Category Archives: Pop culture

Salsa DJ-ing For Dummies

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Dear Mr. DJ,

I am going to be honest here. And not just honest-honest, but brutally honest. So, if you can’t handle that, stop reading now. I don’t mean to offend, I just want you to improve! (And I’m doing this for the greater good because I’m so tired hearing the same comments again and again that you suck. It hurts because it’s true, and it hurts more because you are not doing anything about it!)

Maybe you’re not cut out to be a DJ, but don’t worry, we’ll try to fix that! Fake it until you make it, right? But you have been faking it since I remember you starting to play music at salsa socials and you haven’t made it yet. Boy, that’s like three years ago and we still have a long way to go!

I’m only giving you two options here: either give up, or do something about it, damnit!

If you choose to give up, you will be doing all of us a big favor! Thank you very much! I hope I don’t see you in the music booth ever again. But we all know that’s just my wishful thinking. Because you will be there at your throne week after week. So, for the love of salsa your career, please, do something about it!

1. Never play the same song twice. I mean come on! Too many salsa songs, an abundance of salsa artists and even remixes, and you’re playing El Nazareno twice? Really?!

2. Remember that you are a DJ, not an iPod. I know that after Baila Mi Hermano, you will play La Excelencia. And after that song, you will play that Prince Royce bachata song. I have memorized your playlist and I don’t even have a good memory! Why else do we have a DJ if you’re just going to be an iPod?

3. Give me an answer. Know your music, mate. You’re a DJ, music is supposed to be your best friend. So, when I ask you for a title of a certain song that you just played two minutes ago, you don’t tell me that you don’t know because I will throw Armageddon shit at you! You don’t tell me that it’s track 13! You. Just. Can’t. Do. That.

4. Entertain us. Stop it, I’m not going to ask you to do cartwheels or join a circus or start a belly dance. I’m not even asking you to be like DJ Tono La Conga or DJ Henry Knowles. Let’s keep it real. I just need you to give us variety. Spin music that will make us, salsa dancers, want to get up on our feet and dance. That’s not even a hard thing to do considering we already want to dance in the first place. Salseros and salseras already did 50% of your job. Now all you have to do is play good music. Surprise us with something NEW, something we never heard before!

5. Observe. Guess what, you don’t even have to know how to dance salsa. You just have to know your crowd. Are we sitting down? How is the overall mood? Is the floor empty? Do we look like we’d rather go home? Are we dancing because you’re playing awesome music? Or are we dancing because we have no other choice? You’re not blind, you can see that energy levels are dropping. Do. Something.

6. And lastly, but I think the most important of all, if you’re going to call yourself a DJ, at least love music. In your case, salsa music! Listen to it while you’re driving. While you’re having lunch, while in the shower. Research about new tracks. Read about famous salsa DJs and listen to their sets! Listen to Latin radio channels online. I do that everyday and I’m not even a DJ. Certainly, that won’t be too difficult for someone like you who’s getting paid to play music. That’s like the least effort you can do.

See, piece of cake. I’m not even going to ask you to have a nice personality. I don’t need your personality. What I need is your music and it better be good!

Dusk to Dawn

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So, today, I am trying something different and putting my creative soul into song writing instead of my usual hopeless romantic narrative. The song I wrote is titled Dusk to Dawn and this song is about taking chances with love even when there are no guarantees.

If you can dare listen to me sing my song in acapella, then feel free to listen to it here: Dusk to Dawn by Cairogypsy

Lyrics:
Morning comes and I see your face
A touch of light in a summer place
Your arms around me and it feels so right
I’m glowing, you’re smiling, the sun is bright

Oh, oh, oh, softly, gently, come to me
Oh, oh, oh, softly and gently kiss me

We walk to the park and you hold my
hand
You look in my eye, I see a butterfly
It feels so warm, it feels so light
But the sun is burning, the dawn is coming

Oh, oh, oh, softly, gently, come to me
Oh, oh, oh, softly and gently kiss me

Slipping, gliding, we’re miles apart
The distance is growing and it’s just the start
Where to begin when it’s already ending
You are leaving and I am staying

Oh, oh, oh, one last time hold me
Oh, oh, oh, one last time touch me
Oh, oh, oh, softly, gently, come to me
Oh, oh, oh, softly and gently kiss me
Oh, oh, oh, kiss me my darling, kiss me

Stop Lying To Yourself And Just Love

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I am not going to talk or write about love here, so you can breathe now. I mean, seriously, why would I do that? Ew. Gross. So cheesy, so high school. Who does that?

