December 7, 2008

Cairo's Lost Boys

Today I visited the Lost Boys to initiate another hip hop program. 

It's interesting to observe the differences between the two primary Cairo gangs, the Outlaws and Lost Boys, considering that the members both come from the same parts of Sudan.  The Lost Boys have been the predominate youth gang within Sudan for many years, while the Outlaws only recently formed in retaliation to constant harassment.

Within Cairo, the two gangs live in different neighborhoods and have evolved to maintain particular characteristics.  The Lost Boys live in the nicer neighborhood of Maadi, are generally better educated, have less structure within the gang, and are often the more violent.  In contrast, the Outlaws were founded, and accordingly named,  because they exist 'outside the law. '  The Outlaws live within the poorer neighborhood of Ain Shemz, have limited education or oppurtunity, maintain a strict system of order within the gang, and generally engage only in retaliatory acts of violence.

Today I managed to immediately befriend a guy named James within the Lost Boys who is excited at the prospect of being able to record professional quality reggae music.  Apparently he has a couple traditional drums which he plays at church services (all members of both gangs attend christian churches on a weekly basis or more).  For several years he has been trying to play music with other people for awhile, yet nothing would ever come together - certainly something to which I can relate. 

Now with the other guys, the general gangsters, it is definately more challenging to get these guys off the street and into the studio - but, since that is the point of the project, it is a matter of using any means necessary.  Unfortuanately the best strategy right now appears to talk about how the oppositional gang is doing so well with the project.  I played some tracks of music recorded with the Unigunz, and said "This was made in Ain Shemz."  I didn't say who made it, but since they assumed it was made by the "Outlaws," the guys began to listen with rapt attention.  I suspect now that when I show up on wednesday, there will be more interest and motivation to make the project happen. 
Of course, once I get a little bit out of these guys, I'll return to the Outlaws in  Ain Shemz and say 'listen to what the Lost Boys have made!" 

Its frustrating, but this is really the only way to get either gang to do anything.  I fully intend to direct the attention away from that motive with each increment of progress, but for now, I obviously have start somewhere.  As for James, I already gave him some homework to do, and I'm curious to see if he will manage to deliver when I see him again in three days from now.