Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's Happening (Musically) in Egypt

We are closely following events in Egypt as the population continues to voice its frustration with the government. Unfortunately, the latest news is that pro-Mubarak groups have begun to clash with the protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo. As the Egyptian army has recognized, the mass protests sweeping the country are a manifestation of the people's  legitimate right to a freedom of expression. While the army has decided not to use force against peaceful demonstrators, it is saddening to see a population turning on itself.

At Afropop, our involvement with music necessarily means that freedom of expression is always one of our greatest concerns. Music is one of the key modes of expression within communities, voicing social concerns and uniting people. In Egypt, popular music has suffered from censorship. Nearly fifteen years ago, the Egyptian authorities branded all heavy metal musicians and fans as Satanists and the effects are still being felt.  New music has a hard time finding a voice, with few venues and little support to be found, while low quality, commercial pop music is pushed through Egyptian television and airwaves. An 'SOS music festival' had a few successful years of promoting independent and underground music emerging in Egypt but funding difficulties brought it to and end in 2009.

With all this in mind, for this week we have put together a show on Umm Kulthum, the superstar and cultural icon of Egypt. And for now, to share in the voice of the Egyptian people, we offer you some of the country's newest musical stars....


Hakim is also known as the “Lion of Egypt” as well as the "king of shaabi music", referring to his pioneer role in updating the traditional shaabi with electric instruments. Collaborating with Western artists such as James Brown, he’s crafted over the years a rhythmic street pop. "El Salam", from the 2002 album "Talakik", is one of his biggest hits.


WYVERN is one of the heavy metal acts that has felt the impact of censorship. Even though they have been headlining a big portion of the rock concerts in Cairo since 2004, they remain unsigned.

Mahmoud Fadl

Forced to leave his Nubian homeland as a child, drummer Mahmoud Fadl didn’t let his origins behind. Nowadays he lives between Cairo and Berlin and carries out rhythm research for his solo projects. So far he’s released four albums with his group Salamat and five under his own name including three with his Drummers of the Nile ensemble.
Mohammed Mounir

Born in a Nubian village in Southern Egypt, singer and actor Mohammed Mounir has a musical career spanning more than three decades. Over that time he’s incorporated various genres besides his native Nubian music, such as classical Arabic Music, blues, jazz and reggae. The lyrics portrait his involvement with social and political issues.


Translated to english, KAZAMADA means “Multiple Dimensions”, a name that captures the group ambitions in creating an Avant-guard identity. They mix electronic sounds with rock, Oud, Buzuq and other rhythms from the artists' diverse backgrounds: Zeid Hamdan (Lebanon), Donia Massoud (Egypt), Mahmoud Radaideh (Jordan), and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh (Palestine).

Mohamed Abozekry

A young oud virtuoso, Mohamed Abozekry plays his own compositions, which are a unique mixture of Arabic, Jazz and Blues music. His young age and abilities in the instrument have made him famous throughhout the Middle East.

 Amr Diab

The singer and composer Amr Diab is one of the highest selling Middle Eastern artists of all time. Wildly famous since the release of Mayaal in 1988, Diab was awarded The World Music Award (based on sales stats) in 1998, 2002, 2007.

Fathy Salama and Sharkiat

The pianist and composer Fathy Salama grew up listening to the music of Oum Kalthoum, Abdelwahab and Farid el Attrash, but later reached out to Europe and New York to learn jazz with such great artists as Sun Râ or Ossman Kareem. He’s produced many hits in the 80s, but it is with his ensemble Sharkiat that he fulfilled the dream of merging modern and traditional music together. Musicians juggle with "maqam" (the traditionnal rhythms and scales of Arabic music) building bridges between the African oriental, Turkish and black rhythms.

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