I didn't study the accordion, only the Arabic instruments. We have another music college that teaches only the Western music and instruments, like piano and cello. In college, I had to play piano for two years. It was a requirement. After I studied that long, I trained as a student teacher for one year. I learned all kinds of Arabic instruments: the oud, flute, tambourine and drum, just to know how to play. I taught at the college, Arabic Institute of Music, for two years. After 2 years, I went to Oman and taught there, too, at the institute of music for 2 more years. Plus, I played in the special band of Oman's leader the King, the Sultan Kaboos for 2 additional years.
In Egypt, I played for many famous singers and dancers. Some of the singers were: Shadia, Mohamed Lazeby (the one who sings Ya Bahia), and Sabah. Some of the dancers were: Nahed Sabry, Aza Sharif, and Soheir Zaki, (Soheir was the last dancer). Also, I played music for Zizi Abdo, a dancer, and for Nelli Fouad, who was another dancer. I like to play for dancers. I like to play dance music. I played kanoun. In Egypt, I played only kanoun. I taught oud and flute in Egypt, but I played only kanoun. Here, I changed, and sometimes I play keyboard. People want keyboard because of its full orchestral sounds.
I came here to the United States in 1983 for a convention with many singers, but only one dancer, Soheir Zaki. We came to Los Angeles. The singers were Moharram Fouad, Sabah and Ahmed Adaweya. (I also played with Ahmed Adaweya in Egypt.) Really, I don't remember all the singers. We came for only one week to Los Angeles. After that convention, a Prince from Saudi Arabia who used to live in Miami, Florida, invited all of us to come for his granddaughter's birthday. We stayed for a month; Me and Reda (Darwish) and all the band. Some left, because they had things to do back in Egypt, but we stayed one month as the Prince's guest. After that I had a friend in Los Angeles who had a night club called "Sahara". He asked Reda and Ahmed Showker, a violinist, and me. Ahmed is still in Los Angeles. He just stayed there. The three us of stayed in the U.S., Reda and Ahmed and me. We played at Sahara in Los Angeles for about six or seven months and at this time Khalil Aboud came to L.A. We invited him to come to the stage to sing and he got crazy, excited. He really liked our playing. He was playing drums at the Casbah in San Francisco. He asked me to come to San Francisco with him to play. At this time I told him, "No", I have to come with my band, not just one person. So I think Khalil talked to Jad and George (Elias) at the Bagdad and he brought Reda and me to S.F. I worked at the Casbah with Khalil and Reda went to the Bagdad. But Reda came before me to San Francisco. I don't know if you remember Galal and Said? This time he came before me. I played at the Casbah for maybe one year, and then I played at the Bagdad for six or seven months. After that, I moved to San Jose for a couple of months. Later, Jalil Khoury opened "Shaherezade", and I moved to Oakland. I played there at Shaherezade for about two years. Shaherezade brought a lot of singers, many singers. They had an Egyptian convention in 1986 or 1987. The actors, singers, and dancers, Nagwa Fouad, (all of them) came to Shaherezade, and we played with them. I have a video tape with all of them: Farid Showki and all the actors. This was really a long time ago! I think I must be getting old!
After that (after Shaherezade) I went back to San Jose. I started to play at "The Sultan", "The Sahara", "The Royal Morocco" and right now, I am playing with you (Arabian Knights' Salamat Sundays at El Valenciano).
Amina asks about Broadway and North Beach and how it was different from the clubs in Cairo.
It was a really good time for me. Everything was changed. I didn't play with a big band anymore. It was small bands, but the people over there, everybody, was very friendly. I felt like we were a family. I would have time to be with the people, to be with everybody, to be with my friends. Cairo was work, work, and work. Just work! No time! I would go to teach in the morning until the afternoon, then I'd go to the studio for recordings and after the recordings I'd go play at night. No time! This is the life! The life in Egypt. Work, work, work! In North Beach, Broadway, I could relax and make friends. I played seven nights a week.
However, here on Broadway, I played maybe from 9 pm to 2 am and that's it. In Egypt, it was from 9 pm until 6 in the morning. 'Til 6 in the morning! I would go home at 7 o'clock in the morning and I'd have to wake up at 11 or 12 to go to teach. Plus, I'd have my schedule for recording. At night, you know, I played with Soheir Zaki, and we would go from one night club to another night club, to a wedding and then another night club, and stuff like that every night. I worked in Soheir Zaki's band for three years. I came with her to the United States. In Egypt, Soheir Zaki went from place to place. First the wedding, the weddings first, early: 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, then at 12 o'clock we start to go the hotels, until 3 o'clock. Then we go to Haram Street to the Casino, to the night clubs, many night clubs. Show at 3 and 4 and 5. Last dance is 5 o'clock, like 40 minutes. The music is the same, same, same! Always set. But on Broadway the music was different. Really I learned a lot on Broadway, because in Egypt I only played Egyptian music. All Egyptian. When I came to Broadway I played all kinds of Arabic music. The customers were of so many different nationalities. Now I play Palestinian music. I play Syrian music, Lebanese music, Jordanian music, Moroccan music... This music, I only heard in Egypt, but I didn't play. I really like playing all the different music. I've learned a lot of music. Right now, any singer who comes from any country, I can play with him. Here I played with George Wassouf. I play with Sabah, anybody, any singer who comes from anywhere in the Middle East, I'll play with them. I learned. I've been here for a long time, since 1983.
Fouad talks about his instrument.
I like to play kanoun. This is my instrument! I'm professional, but I started to play keyboard a few years ago because there weren't too many keyboards and people wanted the sound. Keyboard has many sounds, like accordion, bass and so on. One day somebody said, "You play piano, why not buy a keyboard? Just practice, and it's gonna be OK. If you have a chance to play kanoun, play kanoun; if there is no chance to play kanoun, you have another choice, keyboard."
Even though there are still a lot of kanoun players in Egypt, it's not like before. The younger people aren't as interested in learning kanoun. Kanoun is classical. A lot of people now like to hear the keyboard. I like to play kanoun. I like to play for belly dancers.
(This was to have been the first of two interviews with Fouad. Unfortunately, before I could have a second interview, he left for Egypt to visit his family and to make a decision on where he will live. After almost 20 years in the U.S., he is not sure where to call home. A few years ago he went to Egypt for a visit, bought a condo and was offered a job teaching kanoun at a music school. But he came back. Now, Fouad is still in Egypt, and I hear that he is planning on teaching kanoun and staying in Egypt. Of course, he has to return here first to take care of his business here before he returns to Egypt to live. Maybe he will change his mind again. Maybe like so many other homesick musicians, he will be destined to "commute" back and forth between his country here and his country there.)
Coming soon!Amina tells us how the Giza Club came about.
Rhea tells us more stories from her North Beach Days
Jawahare interviews Yousef Mustafa
Maya interviews Marliza Pons