I am your Detour Guide... taking you on an alternative Arab world tour...
showing you our music, dance, rituals, imagery, conscience and society...
dismantling the myths, stereotypes, and rhetoric of media & politics...
from the perspective of workers, immigrants, refugees, artists and activists...


DETOUR GUIDE is an 80 minute performance with acting, live music, electronic music, visual projections, and folkloric dance. This musical play is highly interactive and dynamic. Its educational component is embedded into the plot, and gives a timely anecdote to current events and socio-political topics. It can also be enjoyed purely for its musical and entertainment value.

The play starts with the Detour Guide commandeering a tour bus. But it is not the sinister, stereotypical narrative of a radical hijacker. This drumming, singing and dancing Detour Guide simply wants to change the itinerary. He scats "you don't need a generic bus, tourist trap or souvenirs, this detour will engage your fears and ears." He reroutes the passengers onto a journey of topics and experiences.. veering away from cliche scenarios & sensationalist headlines.. driving deeper into the cultural landscape.

The performance features actor, musician & playwright Karim Nagi, who guides passengers on an alternative tour of the Arab World & Arab Diaspora. Using percussion, verse, storytelling, video projections and an urban remix soundscape, Karim describes revolution, recreation, immigration, profiling, identity, food, dance, music & humor. Pieces like "Yalla Yalla" poetically chronicle the Arab Spring, while the anthem "Baladi TukTuk" describes the challenges of immigration. Nagi's witty writing and iconic artwork are all tied together by his articulate percussion and bold folkloric dances. The performance dispels the monolithic myths and stereotypes imposed on Arabs and Muslims, and strives to fight the "othering" of all minorities in America.

Since starting his career in 1991, Karim Nagi has releases 14 CDs and DVDs, performed on 6 continents, and taught all ages in numerous educational institutions. He produced 16 Arab Dance Seminars, performed over Arabiqa 400 school assemblies, worked under a Doris Duke Building Bridges Grant, and is currently on the Board of Directors for Chamber Music America. Detour Guide is a synthesis of all his work.

Appropriate for General Audiences (no profanity, no violence)
plus middle school, high school, college & university.

$1900 = 1 play reading and talkback
$3900 = 1 play performance and talkback
$4900 = 2 play performances, same venue on consecutive days
$5900 = 2 play performances + 2 master classes, within 3 days
** if you envision another scenario or combination,
please CONTACT.

- round trip economy airline tickets from Chicago
- up to 3 check in luggage
- hotel rooms for the duration of stay
- local transport

- Performer
- Stage Manager (for performances only)
Properties for performances
- Tablah drum, Riqq tambourine, Bendir frame drum, Sagat finger cymbals, Buzuq lute, loop machine, projection media files, TukTuk wheeled scooter, restaurant kitchen trays & spoons, 3 costumes

- Stage 16' x 10' or greater
- proscenium, thrust, block box, or end stages 50-700 seats ideal

- Projection screen surface 10' x 8' or greater
- Projector (or 80" LCD screen or greater)

- Sound system with 6+ channel input
- Wireless headset microphone
- Wireless body/lavalier microphone

- Lighting with 4 easily cued settings
1) full stage flood
2) intimate
3) fixed spotlight
4) black out

- Venue staffed tech rehearsal 8 hours before performance

- small cafe table and 2 chairs
- tire and small crate
- busboy cart on wheels

- Chicago Tribune

"Karim unites all of these countries through their history, language, culture and, most importantly, their music and rhythms. Seen through the eyes of ordinary people, members of the Arab working class, Mr. Nagi portrays several different characters. He shows their drive and determination to achieve their dreams"
- Chicago Theater Review

"Detour Guide is an extraordinary work from the mind and heart of an extremely gifted and talented artist. It introduces us to an Arab world we never see in the movies or television news." - Qantara.de

"It is an adventure worth taking. Nagi's lyrics are intriguing, barbed and catchy." - rootsworld.com

"Karim Nagi seeks to confound critics and the ignorant alike with a humorous musical whirlwind detour through the social and geopolitics of the Middle East." - monolithcocktail.com

"Bringing A Pillar Of Arabic Music" - NPR

"Karim Nagi's spirited solo show, Detour Guide (presented by Silk Road Rising in association with Stage Left Theatre), provided opportunities for both cathartic joy and sobering reflection..   

It's clear that his musical passport bears stamps from an astounding array of influences, all of which come together near the end in a virtuoso display of his skills on the tablah..  

Nagi (who is as skilled a dancer as he is a musician) uses his movement and musicality to flesh out the talking points..   

Nagi is the best proof of his observation that Arab families should encourage their children to pursue careers in the arts and journalism to counter the overwhelmingly western take on their worlds from Hollywood and news media..   

Nagi transforms that desire into a physical manifestation of beauty and joy."

- Kerry Reid, CHICAGO TRIBUNE 3/20/19

It has become impossible for me to merely dance & play music for their own sakes. I certainly do not need any motivation to drum the riqq or strum the buzuq; they have the full power to enchant without any additional agenda needed. But how can I use their power to help assuage the major dangerous issues of our time ? Issues like racism, ethnic marginalization, and profiling ? I have always used these instruments, dances & costumes to take people on cultural tours of my Arab world. Now it is time to take a DETOUR. This new play is full of music, and I have added an itinerary. The audience become "Detourists", as the GUIDE makes stops, not in cities, but in scenes. Each scene takes a famous assumptive trope of the Arab world - Orientalism, revolution, immigration, recreation, representation - and the DETOUR GUIDE proceeds to dismantle each of them. He uses the pontificating humor and balladic recitation styles of Arab "zajal" & "rawi" practices, all re-imagined into English. With a drum, folklore dance, imagery and oratory, he takes back the megaphone. For 80 minutes, his drum & megaphone will be louder than the 7pm news, or the Hollywood dolby-surround-sound, or the abrasive political men. You will find yourself singing these sticky song choruses after you leave the theater. But more importantly, I want you to remember the tour, so you can help guide others.

KARIM NAGI, 01/14/19