Every so often you chance upon an artist full of talent and promise you can’t wait to hear what’s next to come from them. One becomes more appreciative when recognising the myriad difficulties musicians face in the region. One such musician is Alexandrian native Abdelrahman Abou Shelou, known via rock project The Chikatura.
We first came across Shelou via a collaboration with another representative of the ‘talent that belies its tender age’ brigade, Jordan’s Almosstnqa’a. The standout track was My Plants Have Withered, Shelou’s powerful voice and classical Arabic delivery conveying a mangled state of sorrow.
Always a singer, Shelou did not start making music until “I figured what kind of music I actually like,” he told 3/4. The answer to that was the more contemporary exponents of Progressive Rock. After tinkering with assorted audio production software Shelou then picked up the bass guitar.
And all this feeds into the music of The Chikatura, a synthesis of electronic and acoustic sounds usually centered around a bass line with his vocals flowing more freely over the rhythm and melody, or as he calls it, an “electronic recreation of a rock band.”
“Although I like to add a lot of synths and layers to my sounds, it’s usually built up around a bass line and a guitar/synth riff. But it’s a completely different story for my vocals, all of my vocal lines are improvised and hardly ever reflect on the instruments, but on the lyrics or the mode instead.”
His latest song, In Valerie’s Eyes, is the track most exemplary of this approach. Kicking off with a bass riff that evokes Alice In Chains, Shelou starts reciting a poem written by an anonymous friend, parts of which he speaks and other parts he sings, to great dramatic effect. A slide-sounding guitar peppers the intro and when the percussion starts to kick in Shelou shifts the vocals to English. Guitar feedback then transitions into a keyboard melody and a drum-based outro, his vocal stylings by then pushed lower in the mix, barely heard above the cacophony.
But while the talent is undisputed, Shelou offers a sobering and honest assessment of its future, touching upon obstacles most independent musicians face. “I hardly ever get the feeling like this is all going somewhere good, or even have the slightest idea of how things might work out for a musician like me, a lot of the procrastination going on in my work is because of that.”
However, he will soldier on for now, buoyed by the thought of “preparing ‘live’ material, that would require a full band to arrange, record and play,” even though he’s well aware that it “will take a much longer time than I’d ever hope for.” We wish him the best in his endeavours.