A homage to Nubian singing
Osama Kamal welcomes a reprise of the songs of Ahmed Mounib
Since Nubian crooner Ahmed Mounib passed away in 1991 at the age of 65, his son Khaled Mounib has been organising annual recitals in homage to his father. The latest recital, held recently at the Sawi Culture Wheel, was entitled "We'll Meet behind Sorrow" and featured some of Mounib's most memorable songs including "Shamandoura", "Egyptian Nubian", "Group of Ten", "Staying Late", "Missing You" and "God Giveth" -- all performed by the Mounib Band, which was formed two years ago.
Khaled Mounib is not only interested in preserving his father's art, but in maintaining the spirit of alternative singing that thrived in the 1970s.
After the death of the iconic Egyptian singers Umm Kalthoum, Farid El-Atrash and Abdel-Halim Hafez, a new form of singing came into being. This new style was less elitist and more down to earth.
"Alternative singing challenged the paradigm of the classical song and brought singing back to the public, as an intimate human ritual that emanates from the people and revolves around them," Khaled says.
Ahmed Mounib wrote the music for nearly 85 songs, 51 of which he recorded on his seven albums: Missing You, Good Company, It Used to Be, Land of Gold, I Will Sing, Kismet and An Egyptian Tale.
He wrote songs for Mohamed Mounir, Alaa Abdel-Khaleq, Hamid El-Shaeri, Hassan Abdel-Maguid, Fars, Mohamed Fouad and Mona Abdel-Ghani, among others. His songs are still popular among the young because of their energy and accessibility.
"Most of the fans of the Mounib Band are young people, because the art of Mounib symbolises life in its flow and endless energy," Khaled Mounib says.
Most of the ban's singers are still in their 20s, including the lead singer, Abdallah Adel, whose first album will be released soon.
When Ahmed Mounib started out it was in collaboration with the poet Mohieddin Sherif. Their songs fused Nubian with Oriental music. Ahmed Mounib, a brilliant oud player, was able to come up with riffs using the pentatonic, or five-note, African scale in combination with the more conventional heptatonic, or seven-note scale familiar in Eastern music. Most of his songs were written in a soft and melancholic Oriental scale known as kord.
The ability to move back and forth from the lively pentatonic scale to the slower heptatonic added colour to the music, some of which was rather evocative of ancient temple rituals.
As a member of the folk band of Zakaria El-Heggawi (1915 Òê" 1975), Ahmed Mounib toured the Egyptian countryside for two years, during which he learnt much from the diverse singing traditions of various provinces.
Back in the 1960s, Mounib wrote to President Gamal Abdel-Nasser calling for a special programme for Nubian on Egyptian radio. His request was granted, and the programme Southern Inspiration gave the Egyptian public their first glimpse of the singing traditions of Nubia as well as bringing fame to singers Ahmed Mounib and Abdel-Fattah Wali.
In 1978, Mounib teamed up with a talented Nubian poet called Abdel-Rahim Mansour who had written lyrics for the diva Afaf Radi.
Later the two cooperated with singer Mohamed Mounir, musician Hani Shenuda and composer Yehya Khalil. In the 1980s, their cooperation spawned 37 songs which catapulted Mohamed Mounir to the top of the charts. These included "Speak", "Tonight, Oh Dark Skinned One", "Lemon Trees", "Windows" and "The Girl with Braids".
Other poets, including Fouad Haddad, Salah Jahin, Ahmed Fouad Negm and Sayyed Hegab, also cooperated with the Nubian singing world.
Khaled, himself a poet and composer, is working full time to maintain his father's tradition. He is the director of the Mounib Media for Art, which plans to release an album by Abdallah Adel featuring some of Ahmed Mounib's best hits, as well as lesser known works such as "Love Lane" and "Pearl Necklace". The album will also feature "Dark Skinned Girl", a folk song translated from Nubian by the poet Tamer Abaza.