Both concerts featured well-known songs from the Arab world, fused with footage from old Egyptian films.
In Cairo, the band performed at Rawabet Art Space on March 29, luring listeners to their instruments and musical gear.
At Rawabet, the band featured Julien Perraudeau on keyboards, Mehdi Haddab on electric oud, while Randa La Mirza and Wael Koudaih took their places behind their electronic gear.
Love & Revenge is a remix of hits from the Arab world and video extracts from Egyptian cinema. The concert is bathed in an electro-pop atmosphere, accentuated by a remarkable visual mix, imagined by the two Lebanese artists, the composer, arranger and performer Wael Koudaih (Rayess Bek) and the videographer Randa La Mirza.
The concert is particularly inspired by the 1940s film Gharam wa Intiqam (Love and Revenge), starring Asmahane and Youssef Wahbi, who also directed the film. During the concert, Koudaih created an engaging remix of the theme song from the movie Emta Hatearaf (When Will You Know).
“The Arabic title of the film is easy to understand, so we decided to use it as the name of the project. Love & Revenge is also an easy concept for any foreigner unfamiliar with the film. It helps everyone understand the idea of our concert,” La Mirza explained.
Koudaih added that “the story of Asmahane, the Lebanese star believed by some to be a double spy, and her tragic death before the end of filming, has something special that goes beyond the romantic plot of the film. We found this idea particularly interesting.”
This is not the first time the musicians have visited Cairo. They performed at the Makan Center in Cairo in 2014. At the time, the concert was limited to its two creators, old hits and video clips illustrating the themes of love, woman, desire and sensuality.
Many things have changed since then and the project has evolved a lot.
“We are returning to Cairo to present our second album consisting of 12 songs. We also present you some of the compositions of the first album. In fact, our archives can serve us endlessly, and since we are creating a kind of living concert, we have the freedom to add or remove songs during each presentation. Next month we will be going to Morocco to perform Love & Revenge, so we plan to include Moroccan songs in it,” says Koudaih.
The unique idea of a concert that merges sound and visual aspects dates back to a meeting between the two creators, former colleagues from the University of Aix-Marseille (in France). Koudaih was already remixing hip-hop songs and La Mirza was working on a visual project.
“I said to Randa: listen, I work on hip-hop, I do remixes. You work in the visual realm. Let’s collaborate. Randa however also had the idea of incorporating old videos and films into the performance. One thing leading to another, we set up the Love & Revenge project in no time. Initially, we were both on stage in tight spaces. But when we gave the concert in halls, on stage, we felt that there was more space than was needed. It was then that I thought of bringing Mehdi and Julien with whom I had already worked on other projects, aboard Love & Revenge. The two artists have a very good knowledge of Arabic scales and their presence on stage gives the concert a more lively aspect,” reveals Koudaih.
In the first album, the two Lebanese artists worked on songs from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. “We always keep the hits and videos from the first version of our concert, but we can also add other hits from the Arab world: Mauritania, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc.” remarks Koudaih.
gender and identity
The voice of Lebanese star Sabah resounds on stage, singing Saat Saat (Sometimes Sometimes), accompanied by a few excerpts from the Egyptian romantic comedies Saghira Ala Al-Hob (Too young to fall in love) and Khalli Balak mn Zouzou (Watch out for the Zouzou), followed by more sensual excerpts from more recent films, such as Al-Raqessa Wal Siyassi (The Dancer and the Politician), Al-Raqessa wal Tabbal (The Dancer and the Darbuka Player) and Al-Massateel (The Drug Addicts).
Sabah’s voice is then back, this time singing Beyoulouli Toubi (They tell me to stop), accompanied by some sequences from yet another film.
La Mirza explores all the visual options: Superman, Faust, Beauty and the Beast, Voyage to the Moon, Dracula, etc. In short, she wants to show that the cultures of the world have symbols, icons, shared by all. She does her editing, in the middle of a concert, in front of the public.
“The video segment is like an instrument that interacts with the music. There’s a lot of flexibility on stage,” she says.
“The woman is always presented as an attractive, powerful person who controls everything. In the videos, the men just react; they are there as an accessory. The same subject can be presented in very different ways. The relationship between the bodies that move on stage interests me a lot and says a lot about the question of genres”, underlines the videographer.
With the selected songs and videos, Koudaih and La Mirza raise many questions about identity and culture in the Arab world. How do they translate through music and the seventh art (cinema)? And how are they reintroduced today by modern sounds and new editing and video techniques?
At a certain moment, Koudaih invites the public to come up on stage and dance with the artists. The stage then ignites, and the remixes give rise to a moving interactive performance. Iraqi singer-songwriter Kazem Al-Saher’s hit Abouss Qalbak (I Kiss Your Heart) is rearranged by Koudaih with an emphasis on the chorus line and the addition of electro tunes. The accompanying video footage features a series of sensual scenes from the 1973 film Hammam Al-Malatili (Bath of Malatili).
Saigon, a song evoking the fall of the Vietnamese city, composed and interpreted by the famous Sheikh Imam, with lyrics by Ahmad Fouad Negm, accompanies the black and white video extract from an old film by comedian Emad Hamdi. This one plays the role of a man lost on a deserted beach. Desperate, he tries to drown.
With each video, the public becomes more and more jubilant, following the electro rhythms. There were ululations of joy in the room and the applause echoed throughout the theater of Rawabet. Indeed, Love & Revenge offered an unforgettable evening.