Musician Maurice Louca “Salutes the Parrot” in Beirut
By: Muhib Gameel
Published Thursday, February 19, 2015
Maurice Louca’s second album “Benhayyi al-Baghbaghan” [We Salute the Parrot] (Nawa Records, 2014), his most important work so far, took him almost two years to complete. The Egyptian musician has spawned a phenomenon of his own, singing about the contradictions of life faced by artists from the Arab world and beyond, in a mix of rhymed and improvised verses.
Cairo — The album showcases a wide palette of influences, from psychedelic music to Egyptian folk music. Throughout, Louca tries to break any predictable pattern and so shatter any illusions the listener might develop. The end product does not fit any particular genre.
The tension peaks on the album’s title track. The music almost gives the impression that it wants to escape the time it has been assigned, until Louca reins it in with the help of vocals from Alaa Fifty, who booms, “Wake up, wake up, don’t sleep, and salute the parrot.”
The parrot motif seems to refer to Louca’s use of repetitive music, which he infuses with his own soul. His compositions have a quasi-religious effect, not in the sacred sense, but in the sense that they sedate the listener’s soul and put them in a trance-like state.
In this trip, Louca appears to be paying homage to Egyptian popstar Shaban al-Baghbaghan, famous for his song al-Ghandoura [The Coquette Girl].
Maha Maamoun, designer of the album cover, said she suggested a parrot on the cover to Louca before she knew the final name of the work.
One track, Sharriq Rah Tgharrib [Go East, You Will Go West], the lyrics go, “Go east, you’ll go west, go far you’ll get near, it’s going to erupt, believe me.” Words like these capture the contradictions of everyday life.
Louca supports the vocals with his crafty use of instruments, including drums and the electric guitar. The songs amount to a music marathon, and are best listened to in one swoop, without stopping.
After graduating from the Faculty of Commerce, Louca started playing the electric guitar with a rock band, before joining the Bikya band and the Alif Ensemble. He believes electronic music in the Arab region recently acquired a revolutionary flavor, not only in its messages but even in its form. Although the electronic tracks were combined with vocals from pop star Alaa Fifty, they have resonated with a wider audience.
Maha Maamoun says that the goal was to create a place that combines three creative activities, namely music, graphic design, and visual displays. The music celebrates places essentially, places like the Cairene alleys, the downtown streets, and the city’s cafes where intellectuals hang out. Louca’s improvisation and experimentation is how he set out to discover the musical treasures hidden in the ancient capital.
The track al-Mashoub [The Withdrawn] has a strange kind of energy that prompts listeners to fully surrender to the electronic hysteria. The track is reminiscent of popular epics and stories of ancient Egyptian folklore, put in a modern if not revolutionary context.
It is hard to resist the urge to dance to Louca’s harmonious deployment of the electric guitar, accordion, and piano. The album features several instrumental tracks, untainted by vocals, such as “the Golden Age.”
His previous album was titled “Garraya.” He formerly played with Iraqi Oud player Khayyam al-Lami as part of the Alif project in Britain, and Egyptian musician Mustafa Saeed in the play “A Lesson in Revolution. “
His album “We Salute the Parrot” will be released in Beirut at a concert featuring Bashar Farran (bass) and Tommaso Cappellato (drums) at 22:00 on Friday, February 20. The concert will take place at Metro al-Madina, Hamra. For more information call 76/309363.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.