Amir Abdel Magid

Amir was born in Assiut, Middle Egypt in 1960. His musical career began at an early age, encouraged by his family. His father is a blind musician, and as a child Amir would accompany him on frequent visits to other musicians, soaking up the creativity and skills surrounding him. He attended the Conservatoire of music in Cairo, where he studied Kanoon (Egyptian Harp) and notation. As Amir studied, he developed his own unique style of playing the Kanoon and writing for orchestra, making him a much respected, and sought-after producer of Arabic music. 

Albums:

  1. Alien Soap Opera
  2. Sout Et Leil

 

He is especially well-known throughout the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia and Dubai for his classical style of production, concerts, and recording. His kanoon teacher played in the Orchestra of Om Kalsoum - the most famous of all Arabic singers, and the most significant musical phenomena in the Middle East. Om Kalsoum, also known as "the planet/lady of the East" performed and recorded in Cairo until her death in 1975. Blessed with an extraordinarily powerful voice, she was measured as singing at 36khz, and had to sing with the microphone at a considerable distance due to the strength of her vocal abilities. Each month she would perform a new song at a concert in Cairo. These performances could last up to three hours, and the whole of Egypt would be brought to a standstill as the country listened on the radio. All children in the Middle East know the words of her songs by heart. From this musical tradition, started by Abdel Halim and Mohammed Abdel Wahab in the 1930's, Cairo has grown to become the focal point for the Arts in the Middle East - "the Hollywood of the Arabic world" as it is known. Cairo boasts many state of the art sound and film studios, and most of the music for the Arabic world is recorded and mixed there. There are also many western clubs and discos, and events have been staged by Ministry of Sound, The Big Chill and Western Artists such as Jean Michelle Jarre and Pink Floyd. Amir scores music directly on to the paper from his mind. He writes for violins, cellos, contrabass, nay (flute) and a host of other Egyptian instruments. Typically, a songwriter or singer will sing a song down the telephone to Amir, who will record it on a dictaphone, and transcribe the melody to sheet music, subsequently adding orchestration such as strings percussion etc. The singer will then come to Cairo to record and mix the song. Amir is fluent with modern recording techniques and equipment such as samplers and computers, and is known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of traditional Arabic maqam (scales) and percussion patterns. There are some 300+ scales in Arabic music, and each region/village in the Middle East has its own percussion pattern. Arabic music, similar to Indian, uses microtuning intervals known as quarter tones (half a semi-tone), and is heterophonic, meaning that musicians play different decorated versions of a single melodic line. Also an accomplished Oud (lute) player and singer, Amir¹s forays into the western scene began in 1985 when Jazz Coleman (Killing Joke) and Anne Dudley (Art of Noise), came to Egypt to record the album 'Songs of the Victorious City'. Amir played Kanoon on this album and arranged the strings with Tarek Akef (Amir¹s contemporary in Cairo). This connection with Jazz led to his meeting with British engineer/producer Greg Hunter in 1993 who was recording with Killing Joke in Cairo. The pair teamed up to write music, fusing Oriental (i.e. Arabic, Indian etc) instrumentation with Western electronica - samples / computers etc. They have produced two albums, Alien Soap Opera; Second Wave, and Fifth Sun;Sout et Leil. The former is essentially driven by Greg and the latter by Amir. ASO is more influenced by the Western electronic ambient vibe, being predominantly instrumental, with digital experimental sounds providing the sonic support for expert soloists playing over the top. Fifth Sun is more of an Arabic pop album - song based and enriched with the sounds of violins and traditional instruments. However, although Fifth Sun features some of the top soloists in the Arab world, Amir would not describe it as Egyptian music: "It's different, more like a marriage between a lot of music, a lot of spirits². Gliding effortlessly between Arabic classical music, Egyptian songs, and ambient electronics, Amir demonstrates his expansive and unbounded talents. Pushing musical boundaries has always been important to Amir, which is perhaps what makes him the most important producer of the Arabic world.