Disclaimer: I am going to talk and write about love here. I mean, seriously, why wouldn’t I do that?

I am convinced that no matter how we try to veer away from it or act like we don’t care, a lot of things, if not everything, still breaks down to love.

For instance, why do we have this lethal habit of checking our phones every minute when we know it’s not on silent? Why do we get a heart failure when we read that deadly ‘seen’ icon on facebook and receive no reply? Why can’t Friday come any faster? Why do we want to know their middle names, their favorite colors, and why do we want to know everything right now?

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we send that person an actual message instead of gouging our eyes out because they haven’t texted us back yet? It’s like complaining that you never won the lottery when you know you never bought a ticket!

Either it’s love or you’re stupid, and I refuse to think you’re stupid.

It is love. I’ve said that to about every guy who came into my life, to every shoe and dress that perfectly fit, to every paperback I actually read, to every single track I played on repeat, every movie that made me tear up. It is love.

And yes, I know it sounds too naive, too infantile to call all these ordinary, everyday things love when it should be said with proper caution and utmost care. Love is something–an idea, a feeling, an expression so massive and so heavy that we only dare use it when we talk about Titanic, or the epic love story that Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy had.

Love is the Voldemort of our vocabulary. It must not be named. As a general rule, we can’t just drop it like a bomb or we risk having a second Hiroshima.

No one ever say it anymore (with the exception of happily married couples and romcom movies.) I hardly even hear it (with the exception of anyone from my side of the family and almost every other pop song.) I hear friends refer to it as physical attraction. Some call it emotional connection. Others may have used the term pleasure or just for fun, or something casual and temporary. They call it an affair, a fling, a thing. A thing, that’s right. It’s an interest, a quest, a challenge. It’s the cat and mouse game. The impossible chase. I know a few people my age who still calls it a crush. Yes, having a crush still happens even now. Come on, you think late 20s is about maturity, and epiphanies, and wisdom? WRONG!

Different labels, different names. We call it everything else but. Because it’s safe. Because it poses no danger, because there is no pressure, no obligation, no responsibility, no nothing.

It can be anything else but. That’s why we put up this wall and keep people away. No one can be let in, no one is allowed to come too close. The door is closed, sorry. So, we try to act real cool. We pretend that we have our shit together when we’re totally uncool and freaking out within.

Why can’t it be? I ask. Because it’s too soon, they say. Because we’re only hanging out. Because it’s only two mature individuals on a date and nothing else. Because we’re just friends and nothing more. Because we want the emotional satisfaction minus the drama and complication. Yeah. Because, because, because, and heaps of other excuses we tell ourselves because it scares the hell out of us.

We are afraid to be the ones who say it first. We don’t want to be the one who does it more because the moment we do, we’ve already lost. We’re already on the disadvantage. Or are we?

No one wants to be the crazy chic. No one wants to be the creepy dude. And yet we crave for that person to say it first–for that person to love us more. But maybe love is treading dangerous waters. Maybe it is infantile, and silly, and weird. Maybe it’s about the boring, minute details. Maybe loving is a disadvantage. It’s an abomination. A bomb!

Ah, the irony, we might as well call it stupid.

I think I’m sooo stupid about him.

I think I’ve fallen madly stupid with her.

I really think this is it. It’s stupid!

Or how about ‘stupid means never having to say I’m sorry’?

Or ‘it’s better to have stupided and lost than never to have stupided at all’?

Or ‘stupid like there’s no tomorrow’?

Does that make it less scary? Does that make you feel more comfortable now?

