As Hasni Mubarak steps down from his presidential position, one local musician never thought he’d see the day when Mubarak left this post. The leave of Mubarak is a source of inspiration for musician Karim Hassenien, but he says relating his songs about these events to the general public is difficult for him, which is a goal he sets when he writes music. His family lives in Cairo and other than being worried about his family he is really excited about what is happening. This is the seed that may lead to personal songwriting.
Hassenien, although born in D.C. has lived in Egypt for a good portion of his life because that is where his parents are from and they moved back to Cairo as Hassenien was entering middle school. Because of this, he says he is identifies more as an Egyptian than an American.
His music is a mix of folksy guitar playing, traditional Egyptian style and hip/hop. The mix of folksy guitar playing is nn his solo song, “Gone Across the Valley” the song is remincent of Simon and Garfunkel, all of sudden in the middle of the song Hassenein starts singing in a style that similar to the rap group Bone Thugs and Harmony where he dubs his own voice and raps in a falsetto style and keeps the acoustic guitar going underneath. Hassenien has recorded to solo albums but last year started a band with Shivangi (Shiva) Ramachandran who is of Indian descent.
Ramachandran and Hassenien officially became a band after playing a show last year for International Women’s Day. Ramachandran was asked to play a show there and she sought out Hassanein for his help because the two worked as Resident Advisors where they met and started jamming together. This show would form what has become an increasingly popular local band: The Manes.
Hassanein says, “I am not really influenced by band’s styles–more by the rebellious attitude, like the underground hip-hop attitude” Hassenein says that Farside, Common and a Tribe Called Quest are groups that have this attitude.
With the manes, Ramachandran sings and while Hassenien plays guitar and does backup vocals. Their style is, Ramachandran says, “a folsky/indie singer songwriter mix.” Sometimes the group says they’re identified as “indie,” a label Hassenein takes issue with: “I don’t like being labeled an ‘indie’ band because being defined by a genre becomes restricting,” he says and when Hassenien jams he says he likes to mix up styles.. Because Ramachandran can sing and play drums at the same time, Hassenien says they may eventually add another member to their band and play a fully electric show. Something they have never attempted together. Hassensein says the reason for not adding another member is he likes to switch up styles often and he says it is off-putting to some people when you switch between a folksy melody to a hip/hop groove.
“Musically we come from a lot of places and we meet in the middle,” Hassenien says of the band’s style. Hassanein can sing and plays bass, guitar, and tabla , a traditional Egyptian instrument. He listens to older Egyptian music, not the pop music that has come out of Egypt recently.
While they don’t have any shows scheduled yet, Hassenein says the group is looking for opportunities to perform. The Manes also plan to start recording an album at the end of this term. Hassenein has recorded two solo albums and Ramachandran has her own originals as well.
The Manes have recorded mostly covers but they do have two original numbers. Their song “Pretty Boxes” was featured on The Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing, a contest to find the next aspiring musician in Eugene. Listening to pretty boxes underscores Hassenein’s guitar style because of the simple chord progression, but Hassenein can play much more complex riffs, which he could add to the group’s repetioire if they were to switch to electric
It was for that contest that the group picked their name (contest rules required all participants have a title). The duo chose “The Manes” because of their respective huge hairstyles. They do not know where they placed in the contest, but said they were doing well for a while and do not know how where they placed because only the top 16 finalists were announced to the public.