I was driving around a deserted area of Sharjah, with all of three cars on the road, streetlights as bright as ever, when a melancholic Jack-Johnson-y tune played on the radio at 12am.
Despite the language barrier [it was in Arabic], I was moved. That was our first chance encounter with Shady Ahmed, an Egyptian singer-songwriter living in Cairo. We knew we had to track the artist down for a one-on-one [and we did].
Turns out, the acoustic song on the radio is called Shaklel Mish Ghareeb, translated ‘You remind me of someone I used to know’, one of Shady Ahmed’s few songs in Arabic.
[It’s] a story of caution about the eventual let-down of being intrigued by someone who reminds you of someone who has harmed you in the past
Long-winded but hits a chord with all of us, I assume:
The scruffy-looking artist released his 2012 album called ‘Life is Hard for Those Who Dream’ to be noticed by both local media and musicians. He describes holding the finished album as one of the “happiest moments of [his] life.”
Currently working on an all-Arabic album inspired by 70s music, there’s much of value to look forward to from this Mayer-reminiscent musician. This might be a Nutini in the making.
While his music carries vibes from well-recognized bands like Coldplay or the Dave Matthews Band, he brings a unique nostalgia to the table with relatable subjects: distance, desire and change.
The Wind, with lyrics like “You belong to the wind, not with someone who simply breathes it in,” encapsulates Ahmed’s achingly clever portrayal of love and attainment:
Currently, Ahmed straddles the line between underground and mainstream with care, being featured as lead vocalist in a pop track produced by Hassan El Shafei, called ‘Lessa Fi Kaman.’ As TripleW notes, this translates to a higher reach for Ahmed’s talent:
Arguably on the brink of commercial success, Ahmed maintains that staying original is key in the Middle East:
I listen to a lot of stuff (my music included sometimes) and think ‘I know what that’s trying to sound like.’
A romantic through and through, he explored the subject of love from the very beginning of his writing career.
“The first piece of writing that I could call a song was something I called ‘Who Needs Love’, I think I was 14 or 15 hence the title.”
From not needing love to almost losing it, we wonder how many of his tunes come from personal heartache. I think the music can tell you that story:
In the meantime, explore his almost always-on-the-mark lyrical delights on his album here and look out for the next one.
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