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Irradiance at the Pyramids: Daisy Jopling and Wust El Balad Along With Friends In Kundalini, Friday, November 4th, Reviewed

Many years ago, when I was a teenage reprobate of seventeen, I visited my mother and stepfather in Cairo. I spent my time picking up girls at nightclubs and begging off sightseeing tours with killer hangovers. One night I was coming back from a club near dawn and the light was at the side of the pyramids. It was a breathtaking vision and it reflected again in the Irradiance performance at the base of the pyramid, you can see it looming on top of the stage.

I quote from All Events In Peekskills where she is performing a recreation of her Pyramid concert on March 25th: “On November 4, 2022, Daisy Jopling performed an extraordinary concert at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. She collaborated with some of Egypt’s most legendary musicians to create a show that was described in Egypt Today as “a dazzling, powerful fusion of Western and Middle Eastern music. This spectacular concert was a memorable and beautiful experience that left no-one untouched.”

It took Daisy the better part of two years to put together the performance. “Friday’s concert, Irradiance at the Pyramids, was a memorable and beautiful experience that left no one untouched. The concert was opened by a band of African and Egyptian musicians from the AfriCairo Collective, brought together by the concert’s Musical Director, Ahmed Omar. The famous Egyptian rock band Wust El Balad closed it by performing some of their most popular tracks. The main act ended with a beautiful rendition of the Egyptian composer and conductor Omar Khairat’s song Feha haga helwa where Daisy Jopling was joined by 16-years-old singer Mariam Magdy and a young chorus from the Children’s Arts Program Harakat.”

That’s the essence here. Daisy Jopling, the classically trained, artistically valid, renaissance woman who lives in hybrid, went to Giza Pyramids and performed for a couple of hours with professional Egyptian musicians including four violinists, tabla, drums, keyboards, and more. Jopling was kind enough to send me a video of the performance which is what I used for this review. The sound seemed to veer close to Arabic pop, there is even an Aoud, whether tearing into classical or ragaing into Arabic while fantastic jazz singer Noha Fekry and leader of Wurst El Balad -a yacht rock band featuring the actor Hany Adel, lent their voices while Jopling handled the various strands of Middle East in a lean and through musical fusion.

The venue is a covered but open shed at the lip of the pyramids that loom so large over the stage it is like they are embracing them. The evening began with the AfriCairo Collective, who are vastly better than their name seems to show, have beautiful ballads with a slow sway to them, and a young saxophone player who is superb during her solo. According to their bio “Africairo is a project for Africans residing in Egypt through which they can express their identity with tunes and melodies. Through this project, one can learn the language of art. It was founded by Ahmed Omar who also produced the album for this project.” The sound is both quiet and large, and it fills the shed without breaking it down, the singing is sublime and the afrobeats are muted in the way bands from Nigeria aren’t, by the second song you get some dancehall (Jamaica not UK) and you are won over. The penultimate song of their set married acoustic guitar to Graceland vibes. and the last song included a tabla solo.

Is there an artists with a better handle on the joys of collaboration than Daisy? Whether it is children or natives of the lands she visits, she opens her stage to anyone who wishes, and has the skill, to share it with her regardless of who or what they are. Their skills is all that is needed. The backing band on Friday 11/4 (Guy Fawkes night in the UK) were world class local musicians, and Daisy took centerstage with her best friend her violin for a set of songs that veered between instrumentals and guest vocalists. The set opens with a violin ridden instrumental “Primordial” (Arabic Style) written by Daisy but arranged for an Arabic audience that starts off very soft as you strain towards them and builds from there, to one musical climax after another pushed by percussion and a spotlight constantly shifting. If You have seen Daisy live (I have here) you’ll be aware that while she is obviously a Western artist she is, even more than that, a global artist: classical is fine, she is superb at it and her attack is new wave and strong while she is quite possibly the most charming performer you’ll see. Omar Khairat took the mic for his own “Fatma” and then she moves to Vivaldi and there is nothing garish, nothing interrupted, it flowed beautifully just like the entire evening. The Middle Eastern flavor comes and goes, on “Kashmir” it is clearly closer to Led Zep than Fairuz.

After the intermission, Daisy embraces the Islamic tense with both “Awakening” and “Prayers” and the Egyptian leader of Wust El Balad Hany Adel and we got two highlights of the evening, Adel, back by Daisy and a string quartet on “El Daiiya” and the climax of the evening, Riham Abd EL Hakim performing Omar Khairat’s sublime “Fiha Haga Helwa”. And at the center, Daisy, one of the most generous artists you will ever meet, is surrounded by her own band and local musicians and the size and the power of the band changes upon demand. A gorgeous night and a full house, but there is a magic to the proceedings, a gentle and kind cultural mix that sounds like life affirming itself: the Pyramids have been home to some western artists -the Grateful Dead and the Police to name but two, but that isn’t what Daisy pulled: she expanded her own and Arabic pop in all directions. When you think of Arabic music Imm Kalthoum comes to mind, a mountainous voice that a huge orchestra can not drown out, nothing can. But this is not that huge Arabic pop blowout of arranged strings, this is more modern, more complete within itself, daring and a little scary and by the time her set closed Daisy had converted the Pyramids. Don’t miss her performance on Saturday of this epic set.

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