It’s been an action-packed year for Amir Eid, the lead singer of the groundbreaking Arabic rock-pop band Cairokee, who just released several tracks off his debut solo album, which came in parallel with season two of the hit show, RIVO. Created by Mohamed Nayer and directed by Yahya Ismail, the show premiered on Watch It, starring Amir Eid as Shady, the lead member of a fictional indie band shrouded in mystery.
Much like Cairokee’s journey to success, and particularly that of lead singer Amir Eid, RIVO depicts the arduous road of a band determined to change the musical landscape in which it exists. We hear this all packed into RIVO’s brilliant soundtrack. Meanwhile, the deep nostalgia for the glory days of the ‘90s was perhaps another factor behind RIVO’s mass appeal.
Amir says the idea for RIVO began with his friend, script writer Mohamed Nayer, who kept trying to sell him the character of Shady for years. For the Cairokee lead singer, the decision to embark on this new experience was not an easy choice to make.
“[Mohamed] would always tell me: ‘You will play the role of Shady,’ and I would respond by saying: ‘My son, I do not want to act,’” Amir explains. But it seems that seven years of preparation were enough for Amir to change his mind. “I met Nayer by chance, and he told me you have to read this script,” he recalls. “I read the script and loved it, because it had a band and music and ‘90s and playing, so honestly, I fell in love with the role, and wanted to go through with it.”
In terms of the music, Amir manages to yet again deliver a set of songs that exhibit his resonant ability to blend alternative rock and pop, with his self-contained style of songwriting — in this case, songs that are at the heart of both Shady’s life and Amir’s career. Four tracks were enough to leave the audience with a sonic token from the show, as heard in “Tayer” (“Flying”), where the mood is immediately set by means of a bemoaning guitar line and delicate drum pattern that gives space for Eid’s vocals.
Later in “Wahshteny” (“I miss you”), Amir’s pop sensibilities and musical storytelling come in with an upbeat production juxtaposed against lyrics of an untimely love. “Lw Kan” (“If Only”), in collaboration with producer Sary Hany, offers the fullest sound, while in “Metkatef” (“Tied Up”), the keys and trumpet-driven track delivers a melancholia cushioned by rich instrumentation. In the track, we hear Amir in his most controlled vocal delivery situated within the tragic closing scene of RIVO‘s series finale.
The show weaves the music into its narrative to convey meaningful messages and ignite conversations about mental health. Within its script, the series spotlights issues like depression, a dialogue that Amir aspires will resonate profoundly with the audience.
Amir says that his approach to crafting music content for RIVO is a complete departure from his usual songwriting process for Cairokee — in this case, a largely solo driven process, but also conceived for an entirely different time period. The songs he writes for RIVO are based on a script set in the 1990s, whereas his songs for his band Cairokee are born out of pure imagination.
“First thing I do is I read the scenario really well,” he says. “Then I put it aside and go about my life normally, as we do tours and a lot of concerts, so I think, ‘What would Shady do in this situation? If he was to sing, how would he sing? If he was to write, how would he write?’ So the idea gets refined in my head, so I go back to the scenario and start working on Shady’s songs and character in the second season of RIVO.”
Looking back, a blending of Western rock and Egyptian folk music is carved in Amir’s memories of his childhood and teenage years — a fusion that would eventually shape his own music to a great extent. When revisiting this period of his life, Amir, a huge fan of the Rolling Stones, often remembers his Beatles-loving older brother. To justify his own preference, Amir says he liked the Stones’ rebellious nature and signature look.
“I would love for Cairokee to keep performing when its members are 60 or 70, touring and writing songs and living this life regardless of their age. It goes beyond just looks and fashion style – it’s that forever-young attitude that I admire most in the Stones.”
Since their debut self-titled album in 2009, the band has released eight albums, with songs that continue to find a home on the Billboard Arabia newly launched Hot 100 chart. Amir also landed a spot in Billboard Arabia’s Top 100 Artists with his solo work, while closing out the year with two epic performances with Cairokee: MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm in Riyadh, followed by their show in Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival.
Through Amir’s musical journey, the timeless essence of rock and the resonance of his songwriting continue to permeate his melodies. Be it in his solo work or the rich portfolio he’s created with Cairokee, Amir maintains his ability to create music that speaks to the human experience, with songs that are helping to shape the new sound of Arabic pop.
This article is a translation of a piece that originally ran on Billboard Arabia.
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