On Thursday 27 March, Cairo Calling programme will infuse the Sherazade Nightclub stage as part of the music activities held by the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), a multidisciplinary festival taking place between 20 March and 11 April in Cairo and Alexandria.
Supported and initiated by the British Council, Cairo Calling aims to create cross-border cultural relations between artists in the UK and their peers across the globe. By selecting Egypt's 100COPIES Music production -- a music label founded by Mahmoud Refat -- and London's Rinse FM radio airwaves dedicated to promoting the urban music community, Cairo Calling specifically creates a platform between London and Cairo for electronic musicians to network, exchange ideas and knowledge, inspire and help one another.
From the Egyptian scene, the cultural exchange included leading figures from the mahraganat (also known as electro-chaabi) which can be roughly generalised as electro folk -- a music genre born in the underprivileged Cairo neighbourhood called Salam City. Its icons are Sadat, Oka & Ortega, Weza, Fig, Amra Haha and Islam Chipsy. The latter, who participates in this year's D-CAF, has already performed on the festival's opening day on 20 March in Sherazade Club.
The electro-chaabi genre is characterised by a strong beat and lyrics in Egyptian Arabic dialect usually addressing daily societal and political issues talking to people, on the streets. As the lyrics aim at transgressing numerous taboos and are supported by simple rhythmic patterns, many observers compare this genre's particular nature and expressive dynamics with American hip-hop. Electro-chaabi has gained significant popularity and media attention in recent years. Hind Meddeb's documentary Electro Chaabi, depicting the world of mahraganat music, has already been screened in a variety of international events, including the Rotterdam Film Festival.
In Cairo Calling, electro-chaabi musicians are to include Figo, Sadat, Diesel and Knaka, joined by 100COPIES mastermind Mahmoud Refat.
The UK participants are London-based electronic musicians and DJ's such as Kode 9, Artwork, Faze Miyake, Mumdance and a Dubstep musician from Bristol, Pinch.
This cooperation is no accident, nor is the choice of 100COPIES and Rinse FM random as both initiatives seem to be operating within similar artistic spectra. According to the 100COPIES website, the platform founded in 2007 focuses on experimental music, sound- and jazz-related genres reaching to independent music from Egypt, the Arab world and international scene. The record label produces and distributes Egyptian experimental and electronic music.
In turn, with over 18 years of experience in radio broadcasting, Rinse FM has gained recognition by bringing the youth-oriented music culture to the surface. "Rinse FM have a profound experience in nurturing artists and particularly support the electronic scene and while doing so they have developed loyal followers in the UK," explains Leah Zakss from the Music Team at the British Council UK.
"Known for being at the head of the game, Rinse FM always manages to reach to young people while maintaining a balance between a fresh role and a credible cutting edge reputation. In terms of coverage they also gained the mainstream recognition," Zakss explains.
Having investigated and then closely watched the budding electronic music scene in Egypt, the British Council thought it appropriate to bring two platforms together and create a dynamic exchange of knowledge and networking between the artists.
Speaking of electro-chaabi music, Zakss says: "There was something very peculiar about this music and we felt that those people should be heard beyond Egypt, with Rinse being a broadcaster. At the same time, each party [UK and Egyptian musicians] is learning from the other and discovering how they can creatively connect; they network, share skills, knowledge and learn how to disseminate music."
The first phase of this exchange took place in January 2014, when the Egyptian musicians visited London and, for one week, collaborated with their UK peers. The group's final performance was streamed live by Rinse FM.
The second phase of Cairo Calling is being locally held with a currently ongoing workshop (22-28 March). The performance on 27 March will bring the Egyptian performers along with Faze Miyake, Mumdance and Pinch to the Sherazade Nightclub stage. The concert is part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival music programme that includes evenings at Sherazade and Qasr Al-Nil Theatre.
Thursday 27 March at 10pm
Sherazade Nightclub: Alfi Bey Street, off Orabi Square, Downtown, Cairo
Ahram Online is the Main Press Partner of this year's D-CAF
See D-CAF’s complete programme here.