In­side new Egyp­tian mu­sic scene

New wave of mu­si­cians by­passed record la­bels and went di­rectly to web

African Independent - - SHOWBIZ - MARAM MAZEN

T A CLUB in down­town Cairo, Ahmed Saleh pumps elec­tronic beats from his lap­top as Ab­dul­lah Mini­awy chants to a cheer­ing crowd, the duo part of a wave of new tal­ent on Egypt’s un­der­ground mu­sic scene.

Emerg­ing artists are cre­at­ing an eclec­tic se­lec­tion of hip-hop, dub­step, elec­tronic and rock mu­sic, with some in­flu­enced by tra­di­tional Egyp­tian sounds.

The move­ment be­gan in the mid-2000s as mu­si­cians by­passed record la­bels to reach their lis­ten­ers di­rectly via the web.

It was boosted by Egypt’s 2011 up­ris­ing which top­pled long­time dic­ta­tor Hosni Mubarak.

“This move­ment be­gan find­ing an au­di­ence be­cause it has be­come ac­ces­si­ble on the in­ter­net, in­stead of the mar­ket be­ing dom­i­nated by those who re­lease CDs,” says Tamer Abu Ghaz­a­leh, a Cairoborn Pales­tinian mu­si­cian who co-founded Ma3azef, an on­line Arab mu­sic mag­a­zine.

From the sec­ond half of the 2000s, mu­si­cians have used web­sites such as SoundCloud, YouTube, and Face­book to pub­lish and pro­mote their mu­sic.

That has chal­lenged record la­bels’ tra­di­tional gate­keeper role be­tween artists and au­di­ences.

“This is the first time in Egypt, at least since the 1920s, where mu­sic re­ally rep­re­sents the peo­ple in a di­rect way, with­out any in­ter­me­di­ary,” says Mah­moud Re­fat, founder of record la­bel 100Copies Mu­sic.

The birth of Mahra­ganat mu­sic around the same pe­riod also re­flected this shift in the in­dus­try.

Emerg­ing from work­ing-class neigh­bour­hoods, it be­came Egypt’s most lis­tened-to genre – with lit­tle in­volve­ment from record com­pa­nies.

Us­ing cheap or free soft­ware, young men be­gan mix­ing tra­di­tional Egyp­tian mu­sic with elec­tronic sounds, cre­at­ing loud,

Ae­clec­tic beats.

Mean­while, artists be­gan net­work­ing on­line, says mu­si­cian Rami Abadir, who re­leased his first of­fi­cial al­bum with Cana­dian record la­bel DM. Records in May.

“This didn’t ex­ist un­til 2009 or 2010, or it ex­isted but on a very small scale,” he says.

The genre found a small but grow­ing au­di­ence in a coun­try where ac­cord­ing to the UN, 40 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is be­tween 10 and 20 years old.

The 2011 revo­lu­tion boosted the move­ment.

“A lot of things took a push with what hap­pened in 2011 and 2012 and the revo­lu­tion,” says Mau­rice Louca, com­poser of the ac­claimed 2014 elec­tronic al­bum Ben­hayyi Al-Bagh­baghan (Salute the Par­rot).

While most of the mu­sic was non-po­lit­i­cal, a se­cu­rity void made it eas­ier to open spa­ces and or­gan­ise fes­ti­vals.

“There was a very nice at­mos­phere where any­one who wanted to do any­thing, could just do it,” says Abadir.

Egypt’s first free pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2012 brought to power Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi, who was ousted by the army a year later.

Venues like Vent, which opened in 2013, pro­moted new, ex­per­i­men­tal mu­sic.Many have since closed, but sev­eral still hold reg­u­lar live ses­sions.

Many mu­si­cians have sec­ond jobs to make a liv­ing. – AFP

PIC­TURE: AFP

SWING ALONG: Egyp­tian mu­si­cian Ahmed Saleh plays elec­tronic beats on his lap­top at a down­town Cairo club while Ab­dul­lah Mini­awy sings and chants in front of a cheer­ing crowd. The duo are part of a wave of new tal­ent.

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