she performs today, whose members include drummer Majd Hamawy, bass guitarist Karim Hossam, guitarist Yasser Hashish (who was also with her in SMS) and pianist Omar El-Rouby.

"They chose the name 'Noha Taha band'," Taha comments, adding that she does not favour this name and finds it "narcissistic."

The band launched over seven months ago with a successful performance at the Cairo Jazz Club.

Ever since, they took the underground scene by storm while Taha's voice was described in one of the reviews as "wrapped in gold."

One of her major assets is the multitude of colours in Taha's strong voice, but the simplicity of Taha's delivery is what makes her particularly charming. Though a lot of Taha's music is dominated by Egyptian and Oriental influences, the accumulated experience she garnered in the past years has infused her compositions with recurring scents of other genres, including jazz.

In her Arabic compositions, Taha tackles all issues close to Egyptians' hearts, interlacing them with her own experiences.

At her upcoming concert Taha will send a clear message on political realities. Her concert coincides with the first day of the planned Tamarod (Rebel) marches to Itihadaya presidential palace and Tahrir Square, which aim to oust Brotherhood-fielded President Morsi.

"Normally, I like to write about general topics with a particular message: I don't just like to write meaningless songs," Taha emphasised.

For instance, one of the songs composed by Ahmed Selim and Sayed Shehata with lyrics by Taha is called Wenabi la Nohkom (I Swear We’ll Rule).

The concert will also feature Hekayet Mewaten (Story of a Citizen), West El Koon (Middle of the World), Horeyetna Toom (Our Freedom is Bait), Kan Nefsy (I Really Wished), and Youm Roteeni (A Routine Day).

Friday, 28 June at 8pm
Noha Taha (first half)
Syrian musician Khater Dawa (second half)
El-Geneina Theatre, Al-Azhar Park

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