Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Meet Alf عقبة — a Song Written and Performed to Entertain my 92-Year-Old Grandmother [Video]

A couple of years ago during a summer trip to Egypt I was lucky to spend two full months on the Mediterranean Northern Coast with the family. It was great to reunite with all of them in that peaceful setting. 

During such time I had a passionate date with a sweet young woman which inspired me to write a lighthearted bilingual song. The point was to sing it to my grandmother, Karima, who was 92 years old then and almost in Stage 5 of Alzheimer. The lyrics are not really addressing her, but the word play and the rhymes were all that made her laugh out loud.

She already couldn’t recognise some of us, especially myself who had been away for several years. She actually had to ask every time she sees me in the house, to which I patiently comfort her by trying to remind her that I’m the son of her daughter Mervet, which makes her my grandmother. She would look amazed, and repeats: YOU are the son of Mervat?! ( معقولة ) — really? She was not able to connect the dots, yet she would smile and let it go. Then it’s repeated all over again the next time.

So to add some fun and novelty sometimes I would introduce myself to Madame l
Ambassadrice as the drummer or the entertainer or joker” who’s here to sing for you and make you laugh. Then I proceed with some light drumming and/or simple word play. She has always loved to laugh, dance, and have a good time; and when she lost part of her mind, that didn’t change much. Despite the feeling of being lost, she still had that ability to laugh from the heart — even if it is only temporary and only on occasions. And I loved to help her get there. Simply because laughter is the best of medicine. It certainly is worth it.

I specifically recall a few instances when she would look at me and her mind cannot really grasp who I am. However, it felt like her heart could still remember. Because her face would lighten up, as if getting ready to giggle.
While looking deep into my eyes, I could sense the comfort, familiarity, the peacefulness; it all showed on her face. This is the one who makes me laugh,” she would say. And that was before I utter a single word or share any word play. I guess she might have associated me with that person who made her smile and laugh, even if for those brief moments. You can probably see it in the featured photo above.

Young Karima el Gammal in Ras el Bar

After all, I had lived with her for two years as a 6 and 7-year old when my parents were away. I hold that this time has truly shaped my character and who I am as a person. It was also her who taught me what unconditional love is. We held a truly special bond ever since. So adding some laughter to her confused existence was nothing but a humble thank you for everything.

Fastforward to last Sunday when this wonderful woman peacefully passed on to her next journey at her Zamalek home in Cairo.
Since I’m all the way here in Los Angeles and cannot be with the family at such a time, I added some photos of her to this piece and am resharing it. Such a special, loving and giving soul who will eternally remain dear to our hearts.

I will also be holding a memorial sunset drum circle for her. Nothing too loud, just a small gathering in honour and memory of her great life. We’ll meet by the little pier off the Venice Boardwalk and Rose Avenue at around 5-5:30. Anyone and everyone is welcomed.

Here is the song and lyrics followed by the captures.    

May Her Beautiful Soul Rest In Peace 💗

Meet Alf عقبة


I had a date ...................... و إتشقيت
  Couldn’t be late ................ بس عطيت

يا سلام عالبهجة ................. ’t was so great

Long walk on the beach ...... و مرح فالغيط
البنت لذيذة ............... She heightened my state
      Too happy am I ...................... فقمت غنيت
      Too happy am I ...................... فقمت غنيت

Wonder if she’ll change ...... و نلبس فالحيط
I really hope not .................. لاحسن أنا استويت
ده كلام مكتوب ....... Destiny & Fate 
ده كلام مكتوب ....... Destiny & Fate 

Thing is .................... لو إستنيت
شعري هايشيب ................. Offside و Checkmate
        وأنتخه فالبيت و أنتخه فالبيت   
      وقعاد فالبيت و قعاد فالبيت

 And that is why ................ في ذاك الديت
أنا مانسيت إني افتريت

And that is why ................ في ذات الديت
 أنا رحت و جيت  أنا رحت و جيت

And that is why ................ في هاك الديت
اللي عندي إديت اللي عندي إديت

 و يا سلام عالفرحة ................. ’t was so great
Too happy I am ...................... فقمت غنيت
Too happy I am ...................... فقمت غنيت

و كيت و كيت .......... See you after 8
See you after 8 ......... و كيت و كيت

With younger blonde sister Madiha in Ras el Bar
With my grandfather Yehia Hassan and first daughter Mahy at the Pyramids
Karima with her two daughters Mahy and Mervat (mother)
Another with the girlies
Karima at the farm in Sarawa
Grandma and her hairdo with baby Omar in her Zamalek balcony in Cairo
The family in Agami 1978

In Hawaii during our U.S trip in 1989
Madame lAmbassadrice
Heartwarming collage made by my sister Karima who was named after her and who has
also lived with her for a while later in life
Photo I took of her in 1999 in the Northern Coast of Egypt (Sahel) when she was still smoking her More
Grandma and sunburned boy who had just come back from a few months training
in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and about to enter the adult world — taken by the Northern Coast in 2000

Fun-loving Grandma happily dancing on a boat trip to Aswan in 2001
Karima el Gammal, Northern Coast of Egypt on August 23 2016

That day I came back from sunset drumming on the beach and introduced myself to her as the drummer.
Then I played for her sister Khadiga and herself
taken on my last summer there when the song was written
Highly grateful to have been with her on her final 94th Birthday

Always with us

Shining on and on and on

Recently in 2021, with Instagram added to the social media picture, the fun was extended to short one-minute long videos. Check them out on here: The first of the series Taombellella-laombella2, Eddilo Fel Kazablanka, and the latest Shed el Lebas.

*Article and video originally published August 2015

Poème Tragique

The Alpha-Beta Poem 

Anastasis of the Poetry Quizard 

Lunacy — A Poem Written When I Was 19 

Coming Back To The Real

Mima 56 — A Poem About My Younger Sister Written When I Was 20

Lunacy — A Poem Written When I Was 19 

Coming Back To The Real 

Beth's Death — A Poem Written When I Was 21 

Mima 56 — A Poem About My Younger Sister Written When I Was 20
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