Cairo-based singer Nadah El Sha­zly

Cairo-based com­poser Nadah El Sha­zly shares her in­stantly clas­sic de­but record­ings, Ah­war, this week.


Nadah El Sha­zly w/JOYFULTALK Satur­day, March 31, 8:30pm Gar­ri­son Brew­ery, 1149 Mar­ginal Road $20/pwyc

When you have a de­but al­bum to re­lease, how do you de­cide what di­rec­tion to take? If you’re Cairo-based com­poser/singer Nadah El Sha­zly, the an­swer is sim­ple: All of them.

“Be­cause it’s my first al­bum, there are a lot of ideas and in­flu­ences that have been boil­ing up in­side of me since I was younger,” says El Sha­zly about her de­but al­bum Ah­war, re­leased in Novem­ber.

The Egyp­tian na­tive, cur­rently on an in­ter­na­tional tour, is vis­it­ing Hal­i­fax this week­end to per­form and dis­cuss the themes present on her re­lease. There are many: Love, insanity, sep­a­ra­tion and even ecol­ogy are top­ics El Sha­zly ex­plores on Ah­war, which is Ara­bic for “marsh­land.”

“His­tor­i­cally there’s a con­no­ta­tion to marsh­lands be­ing a vast place where you can get lost if you don’t know your way,” says El Sha­zly. “To me, it’s a fan­tas­ti­cal place where you al­ways feel the ten­sion of los­ing your way, but it de­pends on how you look at it—it could very well be a new home.”

Recorded be­tween Cairo and Mon­treal, El Sha­zly col­lab­o­rated with Sam Sha­l­abi and Mau­rice Louca to craft the eclec­tic eight­track al­bum, which sees the mu­si­cian blend elec­tro-acous­tic el­e­ments and vo­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion with tra­di­tional Egyp­tian sen­si­bil­i­ties. Tracks like “Afqid Adh-Dhakira” high­light her cre­ativ­ity and vo­cal prow­ess, and treats lis­ten­ers to unique scales (Bay­ati, Higaz and Nakriz) un­com­mon in western mu­sic.

And her ta­lents aren’t go­ing un­rec­og­nized. El Sha­zly is quickly gain­ing ac­claim in her home­town as well as around the world for her mu­sic. In fact, Ap­ple Mu­sic re­cently added stand­out track “Mih­miya,” a song about the il­lu­sion of se­cu­rity and a vi­o­lent un­der­stand­ing of love, to its Global Chill playlist, en­sur­ing her cap­ti­vat­ingly beau­ti­ful sounds reach a wider au­di­ence.

“I dis­cov­ered her at a fes­ti­val in the Nether­lands called Le Guess Who,” says An­drew Pat­ter­son, cre­ative di­rec­tor of OBEY Con­ven­tion. “Her per­for­mance blew me away, so I’m glad we were able to have her come to Hal­i­fax.”

Pat­ter­son says El Sha­zly’s visit is im­por­tant, as mu­si­cal per­for­mances by Ara­bic artists are a rar­ity here. “I think it’s im­por­tant as an arts or­ga­ni­za­tion to give a plat­form to peo­ple who might not have the op­por­tu­nity to be heard,” he says. He be­lieves au­di­ences, re­gard­less of back­ground and mu­si­cal taste, will be wowed by El Sha­zly’s sonic stylings in the same way he was when he first lis­tened to Ah­war.

“There’s some­thing so unique about it but fa­mil­iar, even for some­one who isn’t well­versed in mu­sic from the Ara­bic world,” says Pat­ter­son. “It’s a record I would ex­pect some­one to make well into their ca­reer be­cause it’s so in­tri­cate and thought­ful. I can’t speak highly enough of it.”

As for El Sha­zly, she’s ex­cited to share with all who come to hear the mu­sic she put much care into craft­ing. “I worked very slowly on this record and didn’t make any com­pro­mises with any of the ideas,” says El Sha­zly. “I am just re­ally ex­cited the al­bum is be­ing heard.”


Nadah El Sha­zly live in Cairo.

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