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Gig review A night not to be forgotten in a hurry

MICHAL BONCZA reviews Cairokee gig at the London Barbican

Barbican, London


IN the darkened hall the logo of Cairokee, a rotating head of a lion, appears on the screen accompanied by a roar of sound. Could it be Maahes the ancient Egyptian lion-headed god of war and son of the creator god Ptah? Significantly it means “he who is true beside her,” because that is exactly what Cairokee do in the Arab world and its worldwide diaspora. They are a beacon, a lighthouse in stormy seas.

Within seconds of reaching for their instruments, the audience is all standing and cheering in a roar at the top of their voices. Cairokee blast the hall and all in it with a sound that overtly is pure rock. But listen carefully and the idiom is intricately embroidered with Levantine patterns permeating the melodies, the singing and the rhythm. In one instance a keyboard-generated accordion echoes chanson.

The vocal harmonies between Amir Eid, Tamer Hashem and Sherif Mostafa transmit the songs directly to the audience’s souls.

All present, down to the last person, are as enraptured as they are mesmerised. Song after song, identified with the first bar and known by heart, is cheered and sung along in good voice... a monumental karaoke? All mobile phones are recording and videoing.

This is an explosion of Arab togetherness and Arabic is far more than just the lingua franca of the night. It becomes a vehicle for a release of sheer joy that comes with this spectacular affirmation of an identity, a sense of belonging to a world and culture mostly shunned in the Western media.

It reaches a momentous culmination with the Telk Qadeya (That is a Cause), when a gasp of approval grips the audience.

The hurt might be primarily Palestinian but it  extends across the Arab world and well beyond, and the anthemic lyrics of “Ignite inspiration for generations to come, Learn how to live and die for a purpose,” will resonate until Palestine is free.

The initial thunder of approval is followed by a respectful silence, where every word sung is absorbed with pain and solidarity. The song, sang by Amir Eid, becomes a funeral oration, a lament for a people denied their rightful space on Earth.

Founded in 2003, the five-piece comprises Amir Eid (vocals), Tamer Hashem (drums), Sherif Hawary (guitar), Adam El-Alfy (bass) and Sherif Mostafa (keys) go on to Europe on their sold-out tour.




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