Sayid Henkesh #150

Part 1 – Sayid Henkesh on TV program #150

When I came to Cairo in 1989 to do research towards my Master’s Thesis in Dance Ethnology,
the pioneering Mahmoud Reda introduced me to Sayid Henkesh of Mohamed Ali Street to help
me get information on the Zeffat al ‘Arusah. Mohamed Ali Street was well known to have been
the center for Cairo wedding zeffah and farrah entertainment. The Henkesh family was known
to be both excellent musicians and famous wedding entertainment organizers. In addition,
Sayid Henkesh was also a musician in the Kowmeyya National Troupe. Mahmoud Reda had
been in a leadership position over both Firqit Reda and Kowmeyya. He felt Sayid Henkesh
would be the one he would trust to help me in my quest for information.

Sayid Henkesh had also been the primary contact for Karin van Nieuwkerk in her research of
Mohamed Ali street for “A Trade Like Any Other: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt.”
In his career he has been helpful to many foreign dancers and scholars. For years I have wanted to give him his due. I have interviewed him many times, but never achieved a polished
interview that is easy to view and hear.

I am starting this series on Estaz Henkesh with a TV program. Until now I have only included
my own video, this is the first from an outside source. Wael Mohamed Ali translated, and I put
on the subtitles. The TV program is “Sahibet al-Saada” moderated by Esaad Younis. Just
being on this program establishes an artist as important even with people in other regions of
Egypt who might not otherwise know the individual.

0:14 Hostess Esaad Younis welcomes Sayid with “Amm Sayid Henkesh”! which is a warm
welcome meaning “Uncle Sayid Henkesh” This particular show’s welcome is famous.
People have recognized this welcome that would not have recognized Mr. Henkesh on
the street.
0:27 She introduces Sayid as “one of the founders of the modern Mohamed Ali Street”.
0:45 Sayid was an accordion musician, as was his father. But Sayid normally stresses their
occupation as wedding entertainment leaders, they would work with the awalem
entertainment. He clarifies that they were called “awalem”, now they are called “artists”.
1:16 He tells the origin of his name “Henkesh”, with his name being different on his ID. (There
are several stories as to the meaning of “Henkesh”). His father originally was a carpenter
who enjoyed playing the tablah. Later his father played accordion.
His brothers Khamis, Reda, and Ramadan Henkesh were/are all drummers.
2:51 At one point when Sayid was the eldest of the male family he considered making a family
band called ”Firqit Hanakesh”, Khamis was recovering from illness and Sayid thought it
would be a good thing for them to work together. He talked to a well-placed producer
who agreed to try the band. Sayid said it was not financially successful, but was
successful from the artistic aspect.
4:05 The hostess asks when they made the decision to open the musical instrument shop?
As the answer he explained the fame of his father as a wedding entertainment planner.
“If the wedding was not managed by Henkesh, it was not a proper wedding.” Sayid
named some of the big film stars whose weddings his father managed.
5:02 The hostess asks who of these stars were born and raised on Mohamed Ali street.
He explains Mohamed Ali was the street of art. People used to walk on these streets to
see the big artists. Also there were 3 coffee shops where stars used to sit and be seen.
5:49 Sayid tells about the time President Gamal Abdul Nassar sat in El Tegara coffee shop.
There was a full band; qanoon, tablah, riq, violins, all playing the presidential anthem.
6:19 The hostess voices her frustration that there were no film cameras to catch this, nor any
journalist’s camera.
6:41 Sayid names some of the famous stars that would sit at the coffee shops. Hassan el
Amzogy, Nagib el Selehdar, …
7:38 Mohamed Roushdy also sat at El Tegara coffee shop, and Mohamed el Azaby,
Mohamed Shokoko, Shafiq Galal…
7:55 Film clips of Antar wa liblib 1952 and Shokoko,
first playing on the character of the “ibn el balad” and
then as the puppet “aragooz”..

“Sahibet al-Saada” moderated by Esaad Younis

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