With a battered underground scene that had struggled for survival since the nineties, Cairo would experience two major changes at the turn of the 2000s – the arrival of a globalised digital culture, and the opening of private proto-clubs. In this nascent groove, the first hip-hop groups emerged with Arabian Knights and lowrider Mr. Kordy, still active in the studio, and who of course feature on this playlist.
This scene would really begin to flourish during the Arab Spring and the subsequent fall of President Mubarak. Electro chaâbi – or, more accurately, mahraganat, meaning “festival” in Arabic – would become the soundtrack of a new generation who refused to be submissive any longer. Today Cairo’s rappers mainly look for inspiration from the new promised land of trap music, Atlanta. Egyptian trap dominates Cairo’s music scene with their weighty large-scale production, auto-tuned vocals and lots of ad-libbing. Whilst Abyusif is still the godfather, this pioneer now makes music alongside a young generation of trap artists from Wegz to Abo El Anwar and Lege-Cy, all of whom you can hear here.
Alongside trap, which is becoming mainstream among Cairo’s youth, the capital also contains another noise universe mostly consisting of post-punk and experimental electro music. Founding member of the now-closed club VENT and at the head of the collective Kairo Is Koming (KIK), Ahmed El Ghazoly alias ZULI is still exploring breakbeat, while MC and producer Rozzma – discovered by Acid Arab Records – has just recorded an EP for the prestigious label XL Recordings.
At the heart of this alternative and free scene you are sure to come across singer, instrumentalist and composer Nadah El Shazly. Nadah got her start in Cairo’s punk scene with a band specialising in Misfits covers, before moving onto the business of electro. At the end of last year the musician was given carte blanche by the Nyege Nyege Festival, the hub of creative African music. This was her opportunity to launch Egyptian Leather Pavilion, and to shine a spotlight on artists such as 3Phaz, Ibrahim X and Yunis, all featured here.