Posted on 19/07/2022 by Kay Taylor

Emad el Rashidi

I have known Emad for many years and initially met him through Sara Farouk.  He is a quietly spoken gentleman.  Unassuming and interested in everything around him.  Emad has taught several of my groups to sing Arabic songs and he has the patience of a saint.  With Sara he also produced dancers versions of classics, editing the original songs.  These are a great resource and for a dancer, have the atmosphere and orchestral arrangement of the original which is wonderful to dance to.

Emad was born in Cairo and loved music from an early age.  The first instrument he learnt to play was a mouth organ.  When he was about 10, his father bought an oud which he intended to learn to play himself ……. he never did.  Instead Emad got hold of it and taught himself to play.  The first song he learnt was ‘Enta Omri’, a great classic.  One of the phrases within Enta Omri is often used to tune the oud …. so Emad jokes that he learned to tune an oud before he could play one.

It was at Ein Shams university when everything changed.  His father insisted he study commerce BUT there is a great music faculty there and Emad made use of this to study his passion.  They had a whole range of instruments which Emad worked his way through – but stuck with the oud as his principle instrument.  He studied in the library, learnt the scales and maqam.  They fascinated him so much that he studied how the maqam were used in several different Middle Eastern countries.  Against lots of competition, he became the conductor of the Ein Shams orchestra.  He sees this and his time at the university as the stepping stones to his musical career.

When he left university in 1975, he met up with other musicians who were going as a band to work at a club in London.  Emad joined them and so moved to London.  The club they had been hired by only lasted a month but they got work at the Ali Baba and then the Abu Nawas.  He said people would go first to the Omar Khayyam and then go onto one of the clubs he played at.  It was all great experience – and good money.  Whilst in London, he also studied at the Thames Valley college of music where he got his one and only musical qualification!  Emad loves to study …. if it is something that takes his interest he finds out everything he can.

After 4 years in London, Emad moved back to Cairo and started work at the Cairo Opera House.  He taught courses in music and singing.  He built up an 80 strong orchestra and choir.  They built up a really impressive reputation.  Some of the participants went on to become actors who have become household names.

Emad has composed for many singers including Ali Haggar and Mohamed El Helw.  For 5 years he composed the music for the annual victory celebration attended by Hosny Mubarak and many other dignitaries.  Emad composed music for over 35 plays as well as several TV shows.

‘What is the highlight of your musical career?’ I asked.  The studying, he told me.  When Emad finds something that fascinates him, he studies everything about it.  Music fascinated him and through long hours of study and practical application, he has become an acknowledged expert in the field of Arabic music.  That degree in commerce didn’t do him much good – but his time at Ein Shams university changed his life.

Emad is currently taking some time out and is based in Manchester.  He does some lecturing at the university there and coaches a few students studying Arabic music.

As an aside, Emad told me he loves pasta so has been studying all about pasta – it’s history, all the different types, how to make it and more ……… we never stop learning!

Join me, Kay Taylor and Emad el Rashidi on Sunday 14th August at 4pm for a Zoom lecture on Arabic scales or maqam.  Book your place on ‘Understanding Maqam’.

If you subscribe to ‘Bellydance Music Explored’ you can attend this lecture for free as part of the course.  Your zoom link will be published on the FB group of that name.

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