Here I am using love haphazardly even if it’s scary and makes me feel uncomfortable, not for the lack of a better word but because it is the better word. It is the word that encompasses the entire spectrum of beautiful and ugly, of sane and insane, of right and wrong, of strengths and weaknesses, of every wise and dumb decision, of every victory and loss, of that first kiss, of that last touch, of the one who got away and the one who stayed.

We have to start broadcasting our feelings the way radio programs do. It doesn’t have to be the most creative, or the most unforgettable, the most brilliant or extreme. We just have to fucking tell them, damnit! I mean, seriously, you don’t go asking for tea when you really want coffee!

Jack loved Rose, and we all know how that story went down but that’s not the point. My point is they were able to recognize and acknowledge love in a ship. In a fucking ship! Amidst icebergs, and disaster, and difference in social class status, not to mention Rose’s vengeful ex-boyfriend. So, unless you’re in a ship that is bound to hit a massive iceberg, just love.

Let’s do ourselves a big favor and just stop playing it safe. For once, love. And love proud. Love even when it’s inconvenient. Love in small doses, love all at once. Go nuclear! Love like you did when you got your first puppy. Love the way you want to be loved. Love intentionally, love unintentionally. Fall in love with that guy like you did with Nick Carter when you were nine. Love that girl like you loved your first edition comic and know that you might actually have a shot at it this time. In the grander scheme of things, it’s really simple, maybe all we need is a little bit of crazy and a lot more of love.

To The Broken Ones

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You are damaged and lost and struggling your way out of this deep shit, and I will do anything for you. I will rush home from a salsa party and skype with you because you are drunk and alone in your hotel room in Geneva and trying to contemplate how to get out of the dark abyss. I will be online with you in silence. I will stay up til later and not think about the time difference because you need someone who will listen. You will tell me that you started reading Paulo Coelho and I will tell you how terrible that is because he is dark and depressing and you don’t need dark and depressing right now. What you need is Bukowski and I will send his poems to you by email. Side by side with Hemingway so you can distract yourself from the pain even for a few stolen minutes. Yes, you have a broken heart, but I will not let you have bad taste in literature.

I know none of this will help–not my advice that I have stolen from self-help books, not Bukowski, not even the fact that you are hopping from one train ride to one European country to another. Over those long train rides to France, to Macedonia, and to wherever your map is taking you, brace yourself–you will remember her–the smell of her hair, the way the sunlight through the window touches her skin in the morning, the way her voice sounds in your ears. You will remember it all.

And in this unexpected nostalgia, you will feel more alone than ever. More abandoned. And you will be scared and caught off guard. And you will convince yourself that it is impossible to still feel that way after a long, hard year. But you will not be convinced.

Deep down, you know that eight years boil down to eight years. And no matter how you turn the world upside down, everything still amounts to the eight years you spent with her, and the same eight years that you will never get back.

You will feel heavy, and sometimes you will feel a gaping hole. There will be days when everything won’t make any sense, and you will try to forget with alcohol, with art, with expensive coffee, with the Eiffel Tower, with every girl you meet on the road.

You will cheat your heart, kiss beautiful girls you have a chance on kissing. And you will still be frustrated.

I know all of these not because I am any wiser but because goddamnit I am just as silly and hopeless like you. I’ve been there and I know how much it hurts. I was 18 and this boy charmed me with his music and I thought that was love. I lost my virginity at 21 to my college boyfriend in my residence hall on a winter night and thought that that was also love. And I remember crying buckets over a backpacker I met whose itinerary did not end in my direction, thinking that, too, was love. Most of all, I remember unkempt promises and wasted time and forgotten dreams and a broken heart.

So I will skype with you until the morning and listen to you pour your heart out the way you did when my Australian boyfriend disappeared, when my Italian boyfriend left me. And I will tell you the world’s number one cliche–it will be okay. Because everything will be healed and made new with time.

