Monday, September 28, 2009

Music Monday 40 :: Cairo Jazz Club

A few weeks ago, we ventured over to the Cairo Jazz Club. Our new found friend, Amina, mentioned that they were having a jam session. Jully Black was in town from Toronto and she wanted to check out the music scene in Cairo.

I love the atmosphere in the Cairo Jazz Club. It's not too far from where I live in Zamalek. Like many places in Cairo though, the exterior building looks more than a bit rundown. So I was pleasantly surprised when we saw the nicely decorated and contemporary interior of the club. It's nice and cozy, as a jazz club should be, and the acoustics were okay.

The stage area is small, but the night that I went, the nine piece Hot Potato Band seemed comfortable, after all it's about the music, right?

Haven't had a chance to return yet since the club was closed for Ramadan.

I've been unsuccessfully trying to upload the video. I'll keep trying, but until then you'll just have to take my word for it, that it was a good time had by all. The vid starts out w/some pics then there's a nine minute video of Black gettin her groove on w/the band ... until the power goes out. Good times indeed.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell

BOOK REVIEW: "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

It's true that I've owned "The Tipping Point" for some time. Never read it. I think I originally bought it in 2005. Who knows. what I do know is that my copy is in storage. However, my friend was cleaning house as she was preparing for a move and she was going to toss the book. So now I own two copies. I promise to share this one.

And it's definitely worth sharing. This is one of those books where I'm thinking "Why didn't I read this sooner." I can't say that it will help me out in my daily life. But I am one of those persons who often thinks about things and wonders "How did that happen"? I'm just curious in that way.

The book is sort of about epidemics and how they happen. When something goes from being a small thing to being a big thing and what 'tips' it into being a big thing. Some examples include fashion trends and the spread of diseases. He also elaborates on how word of mouth messages are passed along. It's fascinating, at least the way he frames it. Gladwell provides countless historical examples of the theory of "The Tipping Point". One of my favorite examples in the book is the story of Paul Revere. Gladwell gives the back story of Revere's message ride and the strength, not just in the message, but the messenger and it's impact.

I am surely recommending "The Tipping Point" as your leisure reading. It only got a bit boring to me in the end when Gladwell wrote at length about the issue of teenage smoking. I just think he went on too long on this topic and he lost my interest.

I'm planning to read "Outliers" in the next few weeks. That's Gladwell's most recent book. I also own "Blink" though that did not grab my attention right way. I've tabled it indefinitely.

And what are you reading?

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Music Monday 39 :: "Let's Go Crazy' by Prince and the Revolution

"Let's Go Crazy" Prince and the Revolution (1984)

I have never been an all out Prince fan (and for the record I can count the groups that I have been a fan of: The Roots and Cameo). But I like Prince and most of his music. I remember my brother and I used to buy 45s back in the day. We definitely had Prince's "Soft and Wet" when it first came out. Now, my brother, he was a true Prince fan. Good times.

When the movie "Purple Rain" was released, I was in college. I was only somewhat interested in seeing the movie, but I did like the soundtrack or at least what I'd heard from the soundtrack. The soundtrack was the perfect fit for the movie. Perfect I say.

But "Let's Go Crazy" has always been a favorite song for me. I love the uptempo 'craziness' of it. I remember once when I worked at "The Wiz" in Cincinnati and I played "Let's Go Crazy" and my boss had a conniption. He said that that song was a 'rock' song and it did not belong on an R&B station. He berated me for several minutes at which point I said that it should not be in the studio if it's not appropriate for this station's format. Point is, it's a great song that defies categorization in my opinion.

Check out a snippet of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" for old times sake.

Prince - Lets Go Crazy - Prince

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "Down the Nile" by Rosemary Mahoney

"Down the Nile: Along in a Fisherman's Skiff" by Rosemary Mahoney

This book was given to me by a friend from college as I departed to relocated to Cairo, Egypt. I did enjoy it because it was an easy read. I got through it in about two weeks and I was taking my sweet time.

It's about a woman who decides to row a boat down the Nile River. Seems uneventful enough, but it's full of numerous Egyptian filled tales. Some of the tales, I think, are just those happenstance moments and not generally how life is in Egypt. The author makes mention of two different stories about having conversations w/Egyptian men and the topic always veers to foreign women and sex.

I did like reading about Amr, a reluctant felucca captain. She wrote about him in a way that I feel like I know him. His positiveness and his frustrations were highlighted quite nicely. Now I want to go to Aswan and say hello to Amr.

One story that stood out for me was the chapter about Amr's sister. When Mahoney wrote about Hoda and Hoda's friends, I felt like I was in the room amidst all the cheery chaos. Maybe I'm just enamored w/hearing/reading about a lifestyle, the Muslim woman's, that is often suppressed.

