CAIRO: For the Egyptian musician Hind and her group, the nighttime curfew in Cairo has turned into an opportunity to jam until the sun comes up.
When the curfew comes into force from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Hind and her group play traditional Egyptian music throughout the night. In the Arab world’s cradle of culture and home of some of its greatest voices, a nighttime curfew has been in place since a deadly crackdown on Islamists on Aug. 14.
It has since been gradually shortened.
In the Makan cultural center, the band plays all night, as part of a project called “The music of the curfew.”
It was born of “the sentiment of musicians who usually work at night and who felt that the curfew hit something they liked the most,” says Ahmad al-Maghraby, head of Makan. “So we decided to take advantage of it. As soon as the curfew starts, we listen to our music for hours before closing Makan at the end of the curfew.”
With its yellow cellar walls, red-carpeted floors and red-and-black wooden chairs, Makan’s decor radiates vibes of traditional Arabic music.
A wooden staircase leads to a small room filled with old instruments and wooden trunks, as Hind performs a powerful song with her eyes shut and left hand raised, before a small but enthusiastic crowd.
Behind her, three women musicians play traditional Arabic percussion, while seven men – including a guitarist, a saxophonist and traditional flute players – complete the ensemble.
The marathon performance is staged in three parts.
After 3 a.m., the musicians rest and “Baraka,” Ron Fricke’s 1992 movie showcasing rich landscapes and sites from some of the remotest areas of the world, is projected on a wall.
“It’s better to be here than at home where we can’t do anything,” says flutist Amine Chahine. “Here we can exhaust all the energy that we hold inside.”
Among the audience is 31-year-old Gina Moqbel, who says that Cairo’s “curfew turned our lives upside down because we used to stay up late.”
Her friend Becky Harett from Nigeria said she was ready to stay and take in the scene “until six in the morning.”
During a short break after three hours of nonstop music, the audience is offered falafel and beans – an Egyptian staple – before the musicians take to the stage again.