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Electro châabi, the music from Cairo underground

Electro Chaabi

Electro chaabi is a musical movement that gained popularity in European electro-oriental nights those last years. But it is yet in the middle of the Egyptian révolution, in Cairo slums, that it started to blossom. Thanks to a youth who found in this music a new way to express herself and challenge the political situation. Since then, many artists have emerged in Cairo street and stage.

It is the Franco-Tunisian journalist Hind Meddebv (photo) who was the first to bring back electro chaabi in its political and historical context, as a movement born in the streets of Cairo during the Arab springs, with her documentary electro-shâabi in 2013. She even confessed to a French magazine “The movement really took off after the revolution of January 2011. Despite the religious conservatism and the army, the youth needed to express themselves with music that resembles it … Also, there is a great tradition of celebration in the country. The Egyptian people have never been ready to accept the austerity of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who are, however, very good scores in national and local elections. “

Born in the slums of Cairo

If it has become a fashionable sound in some clubs of the Arab world and Europe, the electro Shaabi spent many years in the shadow of Cairo poorest districts before experiencing success. Also called “mahraganat” (which means “festival” in Arabic), it is in wedding celebrations of the popular El Matareya area of Cairo that electro-chaabi appeared for the first time, pushed by some DJ who became emblematic of the movement today. Characterized by a fast pace and intensive use of synthesizers, it is rooted with both traditional chaabi music from the 70s, which expressed the daily frustrations of the popular classes, and electronic sound. Sometimes also accompanied by some beats coming from techno, reggaeton, rap or even dancehall.

 

If its most famous figure remains DJ Figo who became known during the revolution and democratized the movement with his title “anan baba yalla”, others like Mc Sadat or Alaa 50 cent were already operating in the streets of Cairo. Their texts denounce the horror of the war, the revolution of January 25, the authoritarian regime of Mubarak, the army but also the religious fundamentalism of the Muslim Brotherhood. They owe their success only to social networks and the internet with platforms like Soundcloud or Youtube since their music is too controversial to be sold in stores or broadcast on the radio. However, the Egyptian authorities, too busy by the revolution, failed to slow down the movement.

 

The main faces of Electro-chaabi

Oka & Ortega

Ahmed Metwally Mustafa (Ortega) started his career as a footballer and then met by coincidence Oka by his brother. Together, they started rapping and then turned progressively to electro chaabi music. They have several famous tracks like Golden Box, El3ab Yala (let’s play), ou Loghet el 3ioon (the language of eyes)

 

Dj Figo

He is one of the precursors who popularized electro chaabi with his title “ana baba yalla” during the Egyptian revolution. He transformed the revolution anthem into humoristic lyrics denouncing the daily social issues of the Egyptian population.

 

Sadat

Mc Sadat mixes both rap and electronic music. Renowned in alternative clubs in Cairo, he also performs abroad. He collaborates with both electro artists, rappers as well as acoustic musicians. He has made a mixtape with the musician mahragan Alaa Fifty Cent, which can be heard on their title Best of Sadat & Alaa Fifty Cent. Composed of 14 tracks, the compilation goes from political songs like Five Pounds Credit to more joyful and dancing songs of chaabi and electronic like Enjex.

3aphz

Based in Cairo, 3Phaz is a passionate musician of bass and distortion. He particularly likes to deconstruct the Shaabi aesthetic by reinventing his own, which he amplifies by exaggerating the energy of traditional Shaabi music.