Mahoney's writing was descriptive too. And it was nice to visualize the places that I've yet to travel to. Her choice of words was quite extensive. I eventually got out a highlighter to make note of all of the words I'd never heard of before. Some of them were rowing terms like ghat and gunwales, but there were others like uxorious, faience and opprobrium. Made me realize that I do not currently own a dictionary and I need to do something about that.

At the first mention Florence Nightingale (most popularly known as a British nurse), I just kind of brushed it off thinking that it was a single point of reference. But then there was another mention and then countless mentions and all so appropriately referenced, that I will more than likely read Nightingale's "Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile". Mahoney also makes mention of French writer Gustave Flaubert as much as she mentions Nightingale. The point was made that although those folks traveled the Nile centuries ago, alot has changed, but some things have not changed.

Even though Mahoney encountered some difficulty getting a boat to row in the Nile, the book is more about the journey - getting the boat and the relationships she encounters on the way. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it as well.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Food Experience in Cairo and around Egypt

So far my food experience in Cairo has been just fine. I mostly like what I’ve eaten, but I have played it safe.

Still trying to find a place w/good vegetables.
Some of the vegetable stands just look questionable. Additionally, most folks are doing a good wash on the veggies (a combo of water and vinegar and a good scrub). That's a good precaution if you plan to eat the veggies raw. Might just as easy to blanche them or peel them. I've been told that the growing vegetables process is a bit different here (in ways that I'd rather not comment on in this post); point it, your stomach may not like what you put in it ...

I was surprised to learn that French Fries are as much a staple here in Cairo as they are in the States. Though the ketchup has a different taste. The ketchup is more tomato-y. Heinz has a big presence here w/their name on the label for mustard, hot sauce and some other condiments as well.

Nestle is quite common here as well. They are one of many of the bottled water companies. Even when ordering water in a restaurant, you will get a fresh bottle of water. Another thing I've learned is that Egyptians are quite fond of their Nescafe coffee; another Nestle product.

The Fanta brand is also popular in Egypt. Fanta is soda or pop and it comes in different flavors like grape and orange. What I do like is that the fresh juice selection here is bountiful: mango, orange, lemon, guava and more. Oh, and there's the karkadey (hisbiscus) juice. It's a little bit like pomegranate juice, but not.

The best thing about living in Cairo and Zamalek in particular is the delivery service. You can get nearly anything delivered here. Bottled water is the big delivery item. But not only that, food delivery is huge as well. There is a delivery service called Otlob and you can get delivery service nearly 24 hours a day. The choices run the gamut from Chinese to pizza to chicken tenders from Chilis. The prices are reasonable as is the delivery fee. Not food related, but worth noting is that you can get beer, wine and cigarettes delivered.

Traditional Egyptian food is sort of hard to find. Koshary (the spelling varies) is what I am looking for. I’ve been to a Lebanese restaurant, Taboula, that I can’t wait to visit again. I'm still stunned at the American fast food restaurants that are here: there’s plenty of KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut. There’s also a Baskin Robbins.

The good news, in my case, is that there are many restaurants that offer a pasta selection and usually some vegetarian options too. Though I am not a true vegan, it's nice to have some meatless choices. For a nice selection of restaurants, check out iCrocs fine dining in Cairo listing.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Music Monday 38 :: "Give It To Me Right" by Melanie Fiona

"Give It To Me Right" Melanie Fiona (2009)

This is a good find, for me at least. I first heard this song when my step-dad was driving me to the airport to relocate to Cairo in early August. It was on one of the satellite networks and I was like "who's this?" And even when I saw her name on the display I was still like "who's this?"

I like her sound. On this particular track, she's got that old school sound. That vibe seems to be popular especially from the international set. Fiona's from Toronto.

The old school sound that comes from this song is like a Supremes/Vandellas sort of era. Some sass w/a beat. Fiona's voice is rich and she gives each note, each word just the right amount of emphasis. The hook is strong "so give it to me right or don't give it to me at all." The arrangements fits too. There's some background vocals and some nice instrumentation that does not trample over Fiona's vocals.

I'm not yet feelin her next track "It Kills Me". It seems too much like what's already in the pot. It ain't easy to put out that freshness all the time, right?

My only disappointment (and no fault of Fiona's) is that I like "Give It To Me Right" so much that I tried to purchase the track on Amazon and Amazon does not allow mp3 purchases outside of the U.S. Now that's a helluva bummer for me.

You can check out the "Give It To Me Right" video on YouTube.

Fiona's cd "The Bridge" drops on 9.22.09.

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