Sitting in a small room, a group of young people were rehearsing before someone escorted them to a wedding party in a nearby street. They were a group of amateur musicians and singers, employed by neighbors to play music and songs downloaded from the Internet.
The oldest was not more than 28. The rehearsal space in an apartment in Cairo's district of Ain Shams could not be called a studio; it was bare of any traditional or other musical instruments; a computer and a disc jockey were their musical equipment.
None of them studied music at an academy or music school.
But when hearing their optimistic chatter, one would guess that they have gained huge popularity in their neighbourhood and district, so much so that they stopped being jealous of professional pop singers' fame (such as Saad el-Soghayyar and Hakim).
"Our band is very famous in the area," Ahmed Samir declared when the local press, drawn by his band's popularity, knocked on his door for an interview. "We have a big community of fans," he said proudly while fiddling with the computer's music player.
The band's audiences are mostly participants of happy social occasions, such as wedding parties, soboua (family celebrations marking the seventh day of the child's birth) and birthday parties organised by affluent families.
One of the musicians, Mohamed Beliya, shot to fame beyond the boundaries of the district and across the entire country when he composed the song Aishty Haram Fi Haram (My life was condemned to eternal damnation), in which he bewailed his misfortune and his tragic lot in life. Beliya says that he used to have a good ear for music and lyrics in his childhood. As a boy, his family, playmates and schoolmates were his helpless audience.
On growing up, he persuaded local bands to employ him as a mic man, whose chief task is to exhort the audiences in wedding parties to act as a backing chorus for the singer.
His contribution was rewarded when he became an indispensablemember of different local bands.
One day he was unconsciously rapping ...gently and rhythmically ...on the dining table when the lyrics of his hit Aishty Haram Fi Haram completely overwhelmed his thoughts.
He was pretty sure that the song would be popular, regardless of its sad and even cruel words.
A professional musician, who owns a studio in the district, helped him record the song when he discovered that its tune and lyrics were appealing, regardless of being too sentimental, emotional, cruel and sad.
Within weeks, Aishty Haram Fi Haram took the country by storm: it was played deafeningly on microbuses, on yellow-andblack three-wheelers locally known as tok tok, in cafés and everywhere else.
Beliya denies that his song was in the rap style.
"We don't import Western music or styles," he protested in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Shorouq. "We have something exclusive to offer to our audiences in the popular suburbs and districts; we play songs that appeal to the taste of our audiences in social and happy gatherings."
According to him, the songs that are always at the top of album charts are about unhappy destinies, misery, unfulfilled ambitions, the cruelty of an ungrateful sweetheart and her parents.
This extraordinary musical equipment, DJ and computers, has helped many talented young people find success and end their poverty.
"We earn really good money by playing at parties," a member of the band said. He sometimes panders to the demands of the audiences and acts as the front man, singing famous songs.
The band refuses to remain idle if they have no assignments, but launches low-profile music festivals in the evening in the street.Word would spread and crowds of young people arrive on the scene to have a good time.