#402 Ahmed Awedony “Kaff” part 1

             Ahmed Awedony Interview Part 1; Kaff Ja’afari #402


Ahmed Awedony Interview Part 1; Kaff Ja’afari #402


After viewing the “Kaff” performed by the Aswan Saqafa I had many questions. The first question I asked several people was; is this Kaff Nubi or Kaff Sa’idi? All answered that it was “Kaff Ja’afari”.

The three quick answers to my next questions were 1. “Ja’afra” is an Arab tribe that lives east of Aswan. 2. This is the stage version of their dance. 3. Yes, women can dance their part and they do have their face veiled. I was finally able to interview our Nubian Dance teacher, Ahmed Awedony, just before leaving Aswan our last day. Ahmed has been a member, lead dancer, and trainer of the Aswan Saqafa for many years.

“Kaff” refers to the palm of the hand, therefore referring to clapping as part of the dance. There are several regional and population based styles of Kaff this one is “Kaff Ja’afari” of the El Ja’afra people. As in all the styles of Kaff I have observed, the men form lines, circles or other
organized formations. The females (if included) dance more of a freestyle movement and path and do not join the formations of the men.

  • 1:15 Ahmed; mentions some types of Kaff; Kaff Nubi, Kaff Sa’idi, Kaff Ja’afari, Kaff Malki, Kaff Bishari
  • 1:36 Ahmed demonstrates the basic rhythm of Kaff Ja’afari.
  • 1:56 Ahmed and Wael give the nearby location of the Ja’afari people. (Originally they were from the Arabian Peninsula).
  • 3:52 The Ja’afari are not part of the Nubian relocation. Going north from Aswan, as I understand it, there are the Ja’afari Arab area, then the area of the Nubians who were relocated from south of the High Dam.
  • 4:00 Ahmed; Their art style is called spontaneous (improvised) art. Famous singers were Rashad, Younis, Yassar, and Abu Darwish. (Yassar is still living.) They have the ability to compose the lyrics spontaneously and are often hired to perform at weddings to do this.
  • 4:43 This dance and song is called Kaff by the people who do it.
  • 4:46 * In my research with Kaff Sa’idi, practitioners made a designation between Old Kaff and New Kaff. Both of which are/were popular wedding entertainments. The old Kaff structure was a line of men who clapped and danced synchronized steps, the leader, who was in the middle of the line, selected the next step from a shared repertoire of steps/movements. There would be musicians playing frame drums and a singer (without a microphone in those days) near the dancers. If women were also dancing she danced, her face veiled, in a free-style, free structure in front of the men’s line. The new Kaff dance was similar, but the singer, drummers and with the addition of an oud, sat to the side or on an improvised stage.
  • 5:03 Ahmed clarifies that there is the actual Kaff and the stage show Kaff. Then he describes the spontaneous Kaff as actual people would do in weddings. The men would line up in one line, steps and directional moving led by a designated leader. The singer and musicians were on a dikka bench stage. Ahmed Awedony Interview Part 1; Kaff Ja’afari #402
  • 5:47 Wael was translating and was ready to say that the women danced with her face covered. I interrupted and said she danced more free-style. Because Wael is polite, he agreed, but it is a continuous lesson for me not to interrupt, not inserting my comments into an answer or translation.
  • 5:50 Wael tells us that the first man of the line is the leader. (In Kaff Sa’idi it is the man in the center of the line.)
  • 6:00 The singer is either on one side (holding a stick) or on an improvised dikka bench stage, using a microphone accompanied by drummers and an oud. (Apologies for the cough, I was sick)
  • 6:23 Ahmed describes how someone from the dance line gives the singer a subject then the singer has to continue to improvise a song off of that subject. (This is the same as in Kaff Sa’idi.)
  • 6:47 Ahmed sings an example of some opening lyrics suggested by the audience. The singer would then have to continue, in subject and rhythm, an improvisation.
  • 7:04 When Wael starts to translates he realizes that this subject would possibly not be enjoyed by the international females around him. One of those funny moments of cultural clash that happen during research. I tell him to continue, then say a few words to the camera.
  • 7:24 They decide to change the lyric subject.
  • 7:34 Ahmed gives a new example. Wael walks a difficult line between the gender expectations of the cultures present, and we continue.
  • 8:00 * I know in Sa’idi kaff they could have a humorous base to a song, or advice (as we have heard here), or possibly even religious (I have been told, but not witnessed). We ask Ahmed if there is possibly more subjects than those of advice, such as humor or religion.
  • 8:21 Ahmed tells us about the delivery of advice maybe in a humorous way.
  • 8:45 As part of the answer of “no, it is not religious”, I am very surprised when Ahmed says the singer has his glass of alcohol on one side and a joint on the other! I filmed this interview in the Basma Hotel in Aswan the last day of our JtE-4 study tour in October 2019. We were lucky to be in Aswan during rehearsals for the sun-rise celebration to be held in Abu Simbel on Lake Nassar, south of Aswan.

JtE-4 October 2019

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