Egyptian saxophonist Nour Ashour longs for ‘wanas’ in his first track composed during quarantine

Titled ‘Wanas’, the track is the first in a series of compositions coming from Ashour’s home studio in King Mariout at Alexandria’s outskirts

Well-known Egyptian saxophonist Nour Ashour released his new track titled ‘Wanas’ last week. A difficult word to be translated to English, Wanas is a typical Egyptian expression that refers to the idea of social life, socialising, spending quality time with other people, whether it is one companion or a group of friends.

Taking us on a melancholic journey, Wanas perfectly expresses the musician’s feelings as he, alongside scores of artists across the globe were — and some continue to be — separated from their audiences, friends, and even families due to the quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Though Ashour performed Wanas during a concert in October 2020, ever since that date, he worked on it further, now sharing its final version on all music streaming platforms. The track is composed by Ashour with his arrangement and mixing and mastered by Mounir Maher and Mohamed Atef El-Helw on the piano.  

Created during the COVID-19 lockdown, the fully instrumental track is first in a series of music composed by him during the quarantine months which he is planning to share with listeners one by one on a monthly basis.

“During the quarantine, I spent a lot of time in my home at King Mariout,” Ashour tells Ahram Online, talking about his creative haven, located at the outskirts of Alexandria, an hour and a half ride from Cairo.

“The track expresses the general feeling of being forced to stay at home during days when we are deprived from an active social interaction,” he comments on the challenging dynamics that the lockdown imposed on him and the entire creative scene.

He adds that wanas is very important for everyone and separating people from one another is against our nature as humans. “Apart from the idea of socialising, musicians and artists in general need to be in constant touch with their audiences. Their life is directly connected with people.”

Since 2002, Ashour’s life was linked closely with the stage, as he performed with Nour Project and other musicians on countless stages in Egypt and internationally. He is one of the staple collaborators with Mohamed Mounir, also known as The King, performing with him in countless concerts.

Whether with other musicians or with his band Nour Porject, when on stage, the saxophonist develops a unique connection with the listeners, a fact that is imperative to his musical and personal growth.

“I am a performer, and the stage is how I communicate with the audience. During the lockdown, musicians had an opportunity to connect with the audience through online channels. To me, it is difficult to stand in front of the camera or mobile camera and perform. In fact, the same feeling is shared by probably all musicians. As a performer, I need to see my audience, interact with them; the stage is where I breathe,” he clarifies, underscoring that the dynamics imposed by the lockdown are very challenging to all artists.

In fact, Ashour has been detached from performing even prior to the first wave of the pandemic. “I broke my arm and could not perform. And just when I was getting better, the lockdown was imposed. I decided to move to my home in King Mariout and stay in my studio. In fact, Wanas is the first composition coming from King Mariout.”

With one track released per month, Wanas could be the first step in a new album. However, Ashour does not think in album vocabulary.

“An album is like a book. Each track is like a page or a chapter. Releasing one track every month is like reading a book in the span of a few months or a year. The concept of an album is shaken,” he explains.

But there is a silver lining to the lockdown story. “As musicians, we never stop creating. During the lockdown months, many of us dedicated ourselves to composing or working on music in general. We had time for that.”

Ashour adds that while indulging in music, it is in King Mariout that he enjoys the sun and time he has at hand.

“I definitely miss performing,” he shares. “The good news is that we [Nour Project] will be back with concerts scheduled for the Feast of Music [Fête de la Musique] at the French Cultural Centre and at the Cairo Opera House, all in the coming weeks.”

Luckily, slowly but surely, the Egyptian music scene is returning to its normal dynamics. It will still take a few more months, but it all depends on the COVID-19 pandemic and its developments.

“I really wish that life returns to normal. We all need wanas, we need to perform and enjoy interacting with our audiences,” Ashour concludes.

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