The downtown streets sound like Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra superimposing their combined discographies atop one another.
Cairo has given me everything.

Alvarius B. on
The Invisible Hands

I will not honor your curiosity by pretending to understand what this album means. It just happened – manifested by cosmic fate and driven by situational metaphysics. How often do you put yourself in a position for something extraordinary to happen? For the sake of establishing context, let’s have a look at questions 67, 68, and 69 from the transcript of your ongoing interrogation:

Why have you been working in Cairo for the past two years?

I need something to do…what are YOU doing?

Isn’t it dangerous there?

Danger is overrated, don’t you agree?

Why are you creating two albums out of one, an English and Arabic vocal version of the same album?

I suppose I want to prove to myself that I can do almost anything, like sell the same record twice to YOU…or create a simultaneous cover version of my own album…you think I’m joking?

As a French Canadian once said, always remember to state your answer in the form of a question.

I will never understand what this album means, what it is, what it is not, or how it was conceived, rehearsed, and recorded in Cairo during a period of continual social change, under a cloud of hope and strength, pain and disillusionment, tragedy and joy, a quantum leap in the collective awareness of a people empowered amidst tear gas, bullets, traffic jams, and public holidays. The Egyptians love public holidays. They created a public holiday on my birthday. They named a bridge and a city after my birthday. Maybe I am Egyptian? You see, I have many more questions than you do, so your questions mean nothing to me.

People like to talk in Cairo. Everyone seemingly has an answer for everything, yet how can I question them? How can I argue? They let me smoke in their cafes, restaurants and homes. They even place ashtrays in elevators for my convenience. I could stumble down any sidewalk raving like a lunatic, crouched over and drooling, with a battery-powered turntable spewing Coltrane’s Black Pearls LP on my back at top volume and nobody would even notice me. But they might notice you. The downtown streets sound like Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra superimposing their combined discographies atop one another.

Cairo has given me everything. And what have I done for Cairo? What have I done for the city known as the mother of the world; that which cannot be destroyed; the conqueror of which one must submit to? I continue to ask myself this question. I have submitted blindly to the mother of the world. I will not battle her and refuse any attempt to understand her. Can you repeat the question? I’m sorry, but I’m not REALLY sorry. Remember that one? Learning is remembering. Whatever you may remember, take note that I am the one asking the questions.

The tracks on this record are older than most people I spend time with today. I used to despise these songs and always figured they’d remain buried forever. Sure, they’re mine and I’ll take full responsibility for them. Is it true that I tried to kill these songs? Sometimes I wonder. But they refused to die and resurrected themselves from the inside pocket of an albino Egyptian’s trench coat as he rounded the corner of July 26th and Talaat Harb muttering to himself in a cold December dust storm over two years ago when it all became so clear. I submitted blindly and refused to battle them anymore. They finally conquered me.

I hope you aren’t getting the idea that I know anything about these songs or this album. Are you getting that idea? I’m asking you a personal question. Are you taking me literally? Sometimes I wonder.

Alvarius B., February 2013