One of the best known and best stocked showrooms for Egyptian musicians, Mohab Ramadan meets the second generation owner to find out how it came to be and how they'e fostering a professional musical community in Egypt.
If you're a musician in Egypt, then you know Al Fanny - the sprawling showroom that stocks the creme de la creme of instruments and musical equipment, as the official distributor of iconic brands Roland, Mackie, Wharfedale, Kurzweil, BlackStar, Røde, ESP, TAMA and Korg. Driven by a passion for making sure both amateurs and professionals alike have access to the tools that will have them sounding their best, Ramy Lucas has taken his dad's business and turned it into an empire, as Al Fanny now supplies over 30 different retailers, while remaining to be THE hub for musicians to check out and experience the latest advancements in musical instruments, recording equipment and more. "My father was a well-known musician who used to play in a local band in the 60/70s. Back then, it was impossible to get experience different genres of music easily. Western music in Egypt was a thrill back then and my dad picked Western music for his band for the exclusivity of it. People from all classes, from princes to every paupers, came to enjoy the band's performances. He had always dreamed of importing high quality instruments to Egypt and that's how Al-Fanny came to be in 1979. Right after I was born, I guess he realised he can't be in a band anymore because kids and responsibility," jokes Lucas.
"He got really good instruments and introduced synthesizers and arranger keyboards to Egypt. Moreover, he had all the necessary connections; he took these instruments and went straight to famous musicians and that's how Al-Fanny took its first steps into being one of Egypt's major music stores," Lucas tells us about the inspired beginnings of the now-iconic showroom. "He didn't stop there," continues Lucas. "He then introduced Oriental Keyboards to Egypt; he actually went to Roland and Korg in Japan, taught them how to do the 1/4 tone and all the original Egyptian rhythms from Saeidi to Maksoum and how they all can be put together to be intelligently organised for third-party musicians to scrutinise and play with. Recording all the sounds in Egypt, they started with our flagship keyboard, the Roland E-40, which infiltrated the keyboard market here in Egypt and it's still, weirdly enough, very popular to this very day."
With Lucas growing up in the innovative and inspirational musical environment, it's no surprise he was quickly inducted into the Al-Fanny family. "I used to manage some of the company's affairs on a part-time basis and had a few clashes with dad about the strategy. In my time, I did my research and thought, 'why not bring guitars as well?' I then secretly spoke with big guitar brands and got a major one and sold half the container in two days - I eventually got over 25 brands for different instruments! Eventually, my dad realised that I could take the helm, giving him some faith in younger generations."
Al-Fanny is now more of a wholesaler than retailer, supplying stores across the country. "I'd like them to grow as much as we did," says Lucas as he clarifies the strategy of creating a community to supports each other. With over 30 brands, business is booming. "The market is enormous but eerie, I can sell 100 keyboards a month but sell 300 guitars all over the year."
Contributing to the upcoming Muzix Expo, the first event of it's kind in Egypt, bringing together musicians, industry leaders, technical experts and more, Al-Fanny is continuing to foster and add to the music industry here. "I believe Muzix is something that should have happened long ago so I'm really grateful this is happening here in Egypt," says Lucas. "Of course, the market is growing and if the musicians can't contribute to it or know more about gear from experienced audiophiles then it's not making its run for the money."
However, despite the success of Al-Fanny thus far, it's not without it's challenges. "Bringing in musical instruments to Egypt is tough. Customs deal with them as 'unusual luxury goods' which means we have to pay 43-55% in taxes on every instrument. With shipping and all, we end up paying 60% over the original cost excluding shipping." Providing a whole eco-system under one roof, Al-Fanny aims to - and succeeds in - to be a one-stop-shop for any kind of musician. "It's not a very smart move to provide one class of products when it comes to business, you have to provide low and high quality articles, for every price range."
Photography by Ahmed Najeeb.