Brand New Day

Cairo, EG
Pyramids Of Gizawith Hakim, Cheb Mami
Singer met the Sphinx - Rock musician Sting played in front of the Pyramids of Gizeh - 10,000 Fans sang together...

Cairo. The scenery for the musical meeting between east and west could not have been better. When British singer Sting and the algerian Rai-Musician Cheb Mami did their hit 'Desert Rose' together on stage two hours before midnight, the huge Pyramids and the Sphinx were glowing in the background. 10,000 fans from Egypt and other countries sang along enthusiastic on the Plateau of the Gizeh Pyramids. ''This concert was one of the most beautiful things in my life'', explained an American medicine student who had been to Egypt for a visit and heard about the concert by coincidence.

Sting's tour through the arabic world, which had brought him to Dubai and Amman before, reached its highlight with the Cairo concert in front of the Pyramids. The former singer of The Police won his listeners' hearts by searching a connection to the arabic music. ''When I presented the song 'Desert Rose' to my record company and told them I was going to release this as a single in the USA, they were horrified'', Sting remembers. ''They said it would never be played on the radio because this other guy was singing arabic. I said that I didn't care for that, and meanwhile Cheb Mami's voice is famous everywhere.''

His 'Brand New Day' album, produced two years ago, containing the song 'Desert Rose' did not only get several platinum awards, Sting got two grammies for it either; best male singer and best pop album. The British singer belongs to the few rock starts who go on a tour through the Middle East at all. ''Such a voyage is very expensive and difficult in a logistic way. I would like to show that it is possible in spite of this, and that you will have a good time with the people here'', he explains.

Sting, famous for his political involvement gave ten percent of the concert income to a care project for Palestinian children. A quite celebrated decision in arabic press. Asked if he wasn't afraid to be called anti-israelian, the singer replied shortly:'' A welfare project for children can barely be critizised, can it?'' Besides that, the song 'Desert Rose' was a hit in Israel, too. ''Some of my songs deal with Palestine, in a metaphoric way, too'', Sting says, while he didnt explain further how one should understand that.

He thinks that the future of the Middle East is located at the negotiating table and that nothing can be reached with bulldozers and tanks. But he was not a politician but only a singer, who has got his own opinion, but wants to speak it out though.

(c) Rheinische Post by Karim El-Gawhary

Beneath a Desert Moon...

Well, I made it back in one piece but it was a scary place! I arrived in Cairo at 3am in the morning and was met at the airport as arranged. As I arrived at the hotel, I noticed the crew vans were there - which was nice - but still had to get myself a ticket. I talked to the concierge girl about it - no problem! They sent someone to get me one, and the cost was an amazingly low £25, and an hour later I had the ticket in my hand. Cool!

All prepared, I now set off to find the Pyramids of Giza. On the way I passed a huge Sainsbury's store - there's just no getting away from work sometimes. Arriving at the Pyramids through a herd of sheep, I stopped for a 'chat' and a coca-cola with a camel herder. (No-one had told me they don't serve lager.) Anyway, entering into the spirit of the old Police Around the World video, I hopped onto a fleabitten camel and headed for the three Pyramids, with a coke in my hand and an Arab headress on my head. What a dashing figure I must have cut - eat your heart out Lawrence of Arabia!

Whilst I admired the Pyramids, my guide gave me a potted history about them, but then I heard music. This was no time to be looking at ancient monuments, and I quickly told my puzzled guide to get me nearer to the venue, as I had twigged that sitting up high on a camel would be a great vantage point to see the soundcheck as I could peer over the outer wall. Looking confused, my guide helped me to manoeuvre my trusty steed closer and a couple of minutes later there I was peering over the wall watching Danny playing bass. Then, from nowhere, out walks Sting onto the stage. The first time I saw Sting in Egypt was sitting on top of a camel! I waved at him, and he saw me and waved back.

(Note from T, D&W - Now, let's change perspective here for a moment. You are Sting. You are in Egypt at probably the most spectacular venue you will ever play. You walk onto the stage for your soundcheck, and spot some loony atop a camel, waving manically over the top of the perimeter wall. That looks like... nah, it can't be. You rub your eyes, and look again. It is, it's Paul Carter. In an arab headress. Wobbling about on a camel. You shake your head in disbelief, wave back and realise what a small world it is.)

