Nadah El Shazly is a Cairo based producer, composer and performer. Her first solo release Ahwar is a culmination of two years of writing and studio work split between Egypt and Canada. The album was composed arranged in collaboration with Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi, two members of The Dwarfs of East Agouza trio along with Alan Bishop.
We asked El Shazly some questions over email.
This record was written over two years, how much did it change shape from the start and end points?
I started writing most of the tracks on Ahwar on my computer, using voice, beats, samples, and recorded myself playing saz and keyboard to lay out the ideas. While still in their infancy I performed live, and didn't hesitate to keep performing them. For the course of a year I would play live and go back home and change certain things so they kept changing shape as I was performing. With time I became more ambitious to work with other musicians, so I approached Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi, and allowed myself to bring all these ambitious ideas to light with them. We ended up working together with 22 musicians on this record. So I would say it changed drastically, yet the skeleton is two years old.
What does the title refer to, is there a narrative to the album?
The title Ahwar translates to marshlands. If you are new to the marshlands you can easily get lost in them and lose your way back. So it can also mean maze, or getting lost.
When did you first start to write and produce your own music and what was it that inspired you to do this?
I think ever since I was exposed to music, and started learning the piano when I was a little girl. I ended up studying psychology, but still I was playing music while studying. It didn't take long until I realised that music is the thing I love to do the most, and stuck with it.
How did the collaboration with Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi come about?
I met Sam at a house party in Cairo, and we talked about Montreal and music. We decided to meet and play music at his place, and all it took was for Sam to plug his guitar and we instantly clicked. I could have sung for hours and hours. It's the way he plays the guitar...that allows for everything to come out, no matter where it hides. I consider myself one of the luckiest people because I had the chance to work with him and learn so much from him. He attended my show in Cairo, and we talked about working together on the pieces in Montreal with members from Land of Kush. And the following spring, I was there recording. I fell in love with Maurice Louca's music and his sensibilities. He was frequently coming to my shows, to check out how the pieces were progressing and one time after the show we went on and on about the instruments that we would include in the pieces, and including a choir at the end of another piece. We met frequently afterwards and wrote two more pieces together and the collaboration kept growing.
Are there any vocalists you take inspiration from?
Yes, many many, vocalists. as well as instrumentalists. I realised I get easily affected and influenced by singers, so sometimes I freak out, and take a distance.
But recently I have been getting a lot if inspiration from improvised music, classical Arabic music and grain delay.