Quadro Nuevo meets Cairo Steps – Flying Carpet


Quadro Nuevo

Mulo Francel woodwinds
Dietmar Lowka bass, percussion
Andreas Hinterseher accordeon
Evelyn Huber harp

Cairo Steps

Basem Darwisch oud
Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff piano
Max Klass percussion
Stefan Hergenröder bass
Rageed William nay, duduk


Ali El Helwabi vocals
Sheikh Ehab Younis vocals
Ragy Kamal kanu
Ines Abdeldaiem flute
Hani Alsawaf tabla
Jan Boshra cello

For more than 20 years, Quadro Nuevo has been the butterfly collector of world music in a sense. As a groundbreaking and successful German world music ensemble, woodwind player Mulo Francel, bassist and percussionist Dietmar Lowka, accordionist Andreas Hinterseher and harpist Evelyn Huber track down authentic sounds and magnetic melodies all over the world, catch them and hang them into their own musical frame of reference – always respectfully inspired by foreign cultures, their people and myths.

For this to happen, one has to love the music as much as the traveling. “Grand Voyage” is a typical name for one album of the band, which has won several awards, including the Echo Jazz. For their last large-scaled concept album „Tango“ they traveled to the previously undiscovered Buenos Aires, now the next white spot will be swept away, or rather captured with a flying carpet: with the world music colleagues of Cairo Steps, they venture on the “Flying Carpet” of the Egyptian Sufi- Music.

An old acquaintance of the southern German quartet, the jazz pianist Matthias Frey, had proposed a meeting last year, with the Cairo Steps he had co-founded. Even tough the band has been in existence only for a couple of years, it is already one of the most renowned intercultural ensembles in Germany – and one of the most successful bands in Egypt.

At the crossroads of the Sufi sound culture with jazz and world music, as practiced by the Cairo Steps, they are joined by Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff on the piano (as well as arranger and musical director), Max Klaas on percussion, Stefan Hergenröder on the bass and the Iraqi Nay and Duduk player Rageed William.

The Egyptian Oud player Basem Darwisch, the other founding father beside Frey, was part of outstanding Egyptian bands like D’u Nil, Salamat, Abdel Radi (with Mohamed Mounir), Rahalat (with Hussam Shakir) or Sharkiat (with the Grammy winner Fathy Salama), and has lived in Germany since the early 1990s. He worked with the literary Nobel laureate Günther Grass or the Klezmer revolutionary David Orlowsky and is considered as the most important ambassador of Egyptian music in Germany.

At the joint concert in the Alte Oper Frankfurt, one got to know each other – and harmonized so well that one decided to continue the genre-spanning project with mutual enthusiasm. They sprightly exchanged pieces of music and recorded together at the Cologne Maarweg Studios in autumn 2016. But this could only be the first part of the ride on the flying carpet. As always, the musicians of Quadro Nuevo wanted to include the impressions of the country and spontaneous encounters. So they went to Egypt in January 2017. In Cairo, Alexandria and Damanhour, the newly amalgamated, daring group of full-blooded musicians from Cairo and Cologne, Baghdad and Bavaria gave three concerts, which included a number of Egyptian guests: the Sufi singer Ali El Helwabi and Sheikh Ehab Younis, for example, the flutist (and director of the Cairo Opera Cultural Center) Ines Abdeldaiem, Ragy Kamal on the Arabic string instrument Kanun, Hani Alsawaf on the Tabla, and a four-piece string quartet lead by cellist Jan Boshra.

The compositions, mostly written by Mulo Francel and Basem Darwisch have therefore become an exotic, inspiring and enthralling sound experience. Songs such as “Shams” (Darwisch’s homage to the sun) or “Icarus’ Dream” (a greek inspired impression by Francel), or „Café Cairo“, which was dreamt up by Andreas Hinterseher before the journey, crossing oriental music with Viennese coffeehouse waltzes or Darwisch’s „Arabistan“, commenting on recent historical events in Egypt and connecting orient and occident. All compositions are sometimes grooving heavily, sometimes flowing fluently, but always in a universal language that reaches everyone.

As always with Quadro Nuevo journeys, there is also a feedback effect: the compositions of Evelyn Huber’s surging and hymnic “Nilade” and Mulo Francel’s cheerfully swinging “Symphony for the Sheikh” originated at the end of the Egypt trip and are audibly inspired by the travel impressions and the encounter with the Egyptian culture.

The concept might prove itself in the most impressive way with the Cairo Steps / Quadro Nuevo version of Eric Satie’s “Gnossienne No. 2“: how the melody of the French composer is garnished with arabesque quarter-tones and smearing transitions, then bursts into symphonic force and finally blends with the magical, freely phrased “Arab blues” with the overwhelming voice of the blind sheikh Ehab Younis – this will touch every listener deeply and immediately. Suddenly the Parisian salon of the twenties seems to be lying opposite the Egyptian shisha bar and a Bavarian pub. Now one is able to comprehend, that playing music together can overcome the biggest hurdles.

Unanimously, the musicians also emphasize:

“Although we come from different cultural spaces, we stand on the stage with full respect for each other as friends: We have the vision to build a bridge between the Occident and the Orient with our emerging music. Beyond the boundaries of time, politics or religion.”

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