Egyptian Musician Adam Awad: Guitar Hero
We get up close and personal with the King of the Hipsters and discover where he gets his hats from, why his songs are so sad and how many chicks being a musician gets you...
In this week’s Music Matters we sit down with half-English, half-Egyptian singer, songwriter and, apparently, lothario Adam Awad. He’s been making a name for himself in recent years gigging around town in hipster hangouts such as Bikya Book Cafe and Cairo Jazz Club, not just because of his flawlessly selected array of bohemian outfits and perfectly quaffed facial hair, but also his unique gravely indie/folk sound and dream-like lyrics. Read on as we talk to him about being a hipster, getting mad bitches, and cannibalism...
How much of a hipster are you on a scale of one to Nicolas Jarr opening up an antique terracotta figurine store/salad bar in Dalston?
Well you’ve mentioned Dalston, I’m about half that hipster. If a hipster would go to Dalston seven days a week, I would go maybe three days a week. Actually three and a half. Might spend an extra afternoon there but I have to go on a Sunday because of the market in Shoreditch.
Do you buy your clothes exclusively from thrift stores?
No, actually I rarely shop at thrift stores. When I find something good I will buy it but mainly it’s Topman and H&M.
Are you sure you want us to put that in?
Haha, well we’ll see where this goes.
Going on to Cairo360’s question from Twitter, then. Where do you get your hats?
I got one from Turkey which is a brown straw fedora. The rest are mainly from markets in London.
You know there’s an animal market under a bridge in Cairo somewhere but they put rabbits, cats and dogs in the same cage…
I once saw a monkey in a cage in Maadi that was for sale for 3,000LE. I didn’t buy it but I considered it.
Will you teach it how to play acoustic guitar?
Yeah, and get it to sing backing vocals…
What would you call it?
Ooh, that’s a pretty serious question, give me a minute because this will determine the name of my future monkey. Umm, I’d name the monkey after the first EP I release.
Okay so you’re a hipster and you play guitar. Would you say you’re an Instagramentalist?
I can’t answer that. I just want the question to stay there on its own because that’s brilliant!
Where does the English accent come from?
I’m half English and half Egyptian. I grew up in London for a while and then Saudi Arabia then came here where I’ve been for about five or six years. I probably won’t be staying that much longer though, probably a few more months and I’m out.
How long have you been making music and what are your first memories of playing an instrument?
When I was really young, about 7 or 8, I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. It was shit, but anyway I was told to take musical therapy. So basically I just fucked about on drums, hit piano keys and whatnot. My mum then encouraged me to try guitar because it was the only thing that sounded right compared to everything else! So I did that and I hated it and then when I moved to Saudi this Philippino friend of mine told me, “Look, the only way to get chicks is by playing guitar.” I’ve been a fan ever since.
How many chicks have you got so far?
Probably in the region of 3,000 women per day.
How has the music scene changed since you came to Egypt five years ago?
When I first came I didn’t really know much at all. I was just playing guitar at home and putting really rough recordings online. Then I met Ahmed Safi and Yousef El Kady and we formed a band called ColourSound. It was a project really. It only lasted about a year. We played at a wedding once, it was great fun.
What is the difference between a project and a band?
Well, basically, a project means a band that’s dead! After that, I met Hany Mustafa and I performed with him for a while and about six months after that I thought, fuck it, why don’t I try a solo career and start singing? I had never really sung before. I recorded a couple songs, released them online then it just went from there. My first release was If Only back in January 2012.
All your song titles, ‘Let’s Get Lost’, ‘This City’s Not My Home’ and ‘If Only’ seem to be about you leaving somewhere, or someone leaving you. Do you have abandonment issues?
Oh I’ve got so many. We could do this interview for two more hours if you want to get into that but I’ve actually been trying to get into new lyric themes.
Maybe about your 3,000 bitches?
Yeah! My 3,000 bitches being happy etcetera…
What would you call that track?
3,000 Bitches. I’ve been trying new lyrical things but it all seems to revolve around that. I’m a happy guy, though, in general.
What was your favourite album growing up?
I really have no idea. I listened to a lot of Jimi Hendrix but I didn’t have a favourite album. I was the kind of guy who would just go on YouTube, find a song and then download the MP3.
Yeah your musician bio says you were raised on a steady diet of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Fleet Foxes… Did you actually eat these people?
Just tell us. Did you eat Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Fleet Foxes?
I left Bob Dylan his left arm.
Jimi from Salalem wants to know if you still love him?
The answer to that is this.
Okay, what aspect of your music would you most like to be remembered for?
For being unique.
And how do you plan on being this unique artist?
By creating songs that are as identifiable as me.
What instruments do you play now apart from guitar?
I’ve been learning violin for the last year and a half. It’s difficult.
How many bitches have you got since taking up the violin?
It’s about a 300% increase.
Okay we’ll draw that graph.
So why did you start violin?
I can’t remember why but I’ve been listening to a lot of Andrew Bird lately and I really liked his stuff so I thought I want to try some of that shit out. I am enjoying it, I’m not great but I’m trying to incorporate it into my recordings now.
Do you think there’s a lack of appreciation in Egypt for live music like yours?
My music is in English so there’s obviously only a small percentage out of the whole population that it appeals to. My music is also very specific and very melancholy so a lot of people won’t like it. But if you open up to the world and not just Egypt then you have a different audience all together.
Have you ever thought about releasing a track in Arabic?
Have you ever heard my Arabic?
So what’s your most memorable performance?
There’s a few, the first Discord Wake & Bake event and my debut at Bikya last March for their first anniversary. I hadn’t played in over eight months so it was good to get back on the scene.
What’s your favourite venue to perform at?
I really like the Cairo Jazz Club, it’s intimate and everyone’s pissed off their face. You can fuck anything up and no one will notice.
The preference in Egypt has gone from listening to live guitar music to DJs. This begs the question: What’s your favourite Pokemon?
Umm, Squirtle. I like the younger ones ,I don’t like them old.
Would you say the same for the 3,000 women?
Haha, no comment.
You’ve scored a couple of movies before, how does that process differ to writing your own music?
There’s lots of differences but for the most part one is instrumental (or Instagramental). It’s hard to put words in a short film or in a film soundtrack. Secondly, I have to get more information about what’s happening in the scene and incorporate that into what I create.
Which other Egyptian artists do you admire?
In no particular order, Hany Must, Shady Ahmed, Rash Radio, NeoByrd, Safi and Yasser El Masry who I occasionally play with in a band called The Postcards.
If you could play with one musician, alive or dead, who would it be?
Maybe Jimi Hendrix?
You shouldn’t play with your food. Someone that you haven’t already eaten…
Hahahhaha. Probably Andrew Bird, then. I think that would be a really cool collaboration.
Is there anything you want to say to your fans or 3,000 bitches?
I’m really sorry and for my fans, I’m releasing an EP some time in Summer.
Can you play us something?
CairoScene Disclaimer: We know the audio is a bit shitty on this video.
Adam Awad Disclaimer: The 3,000 bitches don't mean a thing! You're the only one that matters to me baby!
Catch up with everything Adam Awad on his Noise Profile.