Egyptians have waited for Aida El-Ayoubi  to return to Cairo’s musical spotlight, and finally she was there, centre stage at El Sawy Culturewheel . On Sunday, El-Ayoubi gave her fans her first big concert since she retired from Egypt’s music scene, appearing to be more than comfortable back on stage.
She began the concert with one of her first hit songs, Ala Bali, setting a brilliant tone to the whole performance. Finally, she was on the stage, filled with energy for her adoring fans.
In the first rows, people were whispering the songs they knew by heart along with El-Ayoubi. El Sawy River Hall, which is an outdoors theatre along the Nile, was packed. The captivated crowd kept applauding in rhythm and saluted the singer’s perfect high notes by cheering loudly.
Aida El-Ayoubi is an Egyptian singer  and oud player. She became famous in the early 1990s with her songs Ali Bali, Men Zaman and Rafiq Omry. Ali Bali, a song many interpret as a love song, is in fact dedicated to her brother, who went abroad to study. Despite being sometimes misunderstood, El- Ayoubi’s songs seem to express her kind personality and optimistic outlook on life. In order to take care of her children, she left the music scene for several years until 2004.
“When I first returned, it was for religious chanting,” she says. “That is why the whirling dervishes were included in the concert. When I sing the chants of Imam Al-Bokhary, the dervishes add great spiritual ambiance.”
Not only dervishes joined her performance, but also Cairokee singer Amir Eid joined her on stage. “The song with Amir was not planned,” Aida explains. “He was in the audience and decided to be a guest singer.” Together, they mixed traditional and contemporary music. In the revolutionary song El Midan El-Ayoubi’s crystalline voice harmoniously complemented with Eid’s Cairokee rock style.
“There’s positive reception to the music I perform, and people nowadays like to listen to all types of music,” she comments. “Things are different now because there are more outlets for singers like me and for young people. In the past, most singers were restricted to performing at weddings or night clubs. Now, something like El Sawy Culturewheel is a great place for young musicians, and it is also a non-traditional stage.”
Backstage, when the concert was over, El-Ayoubi’s eyes sparkled with excitement, “It was my first big concert in Cairo. I had another one in Alexandria last week, but it’s the first one in Cairo since I retired,” she added. With a large bunch of flowers in her arms and a constant smile on her face, once more, Aida El-Ayoubi left the stage. However, it is not for long this time. “We, Cairokee and I, are planning a concert together during the summer,” El-Ayoubi said with a grin.
By Fanny Ohier