After listening to the soundcheck, it was back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for the gig. Arriving back at the venue, I could see the stage but was told you that it was not possible to enter here, and to go and get a bus round the corner. I jumped in a taxi, which promptly took me to the tourist places - the museum, café and shops. I met up with some American girls who were having the same trouble. To be honest, there were literally hundreds of people all running around utterly confused, and I started to panic that I might miss the show. Well, I finally managed to flag down a bus and was driven back up the hill between the Pyramids (I had recently travelled the opposite direction in the taxi) and we stopped first at the 65 pounds entrance then, at the 120 pounds entrance (these are Egyptian pounds).

Yes, you guessed it, I was no more than 200 yards where I had been over 2 hours previously! I entered through the airport style security, but they appeared to be only interested in looking for guns. Video cameras, tape recorders and cameras the size of houses could be taken through no problem. Wanda would have loved it!

The arena was breathtaking. Flanking each side of the stage were the Sphinx and the Pyramids, each lit up spectacularly with different coloured lighting. Sadly, thanks to the poor organisation and my unplanned tour of the cafes and and gift shops, I had missed Cheb Mami's set. The stage was now being prepared for Hakim, an Egyptian singer, and whilst this was going on a DJ played some danceable rave and club tunes to keep us all happy, and the stage lighting and Pyramids lighting were kept on.

Well, time passed and strange things started happening. Phil and co, came out onto the stage and started removing gear. I could see people at the stage edges arguing, and thought that something's going wrong here. The stage was eventually cleared, and Sting's set was ready. The familiar tape started playing and then two girls from a mobile phone company (one of the sponsors) came out on stage to say that ten per cent of the proceeds were going to help injured Palestinian children. Then some tall guy (who turned out to be Hakim) came onto the stage and in Egyptian started slagging off Sting, ending with F*** Sting! This, naturally, stirred the locals up a lot. Then, amazingly, the two mobile phone girls returned to the stage and tried to hold a raffle to win a Siemens mobile phone! It was a bit like a 'Fast Show' sketch and was rapidly turning surreal. Ignoring the restless crowd, they proceeded with the raffle by calling out a ticket number, but how they thought that anyone would give up their position to collect their prize is a mystery.

Someone else now came out on stage to apologise for Hakim not playing, explaining that he had turned up too late to perform. Apparently Hakim had not been able to get in the venue himself, and as I wondered if he too had been taxied down to the museum and café by mistake, the guy on stage valiantly worked up the crowd by getting everyone to chant for Sting.

At last - the lights went down and the Sphinx and Pyramids were lit up and out came the band. Some changes were immediately obvious, [Jason Rebello wasn't there] and his place was taken by Russ who has been promoted from vocals to keyboard player alongside Kipper. A new guy, Jeff Young, was on backing vocals. Russ wore a blue shirt, Dom stripy trousers and Kipper in a snazzy black and white shirt. Then Sting walks out in his usual black vest, the band tore straight into 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' - you could notice Russ's keyboard playing immediately. Next was 'After The Rain Has Fallen' for which the band were joined by Cheb's dharbouki player, and just like at the Royal Albert Hall, this really got the crowd worked up. Into 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' after which Sting introduced the band to the audience, and said how nice it was to be in Cairo! During 'All This Time', Roger played keyboards whilst Russ played guitar so Sting has found another multi-talented musician in Roger! Another crowd favourite came next, 'Mad About You', and as I looked to my right you could see the Pyramids and the Sphinx and Sting on a giant video screen - what a sight it was! After 'Seven Days' and 'Fields of Gold' came 'Every Little Things She Does Is Magic', and the crowd were reaching boiling point - in fact, the crowd had now moved forward in front of the pit barrier, and I swear Sting was starting to look worried!

'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was followed by 'Brand New Day' and 'Englishman In New York' and then Sting introduced Cheb and they played Meli Meli which the crowd absolutely loved. Sting was content to play bass on this and then when the chorus came Sting burst to the front of the stage and the crowd loved it! Then it was straight into 'Desert Rose' which everyone sang along to. Even the guards with clubs and guns were singing, and of course all the locals knew Cheb's part too. By this time, Sting had pulled it off big time and I am sure that Sting's face even appeared to be on the face of the Sphinx, although perhaps I was seeing things by this stage!

