Cairokee Wrap Third Album, 'Sekka Shemal'

Egyptian indie outfit look to build on international recognition garnered during revolution

Cairokee: Amir Eid, Adam El Alfy, Sherif Hawary, Sherif Mostafa and Tamer Hashem (clockwise from top left)
Hatem Salah
By Adam Grundey
Feb 06, 2014

In 2011, "Sot El Horreya," a track from Egyptian alt-rock band Cairokee, was hailed as the “soundtrack to the Egyptian revolution.” It’s a tag that helped raise the band to global prominence – as international media sought out new angles for their coverage of the uprising that ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak – but it also resulted in a slightly warped image of what the group, founded back in 2003, actually do.

“We struggled a bit after ‘Sot El Horreya,’” bassist Adam El Alfy tells Rolling Stone. “Everyone was expecting us to always talk about politics or the revolution or whatever. But we’ve always explained that we’re all Egyptians, all living in Egypt, and we talk about what’s happening and the issues that affect us, but not necessarily always [just politics]. We talk about all the problems in Egypt, everything that we face in our day-to-day lives. We’re not just a ‘Revolution Band.’ We talk about love, hate, social problems, everything.”

With their third album, Sekka Shemal [A Wrong Turn], which drops this month, the band have moved closer to their Egyptian roots than ever. “We were trying to achieve more of that Oriental, authentic sound,” El Alfy explains. “We always liked rock, but this time it’s a fusion of rock and Oriental. Something more local, but at the same time, not losing our rock taste.”

Recorded at Ganoub Studio in Cairo and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York, Sekka Shemal features a “big production sound,” for which El Alfy gives a lot of credit to sound engineer Sary Hany, who mixed the album. “We had the same vision,” El Alfy says. “He had a lot of input.”

The LP’s first single, “Agmal Ma Andy,” hints at the band’s musical growth. The folksy accordion-driven ballad, is, El Alfy says, “a simple, genuine, positive song of hope. The main topic of the song is staying positive. The singer’s saying he’s got faith, he has hope. And it’s about satisfaction as well. Not always looking at other stuff, but being happy with what you’ve got.”

The song features renowned Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi – the band’s first choice for the guest vocal slot. “The arrangement of the song is kind of European,” El Alfy says. “She lives in France, and her music is a fusion between European and African, so the song’s perfect for her.” Collaborating online, the band wisely “just let [Massi] do her thing,” and the result is a touching, warm ode to positivity.

“We mostly chose this as the first single because of the positive message,” El Alfy says. “We need something positive in Egypt now. We want to be, like, a breath of fresh air.”