Egyptians play and listen to traditional music at the MaKan cultural centre in Cairo, minutes before the night-time curfew comes into force on August 31, 2013. — Photo AFP
CAIRO: For the Egyptian musician Hind and her group, the night-time curfew in Cairo has turned into an opportunity to jam until the sun comes up.
When the curfew comes into force from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am, Hind and her group play traditional Egyptian music throughout the night.
In the Arab world's cradle of culture and home of some of its greatest voices, a night-time curfew has been in place since a deadly crackdown on Islamists on August 14.
It has since been gradually shortened.
In the Makan cultural centre, Hind and her band play all night, as part of a project called “The music of the curfew”.
It was born of “the sentiment of musicians who usually work at night and who felt that the curfew hit something they liked the most,” says Ahmed el-Maghraby, head of Makan.
“So we decided to take advantage” of it,” he said. “As soon as the curfew starts, we listen to our music for hours before closing Makan at the end of the curfew.”The decor inside Makan gives off vibes of traditional Arabic music evenings with its yellow cellar walls, red-carpeted floors and red-and-black wooden chairs.
A wooden staircase leads to a small room filled with old instruments and wooden trunks, as Hind performs a powerful song with her eyes shut and left hand raised, before a small but enthusiastic crowd.
Behind her three women musicians play the traditional Arabic drums, while seven men including a guitarist, a saxophonist and traditional Egyptian flute players, complete the ensemble.
“It's better to be here than at home where we can't do anything. Here we can exhaust all the energy that we hold inside,” says flutist Amine Chahine.
Among the audience is 31-year-old Gina Moqbel who says that Cairo's “curfew turned our lives upside down because we used to stay up late.”Her friend Becky Harett from Nigeria said she was quite ready to stay and take in the atmosphere “until six in the morning”.
After three hours of non-stop music, the audience is offered falafel and beans - staple Egyptian fare -- during a short break, before the musicians take to the stage again.
The marathon performance is staged in three parts.
After 3 am, the musicians rest and “Baraka”, a silent movie showcasing rich landscapes and sites from some of the remotest areas of the world, is projected on a wall.
Finally, the audience streams out of the centre and into the noisy city streets teeming with people in the Arab world's most populous country.