Roxanne was terrific, and the start of Bring On The Night was very Police-like. At the late-great Kenny's piano break, both Russ and Roger played at the same time on the keyboard. 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle' then followed, before the final, inevitable song, 'Fragile'. Even Cheb came out to play on this, and then the show was over. You could see Sting and co rush off stage, into their van and make their way up the hill past the Great Pyramid.

Great show in a great location!

(c) Paul Carter for

Sting gives concert at Pyramids...

With the floodlit Sphinx and Pyramids as a backdrop, Sting threw a concert marrying throbbing Arab rhythms with the power of Western rock, before a packed audience of 10,000 Egyptians and foreigners. But the show was marred by criticism of the acoustics, transport arrangements and the choice of the site.

Wearing a black tank top and black trousers, the muscular British rock star sprang onto the stage clasping his electric guitar, stirring wild applause from his fans who had waited two hours Wednesday night on the Pyramids' windswept plateau, just outside Cairo.

Singing 'Mad About You', the crowd warmed up with young women, wearing T-shirts and halter tops, swaying atop the shoulders of friends while the Pyramids, the Sphinx and its age-old grin were being gradually lit up against the desert blackness.

After a few solos by Sting, Rai musician Cheb Mami made his entrance with Meli Meli, accompanied by Sting on the guitar and huge applause from the audience, most of them Egyptian but hundreds of them Westerners.

Then the two stars joined forces for their latest smash hit 'Desert Rose', a haunting blend of the two cultures, bringing applause to a fever pitch in perhaps the highlight of the concert.

Despite cheers for other numbers like Sting's 'Englishman in New York', the concert suffered poor organization and acoustics, with some sounds drowning in the desert, especially for the back rows.

Fans, who had been waiting in vain for shuttles since 6:30 pm (1630 GMT), rushed for any empty bus then found the authorities were turning back those driven by private drivers or moonlighting employees of public companies. Arriving at a pitch-black lot in the desert far behind the pyramids, fans battled for the first shuttles which arrived, some almost falling under the wheels. Others preferred to make the eight-kilometer (five mile) trek to the stage.

The Lebanese singer Elissia entertained for the first half hour and was to have been followed by Egyptian pop singer Hakim. But, after a half-hour delay, an angry Hakim walked on stage, to applause. ''I was supposed to sing now, but Sting's crew took my equipment from the stage. Let anyone who accepts Egypt's humiliation stay here,'' he said. But few if anyone acted on his abrupt suggestion to leave. ''Hakim was late and Sting will sing now,'' an organizer shouted later.

Nur Omar, 15, a student at the Cairo American College, said ''the atmosphere didn't live up to expectations.'' Her friend Amina El-Demerdash complained: ''The sound was too low for the beat to drown out the voices of the people around us.'' It was not clear if the sound was kept low on purpose.

Zahi Hawass, the director of antiquities of the Giza plateau, Said Thursday that ''the frenzy of 10,000 young people at the site could affect the stones of the Sphinx and Pyramids.''

''A rock concert is unworthy of this grand site,'' Hawas said, adding that his department had been against it, ''but the organizers had already sold the tickets.''

The antiquities department was among the various authorities granting permission for the concert, said organizers who complained of red tape. Essam el-Halabi, a 44-year-old architect, said his 550 pound (150 dollar) seat gave him good visibility ''but the acoustics, which are really important, left a lot to be desired.''

Tickets for the standing areas went for 120 and 65 Egyptian pounds (31.5 and 17 dollars). Ten percent of the ticket proceeds of the concert will go to Palestinian children through the British-registered Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Sting, who arrived in Egypt on Tuesday wearing a red-checkered Arab scarf and white robes, said he was moved by his tour of the conflict-ridden Middle East, but sought to steer clear of politics and said a charity for children could not be criticized.

Sting performed last week in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Jordan. He is due in Tunis on Saturday and Lebanon in July. After performing for 75 minutes, Sting left the stage before he was called back for an encore, singing ''Message in a Bottle''.

Sting had sung the same hit during his first trip to Egypt in 1980 when he was the frontman for the group Police, which was well known in the West but not in Egypt. The venue then was a packed a hall at the American University in Cairo. A security official said there were no major incidents during Wednesday night' s concert. Alcohol was banned from the site.

(c) Website