I will tell you that everything will work out. Because, eventually, it always does. Wounds heal, scars vanish, pain numbs your skin. Ten years from now, I won’t remember the thick accent of that French guy, or the way I felt when I had my first and only new year’s eve kiss, or the way my Egyptian ex boyfriend told me he loved me in the middle of the desert. I won’t remember dancing salsa with that Italian guy while listening to all his favorite Latin songs in repeat. I won’t even remember the title of those songs. And you will not remember the time you spent with her in Thailand, or that English girl you kissed on Christmas day, or that Aussie girl you met in Zurich. You won’t remember the girl you loved in a small island in the Philippines, the girl you fell in love with over tajine in Morocco, the way that girl from Macedonia held your stare, the way you were sure that it felt whimsical, and mysterious–none of these will matter. Everything will be forgotten.

But the thing is, I am a big, fat liar. Because we will remember. I will remember all of those boys, and you will remember all of those girls. And it will hurt but it will be okay. When you think about it, what kind of heart does not look back?

There will be better days. The pain will lessen little by little, the hole in your gut will decrease inch by inch. But I am lying and you will know I am lying and you will still feel broken. But please know that it will be alright in the end.

One of these days, you will wake up in the middle of the night and remember the way someone held your hand in the peak of summer and it felt comfortable. You will think of the way someone kissed you on a minus 4 weather and it felt warm. You will be reminded of how her hellos sent goosebumps down your spine and how her goodbyes left you chilling to the bone. You will read a certain book or listen to a particular song and everything will be back in a flash. It will never completely go away, but it’s alright. It’s okay. This is what breaks you but this is also the very same thing that makes you.

You don’t have to be fixed today. There’s nothing wrong in being damaged. Everything takes time, much more healing. If you have to be broken, then be broken. If you must feel pain, then so be it. Just don’t lose yourself in the process because I know you and I see your potential–in life, in love, in misery, in sadness. So, feel it all. Do not deny yourself these emotions. Claim it. It’s okay, you will breathe again.

A Dance With A Boy (A Novel)

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In an underground salsa bar in Cairo, two dancers cross paths. Two dancers who are very different from each other find their lives intertwined to the same playlist. Will their passion for salsa dancing keep them together on and off the dance floor? Join Pamela and Tamer in a center stage romance as they dance under the spotlight.

A Dance With A Boy (Preface)

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If two weeks ago, someone told me that that boy, with short yellow hair, who started showing up at salsa nights at Bian Caffe approximately five months ago–yes, that same boy who always seems to be wearing a different variation of a red shirt every time I happen to run into him at any salsa social, and who always, always manages to sit in the same corner, the same corner that just happens to be exactly opposite my corner–and I will be dating, I swear I’ll be like, are you fucking kidding me? Because ha ha ha, that is so unfunnily offensive in so many levels:

1. I don’t know his name, and I don’t think he knows mine because–
2. We never ever danced, not once, and that leads us to–
3. He never ever asked me to dance. Not even once. And besides–
4. Even if we pretend that I know his name and he knows mine, and say that we’ve danced not just once, the idea of dating him or him dating me will be the last thing on my mind considering that–
5. I’ve just had a beautiful breakup with my beautiful Sicilian boyfriend who I’ve had a beautifully crafted four-month relationship with from the night I met him at a beautiful salsa party in Sydney.

So, seriously, ha ha ha. That’s the lamest attempt at a joke ever and the punch line is not even funny!

Until it is.

A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 1)

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Pamela

Baila Mi Hermano is one of those old-school salsa songs that I will always, always hear at any salsa party in Cairo. I could be dancing salsa at Bellini on a Tuesday night and that song will play. I could be sitting at Nile Maxim on Wednesday and that song will play. I could be standing next to the DJ booth at Bian Caffe on Thursday and I can put my money on it, that song will play.

I don’t especially hate that song, but I don’t especially like it either. I don’t have any idea what baila mi hermano means in English, and I certainly don’t have the time to google translate that now because, speaking of the devil, that song starts playing on cue and it is absolutely no good for drowning out creepy guy number four who starts sprinting towards my direction in an attempt to ask me to dance. So, I quickly maneuver to my table and dig my face to a slice of pizza.

