The Arab world's guitar hero
To Omar Khorshid with Love

The occidental world, struggling to find influence, looked on in horror at Egypt engaged in bloody revolution. It was perceived - wrongly of course - that economic leviathans such as the USA would be able to stride in with the authority of a school teacher and break up this petty dispute between their political juniors. Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls and co-founder of Sublime Frequencies, has this to say of the revolt,

“One of the most fascinating aspects of the people’s movement is anonymity. Whether it is by design or not, a faceless revolt does not offer a sacrificial representative to the Western and state media machine for them to dissect, overanalyse, and present as distorted personality to manipulate and divide support among the Egyptian people. Many in the movement consider it a disadvantage to not have a leader that can represent them in negotiations with the regime but I consider it a blessing that the regime must negotiate with millions instead of one.”

“Sun City Girls utilised anonymity as much as possible through the first twenty years but when the internet was developed everything changed regarding anonymity and mystique. Anyone can now take photos and upload videos – destroy said mystique - and as it is for everyone now, we are no longer in full control of our own presentation.”

Last year his label specialising in world music released a hit disc of Omar Khorshid’s music. This Egyptian born electric guitarist with the boyish good looks of an Osmond and the shredding skills of Dick Dale is seen as a rocknroll hero of the Arab world. Khorshid is the modern man. He is traditional in a religious sense. Respectful to his form and the music of others. Tormented by his craft whilst trying to bring change to the music of his culture.

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“Khorshid was ahead of his time. When the major Egyptian artists Oum Khoulsoum and Abdel Halim Hafez decided to incorporate electric guitar into their orchestras, Khorshid was summoned and asked to join both legends of Egyptian music. He was a visionary guitarist and composer, trapped in a culture that had few outlets for his forward thinking music. By the early 1970’s Khorshid relocated to Beirut where the music industry was more progressive, westernminded, and supportive of his experimental ideas of composition. He managed to bridge traditional Arabic styles with the western sounds he was fascinated with, taking advantage of the Belly Dance Music craze that swept the time. His career was much too short due to his untimely death at 36 and the opportunities for him to control major elements of his career were few.”

Khorshid’s guitar music is awash with elements of electronics, reverb and delay. The objective is mind-bending melodies using not only the instrumentation but the form of Arabic dance music. The sound is purposefully exotic drawing on traditional folk music to serve his progressive values. What was once revolutionary is now banal. Let’s hope Egypt’s future generations will experience this in their politics.

Words by Samuel Breen

Alan and his brother Sir Richard Bishop will be on tour in the UK in May as The Brothers Unconnected: A Tribute to Sun City Girls and Charles Gocher. The music of Omar Khorshid is available to download from www.omarkhorshid.org

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