Rowan Maher explores tunes of Egyptian cinema through its songs

Accompanied by seven musicians, Maher will present a series of songs from the known Egyptian films of the 2000s

A budding Egyptian designer and singer, Rowan Maher is gearing up for her 21 June concert at Room Art Space & Café in New Cairo. Maher will invite her audience to an adventure through films and their songs in the accompaniment of seven musicians: Hany Bedair (percussion), Youssef Sabaa (drums), Ebram Samir (bass guitar), Moataz Kamel (electric guitar), Wagdy El Fewy (piano), Moudy El Shafei (nay), and Ahmed El Qemery (kanoun).  

Dubbed Tunes of Egyptian Movies, the concert will feature songs from films produced in the 2000s with the best known titles, including Zay Ma Heya Hebaha from Mafia (2002) to music by Omar Khairat and originally performed by Medhat Saleh; El-Nour Makanoh Fel Qoloub (Light Is In Our Hearts), a title song from Amir El-Zalam (Prince of Darkness, 2002) to music by Khaled Hammad and also performed by Medhat Saleh; and Yally Nesset El-Gharam from Booha (2004) to music by Mohamed Saad who also performed and sang the title song as arranged by Mido Samir. Maher has performed only a couple of concerts with the new formation, but her interest in music and singing goes several years back.

As she underscored, songs from films hold a special place in her musical path since as a child and teenager she has been drawn to this art form while watching films of the 1990s and 2000s. “I grew up to those films. However, I also enjoy watching productions from the golden age of Egyptian cinema [1940s-1960s],” the singer told Ahram Online. As Maher explained, her love for music and singing began at an early age. “I have liked singing since I was six years old. I would sing in school and present solos during school performances. I joined the school choir, but I was also interested in dancing.” 

Rowan Maher

 As she continued to sing, her voice attracted the attention of many ears. Soon she began singing at one of the sporting clubs and a variety of events, followed by performances at El Sawy Culturewheel, Cairo Opera House, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, among others. She also joined the Robabekya band as a lead singer. During her studies at the American University in Cairo’s Graphic Design department, Maher delved into music theory. She also entered a choir led by Nesma Mahgoub in one of her rare encounters with singing Western repertoire. In Ramadan, Maher performed in an online concert organised by Vodafone. 

“My heart is definitely more fond of Oriental music,” Maher said, explaining that this passion eventually led her to form her own band which in recent concerts focuses on songs from films, a theme she also presented in her latest concert that took place in March 2021 at Downtown’s Room Art Space & Café. “I wish there was more attention given to songs from films,” she commented, adding that in best cases the musicians toy with film scores rarely tackling songs from the whole soundtrack. 

Indeed, the idea of presenting film scores was a unique component of The Sound of Egypt Orchestra, founded and conducted by Ahmed Atef. Upon its formation in 2015, and in the first couple of years, the orchestra performed music from the well known older Egyptian movies. Later on, the vocalists, such as Hanan Mady and Aly El Haggar, joined the concerts gradually before the Orchestra started capitalising more on Hollywood film scores. As such, the unique territory of Egyptian films’ theme songs remains a vast ocean of opportunities for new musical explorations. 

Rowan Maher

 Though for the time being Maher sings covers, she hopes to create more original compositions in the near future. However, some original experiments have seen the light, among which is Sayem Walla Zay Kol Sana? (Are You Fasting or Is It Like Each Year?) which she released in Ramadan 2021 to many positive reviews from listeners on YouTube. Last year, Maher presented her take on Leonard Cohen’s hit Hallelujah, which in the past few years found its way to Arab musicians’ repertoire under the title Ya Elahi (Oh, God). 

Maher has also left her imprint in the music videos production, a natural mindset of a person equally involved in graphic design and music. In the field of design, Maher is now working at the AUC and has also created designs for a number of projects. “Graphic design is my main job, paralleled by music as a hobby. I am currently working on launching a production agency where those two fields will intersect,” she said. As she continues singing, Maher aspires to sing title songs for films and perform her repertoire with a grand orchestra. 

Rowan Maher

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