Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih: ‘Working with Marvel was a game changer’

Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih: ‘Working with Marvel was a game changer’
“Moon Knight” gave Nazih the chance to create a score that was as universal as the ones he’d first fallen in love with, all with his Egyptian heart. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 June 2022

Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih: ‘Working with Marvel was a game changer’

Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih: ‘Working with Marvel was a game changer’
  • The award-winning musician and composer’s work on ‘Moon Knight’ has brought him global recognition

DUBAI: In contemporary Egyptian cinema, no composer has made a greater impact than Hesham Nazih. Across more than 40 films over an award-winning 20-year-span, Nazih has heightened each project he’s scored, from “Son of Rizk” to “Blue Elephant.” Now, the composer for Marvel’s TV show “Moon Knight,” Nazih has officially made the crossover that only a handful of true international greats, such as Ennio Morricone and A.R. Rahman, have pulled off before him — an opportunity he didn’t take lightly.

“I knew this was huge step for me,” Nazih tells Arab News. “Working with Marvel was a game changer for my career. I had countless thoughts in my head, and I had to fight a lot of them off.”

“Moon Knight” is a singular work for Marvel Studios in more ways than one. Starring Academy Award nominees Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke as well as Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy (from TV’s “Ramy”), it tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder plagued by ancient Egyptian deities in a show that is equal parts comedy, horror and Indiana Jones-esque adventure.




The show tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder plagued by ancient Egyptian deities in a show that is equal parts comedy, horror and Indiana Jones-esque adventure. (Supplied)

Perhaps most importantly, it’s a show that, from its very conception, refused to follow the usual path of Orientalist oversimplification of Egypt — both ancient and modern — that Hollywood has historically taken. Instead, Marvel brought in Egyptian voices both in front of and behind the camera, including director Mohamed Diab, editor Ahmed Hafez, and Nazih.

At first, the composer says, he was paralyzed by the responsibility of identity, questioning how many Egyptian musical traditions to consciously imbue in the show’s score, before realizing that was only getting in his way. After all, Egypt was in his soul, and would come out in his music whether he intended it to or not.

“I decided to stop these thoughts and just enjoy the moment. I told myself, ‘I'm writing music for a Marvel superhero. At my fingertips is a huge orchestra to play with the best conductors in the world.’ I let it out freely and unconsciously. I followed my emotions,” says Nazih.




Oscar Isaac and director Mohamed Diab behind the scenes of Marvel Studios’ “Moon Knight.” (Supplied)

It didn’t take long for him to emotionally connect with the work. As he sat in his studio in Cairo late at night, a space fitted with a bed in case he wants to spend long stretches of time focused on his work (as he often does), he began to watch the series unfold, finding himself overcome.

“What’s amazing about this show is that you can relate to, and feel for, the characters easily, with no extra explanation. It's so clear and impressive on the screen. Giving it my heart wasn't really a hard task, because it was calling to my heart all the time, really,” says Nazih.

“In episode five, for instance, during one scene, there was a moment of silence, so I stopped playing. In that moment, for the first time while playing, I had tears in my eyes. This one got me in the throat. It wasn't because of the music. It was because of the performance of Oscar Isaac. I knew how important that scene was, because it was important to me. I opted for the simplest form of scoring because it delivered instantly,” he continues.

In that moment, Nazih remembered the young boy he once was, sitting in front of a small television watching old movies, noticing how the music was what drew him in the most.




Nazih received the Faten Hamama Excellence Award at the Cairo International Film Festival. (Supplied)

“I was maybe nine years old when I knew this is what I wanted to do. Watching those movies, I kept wondering how this was happening to me, how this music caused a gush of emotion that just (hits) you in your chest and your stomach and everywhere. I was so taken by this when I was a kid. I remember films such as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Rocky,’ the moments they had when the music and the picture and the color and sound become one in your head and heart. I knew I wanted to do this, too. I didn’t even know what it was called, but I knew I wanted to do it,” says Nazih.

“Moon Knight,” with its throwback storytelling elements, gave Nazih the chance to create a score that was as universal as the ones he’d first fallen in love with, all with his Egyptian heart. He and Diab, however, did disagree at times as to how prominent the Egyptian elements should be, Nazih reveals.

“Mohamed wanted to build the score onto the Egyptian elements, and my idea was that the Egyptian presence is there, and it's obvious, but this is not a purely Egyptian show. It has to come out through the story authentically, and at the right moments. One of the great things about this show is that it’s meant for the whole world to watch and relate to. So it couldn’t just be for us Egyptians,” says Nazih.