“I’m eating. Maybe later.” I say between mouthfuls that my voice sounds chewy, wet, and stuffed all at the same time. The disgusted look on creepy guy number four’s face is priceless! He gives me an uncomfortable nod then turns around. I think he gets it now: later means never.

I have been dancing salsa long enough to know that there are only two types of guys at any salsa venue–there are the guys who I say yes to because they are there to dance, and then there are the guys who I say no to because they are there for something else. At the moment, there are seven guys who belong to my guys-who-I-say-no-to list and about 100 different ways on my how-to-say-no-to-guys-who-I-say-no-to list.

No, I’m having a break.
No. Maybe next dance.
No, I’m smoking a cigarette.
No. I’m too tired.
No, I told Alaa that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told Mokbel that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told [Whattheheck?! Insert any guy friend’s name here] that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I don’t like this song.
No, my dancing shoe broke!
No, I’m eating. (Even though there is absolutely no more slice of pizza left on my plate.)

No. No. No.

But saying no is not the only thing that I know and absolutely not the only thing that I do. I also know the seemingly new faces that pops at a salsa event every once in a while. I know because I am watching closely. I am watching closely not because I am creepy, but because I have been dancing and observing the same people at least two nights a week for the last three years that I can tell who is who just by looking at their shoes. So, if there is a new shoe on the dance floor and that new shoe is killing it, I’m hoping those shoes are from a guy who I can potentially say yes to. But how can I say yes to them if they never ask me to? And if they never grow the balls to ask me to dance, then the answer is always a ballsy no.

However, there are occasions when I do the asking because chivalry is apparently dead and forgotten. Nine out of ten times, I would get an easy yes. No sweat, except when–

“No, Pam, I can’t. I promised Radwa I will dance with her on the next song and this is the next song. Sorry, habebty, next one,” Amr says when I tried to pull his hand to the dance floor the moment Adele Set Fire to the Rain. All the guys who I like dancing with are already doing cross-bodys and underarm turns, and whatnots on the dance floor while I sit on my spot and watch as one of my favorite salsa remixes goes to waste untouched and unloved and unjustifiably danced. The one out of ten times that someone says no, and it has to be on an Adele song!

Despite this minor glitch, I do love going to salsa parties because it can be the only social thing that I do and it can also be the only non-social thing that I do. Usually, when I walk in at a salsa party, I always feel like I’m walking to a red carpet night minus the red carpet designer long gowns and paparazzi. I say hello to everyone and do the cheek-to-cheek a bazillion times before I can find my seat. Or everyone will come and pull me for a quick hug and howareyous before I can change into my dancing shoes. As much as salsa dancing is very social, it could also be very anti-social. Once DJ Migo starts blasting music in the background, that’s the cue for everyone to shut up and start pairing up on the wooden floor. So, for someone like me, who always fails at small talks, and who thinks silence is awkward, dancing salsa is the best bet. I don’t have to speak more than six words to people who aren’t my friends and who I have no interest in being friends with. I can just simply say a non-committal hello, or shrug, or nod, or wave, or smile, or not smile, and no one will think that I’m being rude. In fact, no one would suspect that I’m being rude. It’s like, yey! I get to be rude in your face and you don’t even know it! Awesome!

I’m not forced to be with anyone either, yet I am here with everyone at the same time. I can be an insider as much as I can be an outsider. I can introduce myself to new people, start chit-chatting with anyone at an arm’s length. I can connect and totally disconnect. I can give a fuck and not give a fuck. There will always be loud music playing which means I don’t have to deal with the silence until the party ends, and even then, the silence won’t be so bad because I’ll be huddled and snuggled, and cuddled to goodbye hugs and drowned to seeyounexttimes that it won’t be totally silent at all.

It’s just the best of both worlds for the social-non-social me, and that is probably why I keep coming back every Thursday night even though Bian Caffe is a two hour drive from home on a really bad day. And even though I don’t drive. And even though the only person who can possibly give me a ride home tonight has said no to dancing with me when Adele Set Fire to the Rain, and is still, in fact, dancing with Radwa even after Adele’s voice fades out and Yo No Se Manana fades in.

He better say yes to driving me home tonight!