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WOMAD 2009 Featured Artist: Bedouin Jerry Can Band

WOMAD 2009 Featured Artist: Bedouin Jerry Can Band (Egypt)

World of Music Art and Dance 2009
13-15 March
Brooklands Park & TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
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The Bedouin Jerry Can Band (BJB) is a collective of semi-nomadic musicians, poets, storytellers and coffee grinders from the Egyptian Sinai desert. Members are drawn from residents of El Arish, an oasis city lying on the Mediterranean coast of Sinai and from followers of a Sufi sect of the Suwarka tribe who reside at the nearby settlement of Abo El Hossain.

The group’s songs and poetry recall the exploits of the ancient Arabian Bedouin tribes through stories from Sinai, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Arabian Gulf the dastardly deeds of sheep rustlers and tales of unrequited love for the girl with beautiful eyes in the next settlement.

Blending the Simsimiyya (a traditional Egyptian lyre) with desert flutes and reed pipes, BJB perform traditional melodies accompanied by infectious rhythms played on tablas, frame drums and clay jugs; augmented by ammunition boxes & jerry can percussion salvaged from the former battlegrounds of the Six-day War of 1967.

The introduction of this unusual arsenal of junk percussion into BJB’s music by founder member Medhat El Issawy was at first viewed with some local scepticism. Although the musicians (whom at this time were known as Takht El Arish) were simply continuing a time-honoured Bedouin tradition of making good use of the riches of Sinai, in an environment where the modern world has eroded many traditional ways of life change is seldom welcomed. Tribal songs are viewed by many as one of the last remaining outposts of Bedouin culture to have survived relatively unaltered for centuries.

Fortunately, any initial criticisms were soon superseded by unanimous agreement from audiences that the metallic ring of the battered petrol cans bought a distinctive (and pleasing) bass-end identity to the sound of the band’s music, and thus the musicians became known as Jerry Can.


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