Sometimes it comes by chance, a mere coincidence, just by being in the right place at the right time. That magic moment when all of a sudden, something takes off and flies. Of course, already having won countless fans with his past hit Misafer, Abu has everything it takes to keep creating songs that touch deep within the collective heart.
Cairo West Magazine caught up with Abu shortly after his latest offering Talat Da’at was on repeat all over town after becoming the song of the recent Gouna Film Festival and delved into how it all came about.
CWM: Abu, what was the lead up to joining with Youssra and Tamer Habib, how did it start?
Abu: I had a performance about four months ago at Aurora in El Gouna. Tamer was there, he is actually a very good friend, I have known him almost two years, ever since I launched Misafer with Adewaya in 2015. He is a big fan.
At the time I was performing at Aurora I had started this song, Talat Da’at. The tune and the first verse were already written, but I didn’t know where to go with story. So I sat with Tamer after the performance and asked him to collaborate. The following day we sat together for a few hours and each suggested lines as we wrote it together.
I travelled back to my studio in Cairo to record it, but strongly believed it really needed a female singer. I looked at the options. I then felt that it had to be Youssra. Not just because she was a singer and actress. It needed her aura, her energy, her persona.
When I sent her the tune on What’sApp, just half an hour later she was there in front of me, at the studio. Throughout this whole journey with Youssra she never appeared like a diva; she is actually a very humble human being who believes in the energy of love.
For you, what does Talat Da’at symbolize?
It’s about love, romantic love. It is very relevant, regardless of your background or your age. Everybody has a love story, in the summer, by the sea. It’s all about the idea of love, simple love, not the seductive kind. Just a very simple human kind of love.
Is that why you felt it relates quite well to the Gouna Film Festival?
It wasn’t really so much about the location. It came about through Naguib Sawiris. He is one of the most genuine and loving people I have ever met in my life. He also fell in love with the song when he heard it, before its release of course. He then offered to produce the video for the song.
We agreed that it would be shot in El Gouna, and it was purely by chance that it coincided with the Gouna Film Festival. During the after-party of the Festival launch Naguib decided to stream the song from the private link on his mobile. It kept going… and going… and going.
In the end, both Naguib and his brother Samih told me, “You know, we have to sing this song at the Closing Ceremony.” It has become the ‘anthem’ of GFF. So, it came to the Gouna Film Festival out of love. Actually the whole of the Gouna Film Festival was that. It was really magical.
Looking back, I read that you had made a really big change in your career in 2012. What prompted you to switch from a corporate career and get involved in music?
Since I was a kid I have always believed in the power of words; how words can make a nation go to war. My dad is a Sufi poet, so I started off by writing my own poetry. This evolved into writing songs about equality. Lyrically, I suppose, a little like Bob Marley.
Then I started learning guitar to give those words a tune. I went on to start writing my own songs. Until around 2010 I used to just share them in private with my friends, but in 2012 I wrote a song called El Nas Mabter7amsh. It was very relevant to all Egyptians at that time. It was about politics, but also very personal. That was when I decided to just quit my job and pursue my dream of becoming a songwriter.
So, at that point, were you mainly a songwriter?
No, I was always a singer. What made me sing was that, “Bob Dylan made it, so anyone can sing”.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
The approach. How I am going to approach the particular subject. Getting the creative approach before writing a piece.
So the brainstorming is your favorite part?
You mentioned your song Misafer before. This is the second big hit you have had as a duet. Is there another one in the pipeline?
I have always believed in collaboration, be it two singers, or with a producer. It makes what we are doing bigger, and more interesting. I will continue to collaborate in the future for sure. Regarding the pipeline, I have ideas for bigger and bigger ‘shocking’ duets within the coming year.
‘Shocking’ duets apart, is there anything else coming up in your plans?
I have been asked to act, I have been asked to do many things. I am an entertainer, and I love playing music. I don’t have anything in mind. It is just me; doing my thing, living my life. That’s it.
Goal for this year?
To be as grateful as possible.
Music that is on repeat these days?
(starts singing Talat Da’at)
Person who knows all your secrets?
Food that you can’t stand?
I eat everything!
Your favorite piece of clothing?
Simple. White T-shirt and jeans.
Secret to success?
Operating from the higher self. To have the agility to do whatever it takes, within a certain code of ethics, of course. To reach your goal you have to be agile. Also, as Sean Connery says, “Planning is over-rated”.
Country you want to visit?
A Carousel Production
Fashion Director: Gehad Abdalla
Fashion Coordinator: Omar Fadda
Photographer: Batool Al Daawi
Gaffers: Kamal Tarek | Mohamed safwat
MUA: Sherif Helaly
Hair Stylist: Taha Abd El Wahab
Wardrobe: Maison 69 Store | Kojakstudio | Baraka Optics
Jewellery: Dima Jewellery
Shot on location at La Maison Bleue, El Gouna