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Kelsely Abaza (Arabic: كلسلي أباظة Kelselī Abaẓa, born 1984) is an Egyptian naturalized New Zealand composer of avant-garde electronic music, a writer and researcher in the fields of political science, sociology and philosophy, translator, and teacher of Modern Standard Arabic. He gained critical acclaim in Egypt following audio-visual multimedia performances in 2011 and 2012. Abaza was repeatedly consulted by New Zealand print media, radio and television during both the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état. His publications have included critiques of both Islamism and the military rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. He was signed to the Egyptian record label Mazzika in March 2011, selling in Egypt 290,000 copies of his EP Practic Fast. He is set to perform nine multimedia concerts in Egypt in 2016 and to release his next studio album later that year.
The composer has been described in Egyptian media as "the most innovative composer working today in Egypt." In the same program the presenter stated that the composer's work has "a strange style but [which] is easy to love... [and has] beautiful melodies."
According to critic Michael Ghareen, Kelsely Abaza's work received attention primary for two reasons; "[Abaza] is breath of fresh air countering the low standards of current Arab music...he merits listening for two reasons; musically he seems to know exactly what he is doing...and he adds to that a new sound...totally new to us...[and] the Arab world is in dire need [of that]."
Kesely Abaza was born Ahmed Tarek Bahgat Soliman Atia Abdullah Boghdady Hassan Abaza, (Arabic: ʼāḥmad ṭāriq bahgat sūlayman ʻtyā 'abdallāh būghdādī ḥasan abaẓa أحمد طارق بهجت سليمان عطية عبد الله بغدادي حسن أباظة), on December 27, 1984 in Cairo, Egypt. He was educated in a private language school and moved to New Zealand to continue his education, gaining citizenship at the age of 14. Abaza studied sociology and political science at the University of Canterbury and conducted postgraduate studies in advanced Philosophical logic and Mathematical logic.
Works and performances
In April 2011 Abaza was commissioned by the Auckland War Memorial Museum to give a lecture in a panel discussion with Dr. Nigel Parsons, a political scientist from Massey University, on the topic of the Egyptian Revolution and the Arab Spring. Additionally, he was asked to perform his work. For this highly experimental concert Abaza collaborated with several film-makers and directed an audio-visual performance for which the theme was Egyptian culture and the revolutionary spirit. The museum marketed the concert stating that Abaza will stage "an electronic music and video tribute to Africa and the Arab World", adding that "His musical influences include Autechre, Laurie Anderson, Jean Michel Jarre and Philip Glass".
Abaza has collaborated with video artists from France and Russia to create nine experimental music videos. They were in a combination of visual styles, from those based on the animation of still photography or film and narrative videos with actors to Fractal animation.
Abaza spoke of his own music in interviews saying; "I treat the sounds you create with synthesizers and use as a basic part of the composition process along with notes." He described his own work as such; "my music is mostly instrumental and with rich textures, playing around with some of the many ‘styles’ that I have been exposed to" and added "I study philosophy but not much philosophy of music. I treat it as just another social practice." In terms of methods and equipment he uses "synthesizers and samplers along with sequencers and other types of applications such as notation software."
Writing and political views
Only days before the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution Kelsely Abaza published in response to the 2011 Alexandria bombing. The piece was written in dense and difficult prose, making extensive use of strong language to decry the crime. In it Abaza briefly reported findings of his sociological pilot study of Egyptian Christian-Muslim relations in New Zealand stating that "every Christian respondent answered affirmatively to questions on the reality of anti-Christian discrimination in Egypt. Every Muslim respondent bar one answered negatively." His view was that "There are Muslim self- definitions of a tolerant majority" which are illusory. Abaza added that; “The Coptic Christian communities in Egypt have serious and rightful grievances." but also that "There are racist discursive waves finding ears...attempt[ing] to designate Muslim Egyptians as not Egyptian but Arab, by race - a good deal more than historically false." In a long one sentence paragraph concluding the piece Abaza makes the point of using the term Coptic, which translates as 'Egyptian', to include Muslim Egyptians as well as Christians.
While denouncing the Egyptian regime's "inaction" Abaza recounted a near miss as he participated in revolutionary anti-SCAF protests writing and asking "Why were numerous soldiers stationed...nearby standing silent as a man shot at protesters...and at my head, at one point with a bullet flying through my hair?" He added that the "council’s period of service included presiding over several massacres worthy of the commendation of the most enthusiastic dictator" Summing up his stance and giving an indication of his political and moral commitments, the short essay concluded that "justice is absolute if it is an ideal to strive for...all rights enshrined in United Nations and other international conventions signed by Egypt, and in Egyptian law...must be implemented without exception."
Abaza has no illusions that Egypt is a unique case, insisting that; “Egypt is not alone in its flirts with the hierarchies that divide it and its neighbours apart corrupting the lands. The problem is that the system, organization or regime (نظام) that the people cried en masse against - is largely intact and not to be fully dismantled and its attributes are shared amongst the world where corruption is endemic in and exhaustive of all nations.” In the latter passage he makes clear his view that Egypt's political culture and institutions were not toppled in 2011, despite claims to the contrary.
Egyptian Underground music and experimental art society, Mashareeb, described Kelsely Abaza's music as "very special , very distinctive, very daring and very unusual"  Following a 2013 ONTV broadcast of his 2011 multimedia concert at New Zealand's Auckland War Memorial Museum, prominent Egyptian music critic Kariman Harak stated that Abaza presented a "world class presentation of engaging melodies, harmonies and an ingenious display of technical skill in sound design." She added that his visual accompaniment was "a mixture of displays of imagery of Egyptian artifacts, modern Egyptian art, folklore and emotional footage of the revolution that would make every Egyptian proud to have been seen by people at the end of the world." 
The esteemed Egyptian electronic composer and Electroacoustic pioneer Halim El-Dabh stated that Abaza's compositions are "astonishing in technical terms and simply beautiful in classical terms." He added that Abaza's music was "international and local at the same time."
One New Zealand review of Abaza's 2011 talk at the Auckland War Memorial Museum stated that "There’s no denying the [Abaza's] passion...[who] drew a wonderful image of the disappointment in hearing Mubarak’s speech...and the subsequent joy the following day when Mubarak finally responded to the wishes of the people of Egypt "it is like a song that rings in my ears – I am obsessed with it"."
Personal life and name
Kelsely Abaza has three younger siblings; one brother and two sisters. Through his mother he descends from prince Al-Yazgy Qaraq Kelsely (Arabic: الأمير محمود اليازجي قرق كلسلي), the brother of Muhammad Ali of Egypt's chief consort Emina of Nosratli, who is the source of the name 'Kelsely'. Previously Abaza appears to have used his mother's name 'Ola'.
In one interview he cited Egypt as his "everlasting love" and called himself an "Egyptomanic" Along those terms he drew a sweeping generalization, accusing the West of forgetfulness, writing that; "we all live Egyptian dreams: the ones that direct us upwards. Here is where the West misses memory: have you not built your obelisks after Egypt’s?"
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