Part of the issue was that Egypt and its culture is not a monolith. Egypt is a sprawling country with many cultures and musical traditions, so labeling something ‘Egyptian’ was limiting what that could mean. Because of that, the team mixed in music that captured some of the diversity of the country.




Nazih’s score has racked up millions of streams across multiple platforms. (Supplied)

“In Egypt, we listen to different kinds of songs and types of music each and every day,” says Nazih. “You go to the street and you hear Mahreganat, or Egyptian street music. Then you find a coffee shop playing the bassoon music from 70 years ago, and then down the block a hotel has classic Egyptian jazz. It’s all here.”

When Marvel heard Nazih’s score, the feedback was instant — it had exceeded every expectation.

“They kept saying how exciting it was, how fresh it felt. It was hugely gratifying,” says Nazih.

That reaction was mirrored when the show, which debuted this week on Disney+ in the Middle East, was released internationally at the end of March. Nazih’s score has racked up millions of streams across multiple platforms, with many who have no knowledge of his Egyptian heritage or huge body of work commenting that it does what they want a great score to do: Heighten the Marvel storytelling they love so much.

That success did not go unnoticed. Diab revealed to Arab News that Marvel was considering working with Nazih on future projects. While Nazih has not been contacted yet — or perhaps has signed too many non-disclosure agreements to reveal anything — he knows his superlative work was recognized by Marvel’s execs.

“After the final episode aired internationally, (Marvel president) Kevin Feige invited us for a Zoom meeting. He said so many amazing things to me, and to everyone else as well. They’re all really amazing people. They were all helpful and nice and positive. It’s only for such people that you really want to stay up working all night to deliver and outdo yourself, reaching places that you didn’t even know you could go to,” says Nazih. “I would love to work with them all again.”


Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
Updated 03 October 2022

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
  • Exhibition reflects upon notions of time and memory in an era of rapid change

RIYADH: The Misk Art Institute launched a new exhibition in Riyadh titled “Tales of Nostalgia” on Monday.

The exhibition showcases the works of 12 Saudi and international artists who reflect upon notions of time and memory, and nostalgia, exploring alternate narratives through emergent technologies.

Curated by Marnie Benney and Misk Art Institute assistant curator, Alia Ahmad Alsaud, it will be on display at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Art Gallery until Jan. 15. 

“‘Tales of Nostalgia’ is both a reflection upon and a conversation about where we are, as a species, in our endless, intertwined relationship with time and technology,” the organizers said. 

Featuring immersive digital soundscapes, the exhibition aims to shed light on an increasingly technological and digitized world, particularly the increasing importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, workshops, and opportunities to listen to and engage with participating artists over the course of several days.

 


Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November
Updated 03 October 2022

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

DUBAI: The second edition of Middle East Fashion Week (MEFW), organized by the Middle East Fashion Council (MEFC), is set to take place from Nov. 7-10 at The Agenda in Dubai Media City.

The event will also hold the second edition of the Middle East Sustainable Fashion Forum –  a panel of speakers leading discussions on environmentally responsible and financially viable ways to integrate sustainable practices into the design process and the supply chain.

Keeping this theme in mind, the choice of venue becomes more apparent. The Agenda’s vision is to become the world’s first carbon-negative performance venue. “The sound and lighting industry is historically very power hungry, and coupled with AC and facilities, traditionally a large CO2 footprint would be in place for an event such as this. The Agenda will be using the latest technology to reduce power consumption,” reads a description on the event's official website.

Guests attending the event will be able to see their individual carbon footprint for attending the shows and how it is offset.

Designer applications for Middle East Fashion Week are open until October 10, 2022. To apply, email [email protected]

 


Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show
Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2022

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

DUBAI: Supermodel Gigi Hadid hit the outdoor runway at Givenchy’s latest show at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday.

The US Dutch Palestinian star showed off an all-denim look, featuring a button-down jacket along with a below-the-knee jean skirt with oversized pockets.

Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)

Hadid walked the runway amid less than perfect weather as VIP guests, including US singer Olivia Rodrigo, survived torrential downpours only thanks to helpers clutching transparent umbrellas. But the show had to go on. For Matthew M. Williams, a designer who has garnered lukewarm reviews of late, this collection was a little like crunch time, The Associated Press reported.

For spring, the US designer moved his street aesthetic in a dressier direction — likely trying to bring himself to the safer ground of the age-old house’s traditional aesthetic.

