Egyptian ‘funky’ band gets attention of young audience with sarcasm

The band’s Facebook page has about 187,000 likes and 193,000 followers.
Sunday 18/11/2018
Breaking with tradition. Yousra el-Gendy (R) and Ezz Shahwan perform on stage.   (Chris B)
Breaking with tradition. Yousra el-Gendy (R) and Ezz Shahwan perform on stage. (Chris B)

CAIRO - Takh, an Egyptian band whose name may suggest noise and violence, delivers funny and comic songs that have an effect while expressing the concerns of young Egyptians.

“Takh” in Arabic means the sound of crashing objects or a fired bullet. It is an onomatopoeia perfectly fitting the bang that Takh’s members hope to leave with listeners, mainly the crashing of musical instruments and words creating rhythmic songs and melodies.

The band’s songs refer to everyday Egyptian lives in a sarcastic manner. Every song is a visual sketch that can be imagined by listeners, narrating a story that has a beginning, middle and an end.

The group has been attracting thousands of fans and concertgoers, mainly teenagers.

“At first, we were looking for a band name that has to do with the word groove and this is the only close Arabic word we could find. Something that invites people to rejoice at life,” said band co-founder and musician Ezz Shahwan.

“We wish to create a ‘takh’ as in like a boom in the music world,” explained Shahwan’s associate, singer Yousra el-Gendy.

Even though the band name may have a negative connotation, Shahwan is seeking to make a difference.

“No band should be judged by its name before being listened to,” he said. “The title is not repulsive, yet it’s provocative as it inspires people’s curiosity and makes them listen to us.”

Takh has attracted a wide base of teenage listeners rather than adults.

“When we perform songs, we don’t target a certain age group but it’s the utmost dream of anyone working in the music industry to attract teenagers,” Shahwan said.

The band started in 2015 by posting songs on YouTube and Sound Cloud, paving the way for its members to perform in cultural centres in Egypt.

“Call Me Ziko,” one of the first songs through which the band introduced itself, attracted 3 million listeners on the internet. The band’s Facebook page has about 187,000 likes and 193,000 followers.

Shahwan arranges the music of the songs that Gendy writes and composes.

“Some of the songs are derived of life situations I have gone through, I witnessed or heard about, while others just come up randomly on my mind while brainstorming with Ezz,” Gendy said.

Unlike most bands in Egypt, Gendy incorporates English words and expressions into Arabic songs.

“That’s probably because my generation and the younger generation speak this way,” said Gendy, who is in her 20s. She acts her songs more than just singing them.

“I spontaneously perform my songs in a certain way given their special, funny words impersonating the characters in each,” she said.

Ahmed Fahmy, a 16-year-old Cairo resident, is a staunch fan of the band. “It is because every song tells a short story and one finds himself eager to know what’s happening next,” he said. “I also very much like the funny way Yousra performs.”

Not only has Takh caught the attention of young people, it has also won critics’ approval as well.

“The band performs a special kind of songs that is not commonly performed by independent bands in Egypt,” music critic Moustafa Farouk said. “What Shahwan and Gendy perform is not exactly singing. Rather, it’s a combination of simple words forming a short tale or a situation, which may not be perfectly understood by some people.

“The band’s funky, crazy style is quite joyful. We cannot analyse them artistically. They create a state rather than an art,” Farouk added.

Shahwan and Gendy said they hope to produce a video clip for one of their songs but funding remains an obstacle. On YouTube, they post photos as sketches that portray their songs.

“Funding is the main challenge as is the case with any independent band in Egypt but, in a nutshell, both Ezz and I complement each other artistically,” Gendy said. “Producing a video clip is a long process that entails different costly steps but we are working hard to attain that aspiration.”