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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 06 - 2019

Led by the well-known Egyptian saxophonist Nour Ashour, the independent band Nour Project teamed up with musician Mahmoud Badrawy for the single “Al-Rezzq” (Blessing), releasing a video on YouTube on 12 June 2019. Following “Sina” (released on YouTube last year) and “Routine” (released last February), “Al-Rezzq” is the third track to be shared in video form out of the Nour Project's 10-track The First Album.
Here as elsewhere in the album the music is light-hearted and the lyrics touch on simple issues in every Egyptian's life. The lyrics to the song are written by Ahmed Shabaka, and they stress the idea of blessings coming to those who remain active and productive. Compared in the song to something sweet (as in pleasant or positive), God blesses those who keep working and doing good deeds rather than those who just wait for them.
Recorded at Vibe for Developing Arts, the music for “Al-Rezzq” was composed by Mahmoud Badrawy, who also performs the song and, dressed as a waiter at a traditional coffee shop, is the video's protagonist. The song was arranged by Nour Project in collaboration with Badrawy to produce a cheerful and rhythmic, Dixieland-like feel in the alley where the video is set, with a light “oom-pah” coming from the brass instruments and Ashour's saxophone. This is supplemented by Ousso Lotfy and Ahmed Darbala on guitar, Wael Badrawy on piano, Fadi Badr on keyboards, Muhammad Nabil on percussions, Azeema on tabla (darbouka), Marwan Wahid on drums and Badrawy's vocals. The joyful and spontaneous feel of the music is supported by the video's depiction of everything and everyone: vendors and their booths, young men playing ping-pong, others watching television, men chatting while smoking shisha and children happily running around. All those buoyant qualities are underlined by simple graphics.
Unlike the previous two songs, “Sina” and “Routine”, which focus on Nour Project's own members, “Al-Rezzq” features Mahmoud Badrawy and is the first collaboration with him. Badrawy reveals that originally Nour Project chose Kom El Dikka neighborhood in Alexandria for the video's location. However, due to some unforeseen technical issues the shooting was repeated at Cairo's Abdel Aziz Mahmoud Street in Ein Shams. The location differs substantially from that of the “Sina” video clip which, not surprisingly, was shot in the Sinai Peninsula, or “Routine” which places the Nour Project on the streets of Cologne, Germany. Badrawy recalls the process of the song entering the Nour Project's repertoire saying that he has composed “Al-Rezzq” in 2015 and performed it on the acoustic guitar and with some arrangement in different venues across Egypt. In 2017, encouraged by Ahmad Mohamed Sakran (known in the field as Siko, general manager of Vibe for Developing Arts, the studio that co-produced the Nour Project's The First Album), Badrawy spoke with Ashour who was immediately interested in the single.
“Nour had listened to many of my compositions, but ‘Al-Rezzq' has grabbed his attention in a particular way,” Badrawy explains. “Nour Project further developed the arrangement. Moreover, Nour suggested including ‘Al-Rezzq' in the band's album on which he had already been working. I found the idea and the whole process very interesting.”
In his conversation, Badrawy repeatedly underlines the joy he drew from his collaboration with Nour Project and his gratitude for many people involved in recording and shooting “Al-Rezzq”.
“I always enjoy working with Ahmed Shabaka whose lyrics inspired many of my compositions. I have to underline great efforts exerted by the director Ahmed Sayed Mekkawi who was always very passionate and supportive, and Osama Ali whose graphics added an amazing visual effect to the clip. I thank the musicians, the crew, many people involved in the song-making process, not to forget Siko's professional and personal help throughout Al-Rezzq's production.”
An engineering graduate of the late 2000s, Badrawy did not stay long in his profession. Since 2014 he dedicated himself to music. With a strong interest in jazz, rock and funk music, Badrawy nonetheless declares, “I am basically Egyptian, and I also listen to many well known singers from Egypt's Golden Age. This amalgam of musical cultures allows me to find my own voice, while my compositions carry elements of everything I am interested in or are purely enveloped in one musical genre.”
Coming from a family involved in music though not performing publicly on a regular basis, Badrawy was practically the first in his immediate environment to approach music professionally. Recently, he signed a long-term contract with the Cairo Groove artistic production company which had already supported the production of his four songs.
With his well-established career in the field, Nour Ashour has become among the most sought-after saxophonists with performances in many venues in Egypt and internationally. Among his projects is his years of collaboration with the renowned singer Mohamed Mounir (referred to as “The King”). Among his many other endeavors, it is also worth shedding light on Crash Boom Bang, a highly energetic live party music band.
The 10-track album is, as the title states it bluntly, the first such endeavor by the well-known band. For this article, Ashour was unable to comment directly on “Al-Rezzq” and The First Album due to his current concerts in France. However, in an interview published in Ahram Online in February 2019, Ashour clarified that he would consecutively release the video clips of each song on YouTube. He added that the album also includes songs such as “Helwa Halawa” (Very Pretty), about the pleasures of living simply, “Hazeen” (Sad), a song he composed many years ago and remade with Nour Project, “Feena” (Inside Us), “Moftah Al-Farag” (Key of Light) and “Feena Al-Kheir” (The Good Inside Us).
Badrawy and Nour Project is definitely an interesting combination of talents, equally beneficial for both parties. There is also a common link between the two musicians. In numerous interviews with Nour Ashour and in my recent meeting with Badrawy, the importance of continuous creative development while remaining receptive to all genres of music is mentioned repeatedly. Contact with different musical vocabularies happens through both artists' wide range of interests while their development happens on many levels, including artistic collaborations.
“The most important thing for an artist is development; you have to be persistent. Listen to all kinds of music as this adds to your knowledge; keep your eyes and ears open,” Ashour mentioned in the aforementioned interview. In our conversation, Badrawy echoes his words, saying that he welcomes all kind of creative endeavors and loves to initiate them himself.

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