Nadah El Shazly is an Egyptian singer and composer living and working in Cairo.
Her debut album, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands), released last year, is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale. Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album’s lead track “Afqid Adh-Dhakira” (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly’s sultry and captivating presence, singing: “(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness.”
The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Giallo classic. A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel.
In between El Shazly’s five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract cover version of Sayyid Darwish’s classic “Ana ‘Ishiqt” (I Once Loved). El Shazly’s haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi’s early 20th century verses of love and betrayal.
The Santa Rita Concerts provide a unique, deeply immersive audience experience. Each evening begins at 7pm with a Santa Rita wine tasting, and a fireside interview with the artists. The performances take place at 8pm in the museum’s beautifully resonant downstairs gallery. The space is candlelit and the atmosphere highly intimate – a concentrated ritual shared by performer and audience.