Why Nadah El Shazly Rules by Sam Shalabi

Nadah El ShazlyI met Nadah in Cairo, Egypt at a party in the apartment of legendary hep cat and musical polymath Mahmoud Refat through a mutual friend (the great oud player, Yasmine El Baramawry). We talked for only a few minutes but we both knew something was up. There was an immediate connection and a tuning of sorts into some frequency. It seemed clear something strange and musical was afoot and a-brewing. A few weeks later, I had the chance to catch Nadah live at 100 copies (a dearly departed Cairo performance space run by Refat) and was floored. With just her (already) rich singular voice and a laptop, her music was beautifully odd – it was already elsewhere. It seemed to be pitched between Tarab and twisted in a most dreamlike way, pointing to a bunch of untrodden possibilities for Arabic music while looking far back into an “old weird Egypt” that may or may not have ever existed. It was an entrancing performance and I knew I had to make music with Nadah.

And so we dove down a not-so-obvious musical rabbit hole – free improv with no road map. I’m not even sure how we even came to that as I don’t remember either of us deciding on anything – it seemed like one minute we were joking around, drinking beer and talking and the next we were in the middle of a bizarre 1/4 tone atonal improv session.

That all seemed to work instantaneously and, from there, we kept going. Talking and playing as if there was no difference (and there wasn’t, really) and forming a musical and personal bond that is telepathic, intuitive and open and a bond which continues to grow and open up through her work, our odd collaborations, our friendship and in Land Of Kush, too.

Open : it’s the big extensive word to describe Nadah. Basically she is one of the most open and rigorous artists I know. Nadah is up for anything that pushes towards the outer limits of what she knows and is capable of and that’s where she shines and where she is most comfortable, a rarity in an artist and a human – and Nadah is both.

…and very very importantly, Nadah has a sense of humour about ALL of this. One BIG aspect of the bond we share in our friendship and music is the laughs. Working with Nadah – being friends with Nadah – is a joyful process with much reward, goofiness, absurdity, warmth, inspiration and openness. There is that word again : Openess. The (in my opinion) single most important thing a musician and person should have in life as a compass to grow, survive and thrive – that and a sense of humour. Nadah has both in spades. Nadah is the real deal and getting realer by the minute.

Sam Shalabi is an Egyptian-Canadian composer, improviser and musician living between Montréal, Québec and Cairo, Egypt. Shalabi is known for his prolific output which includes work with Land of Kush, Shalabi Effect and Ratchet Orchestra.

Nadah El Shazy plays Kazoo! Fest 2020 on Sunday April 19th with Bruce Peninsula and Cots at Royal City Church (50 Quebec Street).

Tickets for this show are available here.


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