Cairo, Egypt: local metallers are getting ready to celebrate with Metal Blast Festival this weekend as they achieve the fifth year milestone for their metal events tradition. Although this year is only the third consecutive actual Metal Blast Festival under it’s current identity, the movers and shakers behind the scenes have walked a precarious path to shape it into what it represents today as a center for the genre not only in Egypt, but the entire MENA region (Middle East / North Africa). Furthermore, sights have been set in 2016 to begin expanding it to enjoy a more global footprint. We spoke with the key figure behind the organizing of this festival to share it’s story:
“Actually, Metal Blast started as just a small dream for some young musicians; all we wanted was a stage, some lighting, and a big drum setup like pictures we see and videos we watch!” ~ Usama Ahmed (event coordinator, Metal Blast Festival)
Usama went on to describe how a collection of students and post-graduates, mostly with backgrounds in the arts and event management assembled to attempt what was thought of as the impossible by reviving a live concert scene which had fallen largely dormant for a long number of years. Indeed, many from the original group encountered issues which caused for them to leave in disappointment. As for himself, Usama persevered and committed to the study of event management and volunteered in other events to gain in experience.
“Then I started to collect a crew to bring this dream back to life. We have lots of bigger dreams, but we’re building it step by step” ~ Usama Ahmed
The significance of the current show is the inclusion of Finland’s doom heavyweights Swallow The Sun, and other European acts such as Dimlight from Greece, and Inner Missing from Russia. Of course, local acts still make up a cornerstone of the event and this year includes Odious from the nearby coastal city of Alexandria, and Medic from the host-city of Cairo. This is not the beginning of international entertainment for the festival, however, and we traced the story back to it’s origins.
Right from the beginning, Metal Blast sought to focus on metal within the entire region rather just from the territory of Egypt itself. The first guest band from abroad was fellow MENA region Thrash Metal act Blaakyum from Lebanon, and later guests at Metal Blast shows also included Bilocate and Exile from Jordan, plus Perversion from the United Arab Emirates.
It appears that the Metal Blast Festival, as it is now known today, began taking on it’s more festival-like character in 2013 with the inclusion of it’s first European guests, Banisher from Poland, before adopting the name of Metal Blast Festival with the following year also falling on a similar date. Thus, the current tradition took it’s first steady steps towards becoming a proper establishment in the Eqyptian live scene.
“Firstly, we were determined to bring the scene back to life and reunite it all once again. We had to work to deliver a new image for metal music and our scene in the Arabic society, as well as creating a fan base for the festival by providing them with good quality experience, as well as introducing new bands and talents from the local scene. The next phase was to provide new blood and open new challenges to the local scene to exchange the experience with foreign bands, as we did with the amazing Polish. Lastly, we had to brand Metal Blast in a new shape and a different scale of putting Egypt’s name and the festival name into the worldwide festivals map.” ~ Usama Ahmed
A strong relationship also had developed with the Polish metal scene via assistance from the local embassy, and from which a cultural exchange program emerged. In following years, Metal Blast Festival also hosted Polish underground bands Depopulate and Materia.
“This year we have got more than thirty requests from bands in different countries that wanted to share our stage, but of course, we can’t put this number in one day with one stage. However, this year is special as its the beginning of a new chapter in our Journey. We’ve got huge support from our local scene and also from other countries where even the bands didn’t expect such feedback.” ~ Usama Ahmed
Further information on this weekend’s festival can be found at the official facebook event page.
Metal Blast Festival 2016 poster
Some additional information included in a press release includes to describe that Metal Blast is not focused only on hosting it’s annual festival event, but is also focused on a bigger picture for development of local musicians and furthering their experience and learning.
“With a main goal of supporting the local and regional metal scene through creating a platform for bands and artists currently playing underground to share the stage and exchange knowledge and culture with international giants:
Metal Blast is not just a music festival, but it also has educational development projects in the form of music workshops. These workshops are designed to improve and support the scene and helps the newer generation of rockers/metalheads to socialize, learn more about their instruments, and possibly meet their next band
mates. Consequently, spreading metal music culture through Egypt and the entire MENA region.” ~ press release, Metal Blast Festival