Archive for October, 2009

An Evening with Hossam Ramzy

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

On Friday the 9th of October, I took a trip to Bristol to see Hossam Ramzy at the City Academy.  We set out at 1pm, but even that early getting to Bristol was a bit of a nightmare – who imagines stationary traffic at 3 in the afternoon?  We battled the traffic with a coffee pit-stop for encouragement, checked into our hotel and went off to the show.

There was no where near the venue to park, so we had a little trek through the streets to get back to the Academy, and then we had to find the right building.  Several of them were emblazoned with ‘City Academy Bristol,’ but hearing the lovely strains of an Arabic violin drifting through the doors of one building, we knew we had found the right one. A quick glance around at the waiting fans and you could see Hossam’s wide appeal, as there were fans of every description and age present.

Before going in, we stopped at the table where Hossam’s CD and DVDs were on sale and bought ourselves a few.  While I was looking for the things we didn’t already have, I heard someone calling , ‘Annie, Annie, hello!’  It was Hossam, who had come out from his sound check to say hello to some of the guests.  He was fairly quickly swamped with fans who spotted him, so we had a quick hug and hello before we went into the auditorium.

The first two rows were marked as reserved for VIP guests, so we took a seat right in the front row, dead centre.  Richard always wants to go back a few rows where he knows the sound will be better, but hey – I wanted see everything as well as hear it, so we stayed at the front.  The venue slowly filled up, and just about ten minutes before the show started, in walked a tall gentleman with long curly blonde hair, carrying a big bag.  It was Robert Plant.  He sat right near me just across the aisle. Cool.

Hossam was introduced by a very enthusiastic lady who picked up his mic for her introduction.  She left it centre stage, so when Hossam came out to play his first order of duty was going to fetch it after noticing it was no longer near him.  He is very warm and personable, so I instantly felt like I was at a friend’s house for the evening as he joked about having to work for a living while setting his mic back up.  Incidentally, he had to do it again later because she did the exact same thing after the interval.

After introducing the band, they launched into the first number, which featured a gorgeous flute solo that floated  hauntingly around the room.  Now, I love Hossam’s music, but I am sorry to say that I can’t pronounce the names of the numbers, so I don’t have a set list for those of you who know his music well.  But the titles hardly matter, the music is simply amazing.   If you haven’t experienced Arabic music, you are really missing out.  I first got into it by listening to Robert and Jimmy talking about their musical influences, and as usual, where they go musically, I am glad to follow.  It’s definitely something you should add to your music library.

Hossam had some local dancers share the stage with the band.  Having never seen belly dancing live before, I was unsure if I would like this part of the evening, but my doubts were short lived, because they were great!  Lots of fun and very graceful – just terrific to watch.  I was just fascinated.  All of the guest dancers did a lovely job, but Hossam’s wife Serena is something else again.  You could see instantly that she was something special just by the way she carried herself on to the stage, and she was divine.  I could watch her dance all night.  She was so captivating that at times you almost forgot about the music.   When I chatted to her at my launch party I asked her about learning to belly dance she told me how much work she put into the art, and it really showed.  I loved watching her.

Hossam told us bits and pieces about the music he was playing, and so I learned more about Arab culture along the way too.  Every musician on that stage was  superb with their instrument, but like his wife’s dancing, Hossam is a cut above, and a master of his drum.  There wasn’t one person leaving that building that didn’t have a huge smile on their face excitedly praising the show.  They played until around 10.45 I think – time sort of flew past!

One funny incident happened, during one number the musician playing a tambourine looked down to see the jingles on it falling off.  He lost several of them, but carried on valiantly as the drummer next to him laughed at his predicament.  All was well for him after the interval.

If we absolutely had to find something to criticise, Richard thought the sound was just slightly too loud.  It was a wonderful, wonderful evening.  If you have never seen Hossam play, I urge you to go if you get the chance.  I am hoping to have him play somewhere at a Memories in Music event.  If you love music, Hossam and Serena’s show is one of those things in life that you owe it to yourself to experience.

Big Bad Licensing Issues

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

For the past few months I’ve been working to find out exactly how to go about selling certain music related items in my online shop and at exhibits to raise funds for the charities we support.  It’s a huge undertaking, especially when you are minus some key ingredients that make it easier, namely a fancy lawyer and millions of pounds to make doors open.  I’m just an ordinary fan trying to do something good for causes I feel passionate about, and resources are limited.  Still, I’m proud of what we are doing, so I waded in.  The people I have dealt with have been polite and I have learned a lot, so I am finding it a good experience over-all.

I’ve discussed the process with friends and briefly online.  The different perspectives and stances people take on licensing and copyright issues are fascinating.  On the one hand you have the musicians and the licensing companies who work for them.  Musicians work extremely hard to create the music and the all the trappings that go with making an image.  Most reasonable people agree these things deserve to be protected, and people wanting to use them should expect to have to get permission/pay before they do.  It’s only right.  Can you imagine how hard it would be for a musician to look after and protect copyright/trademarks on their own with practically an entire world of people waiting to use their work for various purposes?  It’s more than a full time job – answer all requests, examine all merchandise or websites to decide who has a use you find genuine…it would be impossible.  They’d never be able to do anything else again if they attempted this job alone, so enter licensing companies.

Then on the other side there are fans, many who have good and legitimate reasons for wanting to use protected material.  Some will just blatantly take it and do whatever, and then others will go seek permission.  If you get the permission great, but what if you don’t?  How you deal with that says a lot about you.  Raising funds for charity, educating people, these are good reasons to want to use material that is not yours, but you may still get a no.  It is a shame, and can make you feel hard done by.  I’ve been unable to do some things even for charity because it would interfere with big business deals and exclusive rights to do things that companies pay major money to acquire.  But I can’t complain too loudly because I’d want the same if it was my creativity in question.  My webmaster and I worked hard on the MIM logo, and I wouldn’t want people taking it and doing whatever with it without my consent.  Yes, sometimes licensing companies do over-step their mark and bully people.   It can be an ugly thing when people have total power and are the only game in town.  I applaud fans who stand up to bully tactics that are just plainly that – bully tactics and no more.

But it helps to realise too that not every thing is a bully tactic by a licensing company, and not every person who wants to use material that is protected has a good motive.  Some hide behind loud righteous indignation to justify actions they know are wrong.  I’ve heard lots of excuses for poor behaviour, and a fan can be just as big a bully as a licensing company, and seriously unreasonable in their quest to do whatever they want with protected material.  I dislike this as much as I dislike it when licensing companies are heavy-handed.

I am working to raise charity money, so I will strive to abide by the rules even if they are harsh.  That may mean that I have to pump sunshine all over things that others will resist.  Whatever you do, whatever the outcome of your permission seeking, before you act, think of others, put yourself in their place, and act responsibly.  That makes for a happier world all around no matter what the issue.

I found this article helpful: And yes, permission to link to it is given!  What are your experiences?  I’d love to hear from you.