An oversized tweed black bolero cut a creatively surreal silhouette atop a pencil-thin mini dress, twinned with Matrix-style shades. Elsewhere, features such as rouching on a silken top, or draping on a fluid skirt, resembled thick organic sinews or human ribs.

This felt like a positive, gently transgressive, direction for the house immortalized by Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress.

However, many of Williams’ design elements still felt out of place on the Paris runway, such as 90s low-slung cargo shorts that seemed unflattering, clashing with the black silken ruffled cuffs that dangled down.

Earlier at Paris Fashion Week, Hadid hit the runway at the Isabel Marant show, wearing the French label’s Spring-Summer 2023 collection. 

She strutted down the runway in an oversized cameo print jacket in neutral hues and was joined by her sister Bella, who showed off two looks. The first featured a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag. The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest.

The sisters also walked the catwalk for Italian brand Versace at Milan Fashion Week.

Donatella Versace’s collection conveyed female power in a way that only the label can.

“I have always loved a rebel,’’ Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confidence, smart and a little bit of a diva (sic).”

The show conveyed a strong sense of female ritual as models traversed a runway lit by dark candles and lined with stained-glass windows with the Versace medusa head, before exiting through glass-enclosed spaces where bathrobe-clad men lounged on gilded chairs amid purple columns, underlining a shift in the power dynamic.

 


Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards
Updated 03 October 2022

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

CAIRO: Despite playing host to two of the Arab world’s most prestigious film festivals, as well as being famous for its storied film industry, Egypt has decided not to submit any titles for the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards, with industry insiders telling Arab News the decision was a difficult one.

The members of the film selection committee, which falls under the Cinema Professionals Syndicate, decided to opt out of the running for the Oscars, which will be held on March 12, 2023. However, some critics did voice their support for a clutch of films.

Art critic Faiza Hindawi, a member of the committee, told Arab News that one film which generated huge buzz was Nadine Khan’s “Abu Saddam.” However, the film failed to make the cut due to strict regulations about its release date.

“‘Abu Saddam’ was not on the list of the four films closest to nomination due to its non-compliance with the conditions and regulations stipulated in the awards, including the date of the screening. One of the conditions is that the film was shown in the year 2022 and, unfortunately, ‘Abu Saddam’ was shown last year,” Hindawi explained.

“We are bound by conditions that must be met in the works that are nominated, procedural conditions (as well as) technical conditions, meaning that the films that meet the procedural conditions are presented to us to choose from, and the list did not contain ‘Abu Saddam,’” she added.

A few of the titles floated for consideration this year included “Kira Waljen” directed by Marwan Hamed; “Qamar 14” directed by Hadi El-Bagoury; “The Crime” directed by Sherif Arafa; and “2 Talaat Harb” directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali.

Egyptian producer, scriptwriter and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Mohamed Hefzy added that despite a bevy of commendable films released in 2022, none were nominated due to the high standard of films that will compete from around the world.

Mohamed Hefzy shared his thoughts on the lack of an Egyptian submission this year. (AFP)

“The committee that made the decision included more than 30 filmmakers, and it is clear that the films presented to them did not live up to their expectations to be nominated for the Oscars,” he told Arab News.

“As a person who is a member of the Academy, and those who vote for the best international film, I can say that the level of the 90 films that compete every year for Oscars from all over the world are well-made films, so the competition is very tough, and in my opinion when there aren’t any Oscar-worthy movies worth nominating it’s better to not nominate any,” he added.

Previous films submitted for Oscars consideration by Egypt include “Soad” (2019), “Youm El Din” (2018) and “Sheikh Jackson” (2017), among others.


US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi
Updated 03 October 2022

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Just when you thought Abu Dhabi’s event calendar couldn’t get any busier, events organizer Live Nation has announced a new music festival headed to the UAE capital. Amplified Music Festival will take place on Yas Links from Nov. 11-13. Coming to the UAE for the first time, the three-day-long event will see international headliners OneRepublic, Ministry of Sound and CAS perform.

Performing on Nov. 11 will be American pop rock band OneRepublic, most famous for their smash single “Apologize.” The band recently released a new single, “I Ain’t Worried,” featured in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

On Nov. 12, festival-goers can witness the 15-piece Ministry of Sound Funk & Soul band presenting their celebrated live show, “Ministry of Sound Disco.”

On Nov. 13, alternative pop phenomenon CAS, who sold out two shows on their previous visit to the UAE earlier this year, will take to the stage as headliners.