“”Yes, I am going to sing in the streets!“” These were the words stated by singer Shady Ahmed when he determined to sing in the streets of Cairo in order to market for his concert at the Sawy Culture Wheel on April 18th, 2009.
Was it fruitful? Did he stand against the police officers? Did he achieve what he needed from this experiment?
First, introduce yourself.
Shady: My name is Shady Ahmed; I’m a singer/songwriter guitar player.
How long have you been singing and playing the guitar?
Shady: Both collectively for about 7 years now.
Tell me about your own band, Shady Ahmed, was this your first concert?
Shady: Well in all honesty, I never intended to get a backup band to play along to my music and just preferred to be a solo artist; I still plan to create a new band with a new name. I had performed in a few random gigs as a solo artist, but I had no band, hence my name appearing on the marquee.
Why did you decide to make your own band rather than playing whatever you wanted in Kravin?
Shady: I’ve always written songs on my own, even before Kravin. Kravin was actually my idea for a band to play my originals. The first rehearsal we ever had, I was holding the guitar and playing one of my songs. But then time passed and the line-up changed, the whole dynamic went in another way that I loved, and I went along with it giving it everything, especially with songwriting. But the kind of music Kravin presents is far away from the songs I’ve always written in the corner of my room. When Kravin plays live, it’s the best rush I get, I feel like we own the crowd…but then there’s a whole side of me that feels left out. This is my attempt to maintain any kind of balance if you will. And playing both styles simultaneously is a learning experience I’m still getting used to.
What are the advantages of being a solo artist? And what are the disadvantages?
Shady: Well, playing live on my own has a certain freedom to it… I play whatever I want, even if it’s a song I heard on the radio and felt like playing. You get to communicate your vision the way you choose. Having said that, there are some songs that I have played alone for a couple of years, but when played with a band, they just had a totally new meaning, it was like finally listening to my music the way I had intended on making it. I’d say the disadvantages of playing solo is the audience factor, you have to think of ways other than the music to keep them interested. For example, I performed an acoustic version of “Kiss The Girl” (Little Mermaid O.S.T) and it ended up being the one they requested at the end of the show for the encore… which wasn’t really what I wanted; I wanted to be able to go on stage, with my guitar and play my songs for people, but the audience isn’t ready for this yet.
Do you have your own band, stable members or do you get session musicians to perform with you?
Shady: Like I said before, it’s a stable band, but it will not carry my name on the main headliner, it’s a new band with a new identity, but the songs we are performing will be songs we write together.
Tell me about your experience in the streets and people’s feedback concerning this experiment? And why did you think of doing this?
Shady: Its simple, I had a show, I was tired of promoting it online, so I played real music to real people, in the streets! It was great, I got a lot of love; people were amazingly supportive and it caused a lot of buzz. Unfortunately the concert didn’t get the end of that promotional train, and most of the attention went to me singing in the streets. They focused on the “what” and “who” more than the “why”.
What songs did you pick to sing in the street? What language? What type?
Shady: Believe it or not, I improvised everything I did on the streets, apart from a couple of covers I did for some people who had come to see me specially. It was great; I ended up writing 3 tracks which I will perform at the concert on the 18th of April at Sakia. The songs were in English, and they were pretty much what you would expect from acoustic music, they had pop sensibilities. They were in English, because my music is in English, I wouldn’t want to advertise for something other than what I do.
Which concepts allows you to choose your songs; to entertain people or to display your talent?
Shady: When you’re singing in the streets, you have to keep in mind that you want to be heard, so I played a lot of up-beat stuff, hard strumming and loud singing, which really paid off because I was able to work on a new sound; one that I had not found a reason for before. So that was a great thing by itself.
[Five minutes after Shady starts singing the police arrive and question him..]
How did you react with policemen? Did they tell you to stop? And did you really stop when they asked you to?
