Steve Simon, the dynamo behind the Beach Bar's Sunday afternoon Jazz Islanders and the producer of the annual Blues Festival has gone international in the past few years. He has organized tours of blues musicians to perform for US troops in the Middle East A few weeks ago he returned from Egypt.
I contacted Steve to ask if we could do an interview. He said he'd be traveling for a few weeks, but did a 'self interview" and e-mailed it to The Inquiring Iguana.
What made you decide to do a BLUZAPALOOZA concert tour to Egypt?
A few months ago I was contacted by Margaret Scobey, the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, and she had just read about our BLUZAPALOOZA celebrity Blues concert tours to Iraq. Having been born and raised in Memphis Tennessee, she (said she) was a certified 'Bluesaholic' and would love to arrange for me to bring a tour to Cairo.
I told her that I would have to get permission from the Department of Defense and the State Department but that I thought that would not be too difficult given my history with both organizations. Upon contacting DOD and State, I was immediately given the "green light."
Where did you entertain in Egypt?
Our first concert was at the Cairo Opera House on Friday evening, March 27th and we performed in front of a standing room only audience of over 4,000 people. Most of our audience were Egyptians who had been invited by our Embassy and most of them were government officials and major business leaders.
The next evening we performed at the recreational facility of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and that performance was for the Embassy staff and their families. We had about 450 in attendance and it was held outdoors.
Did your Egyptian audience enjoy American Blues?
They loved it. From the very first song and for the next two hours the entire audience was on their feet dancing in place to every song we performed and they were hootin' and hollarin' during and after every song.
Who did you bring over there on this tour?
Well, given the fact that the Ambassador was from Memphis, I brought some of the greatest Memphis based blues artists that I know. I took Eden Brent who is a singer and piano player known as the Queen of Beale Street, Billy Gibson who is by far one of the greatest harmonica players in the Blues today and he is known as The Prince of Beale Street, and then we had Delta Highway which is one of the most popular Memphis based Blues bands around today.
Did you get a chance to perform too?
You bet I did…….I played with everyone during our encore numbers each evening and it was a gas.
What about the pyramids? Did you have any time to tour Egypt?
Well, we were only there for two and a half days but we did get to visit the pyramids, the Sphinx and the National Museum in Cairo. I wish we could have stayed longer as Cairo is so amazing.
Do you think you may go back there again?
Actually, the Ambassador has invited me back to produce an outdoor Blues concert in front of the pyramids and we are working on that right now for later this year.
So I guess they liked the Blues in Egypt?
Frank, they loved the Blues in Egypt!!!!"