December 2011 and we headed to Egypt to play at the Disco Cairo 2011 event in the West El Balad area of the capital. Only just this year, the country has been through revolution but is still in it’s transitionary period and while we were there, there were still huge demonstrations in the streets and particularly in the famous Tahrir Square.
While in Cairo, the organisers and the very helpful British Council introduced us to Egyptian ney flute player Mohammed Antar, a composer and founding conductor of the Ensemble Munajah for meditative middle-eastern music. His musical education began at the age of four, studying piano, flute, recorder and the accordion before learning how to play the ney flute. He’s also blind which makes things even more incredible. Total respect.
His commitment to Middle-Eastern classical and traditional music, especially to spiritual branches of music, has made him a complete master of Arabic, Turkish and Persian ney blowing techniques. Mohammed likes to create links between both the rich musical heritage of Middle-Eastern music and of contemporary styles, so was totally across what we were doing and was very behind the idea.
He’s performed in countries from Lebanon to Iran, and regularly plays in Egypt, Turkey and sometimes Europe, particularly in Hungary, as a soloist or with several musical groups including the Ensemble Munajah, Tara M and the Asil Ensemble (a group conducted by his brother, the oud player Mustafa Said). He’s also released the albums The Arab Maqam (of solo ney improvisations) and Oriental Breeze, who he recorded with the Oriental Secrets Ensemble. With his band, the Sharqistan Quartette, he’s also composed the soundtracks of two documentaries by director Hala El-Qoussy.
Huge thanks to Cathy at the British Council.
While in Cairo, we were interviewed on Nile FM about Orchestra of Samples, among other things…