Shady: Policemen came and asked me what I was doing, and so I answered them. I was told by a lawyer that there was no law against me singing in the streets, the maximum anyone can do was ask me to leave. I spoke to them with reason, and they couldn’t hold anything against me. They had no reason not to have me there, and I had no reason to leave. And just for the record, I only stopped playing when I was tired! And if people are allowed the freedom to smoke in the streets, harm themselves and those around them, then why shouldn’t I sing?!
Would you do this again?
Shady: Of course, and I’ll get more musicians with me next time.
What did you learn from this experience and you would like to share with the others?
Shady: I learned that sometimes you do something for a purpose, and you end up benefiting in a different way. Either way, you just have to accept it as a blessing. And I learned that doing something you’ve always wanted to do can sometimes be the most fun you can ever have.
Do you think that the Egyptian artists/bands should to promote for their lives – as you did – and sing in the streets, and do not depend on the place marketing plan only?!
Shady: I don’t know! I certainly can’t speak for other musicians.
People think that the most of artists/bands perform their music for just a matter of propaganda, just to humor the social problems such as; poverty and the economic crisis. So what is your comment on that?
Shady: I believe that if you are an artist, it’s up to what kind of art you present to showcase your talent. If you’re a singer not a songwriter, you have to be ok with the fact that you are singing somebody else’s words, so that’s not really presenting a vision, it’s borrowing one. I also think that because of commercial demands, some bands find themselves writing about more universal situations like being stuck in traffic, or short on money or whatever. This is to make the audience relate to the music which in turn makes them want to listen to it more which in turn makes the band famous and successful.
“When it comes to my presentation of my art form, I have always done everything myself, the singing, the songwriting lyrics and the melodies and even the guitar playing, I do that because it’s the only way I know how to create something. That plays a big role in creating a vision or a sound you try to achieve through the songs, the music translates your state of mind, at that time…sometimes you are put in certain situations that drive you to write something. That could create a vision for a song, or an album, or even a painting.” Shady added.
What about your vision of “Songs Once Deemed Unworthy”?
Shady: There was no real vision, I mean the title itself shows you what I thought of the songs, and they were a collection of songs I had written at the time to kind of frame a state of mind I was in. It was a 5 track demo. And after the show we got the chance to ask Shady more questions as a feedback after his concert…
Have you achieved the number of audience that you needed after your marketing plan?
Shady: I did not have a specific number of people in mind for the gig; no expectations, and no disappointments.
Did you play in your show the same songs that you played in the streets?
Shady: Yes! A Couple
What are your plans for the future?
Shady: Make and record music, play as many live concerts as I can. I am currently working on recording some of my music and producing it with Sary Hani who plays guitar in the band. I plan to release the music online and sell it at shows as well.
Do you think having the same front person in two different bands would distract the audience at some point? If yes, would you at some point drop all the projects and concentrate on the sound of Shady Ahmed?
Shady: I think if I focus my efforts on what people think or if they get distracted I would not be able to play music all together. I can’t control what people think or see. The two bands are for two completely different kinds of audiences, if people who have seen me with Kravin enjoy my acoustic material as well, then they are more than welcome to join in and have fun with me as I make it and play it. And I think I don’t have to worry about that because I never intended to make music just for the sake of performing live or being famous; it’s far more important to me then that, it’s too precious and it means more to me than most things. That is part of why I sang on the streets. So I’ll defiantly always keep making music, even of its just for my dog to listen to and bark at my bad ones, and maybe even howl along to my sad ones.
How can we find your music online?
Shady: I have my music posted on MySpace, and my channel on Youtube is called Shady Ahmed Music (one word) I am also on Facebook but that goes without saying. A very good friend of mine as well helped me post my demo acoustic album online on his blogspot www.strangeinstereoworld.blogspot.com so you might want to search for it there; it’s called “Songs Once Deemed Unworthy”.
Do you want to say anything to the audience out there?
Shady: It is not enough to say you love music because it’s bigger than your love for it; you have to show the world what music means to you. You have to live the music you love. Let it in and embrace it.