Cairo Liberation Front presents Electro Cha3bi

Joost - the selecter and Yannick - the dj, (‘Jamaica style’) have put together a turbulent mix, the sort of thing that veers giddily between utter brilliance and total (to our ears) corporate high-gloss naff.

https://soundcloud.com/cairoliberationfront/cairo-liberation-front-presents-electro-cha3bi

Reviews can take many forms, and I’m sure people can make their own mind up over the nature of the perfect write up. Frankly I’ll write as the occasion demands: I don’t have any strict preference or abide by any rule book.  But there is one thing I do try to avoid: since I’ve been writing in Incendiary I’ve always tried to steer clear of just regurgitating information from other sources. I’m not saying that doing  this to create a review is cheating, or that the process makes the information you take on board any less valuable or worthless (it’s what you make of it, toch?), but it’s just not something I do. Software does it better to be honest, and I’m not a computer.

Trying to write about this compilation found me and my little principle out, however. And I’ll admit now that this LP left me stumped on first listen. What was it? Initially I thought this was a joke, it came out of the blue, and from someone like Joost Heithuisen from Incubate, who I really like and admire as difficult to take. I thought, now this just sounds like patronising indulgence, aural “slumming it”, and that sort of left me a little sad.  I actually thought Joost was trying to make something that was a boutique take on it all. But with a little more research, everything falls into place. Joost is the compiler of this mix of Cha’bi artists and the driving force behind getting people to listen in, (including weird appearances on local TV – his energy knows no bounds it seems). I think he was originally turned onto the whole scene by John Doran of the Quietus who had raved on about a Cha’bi artist – the name of who escapes me - at Incubate last year.  

Ostensibly this is a compilation of the genre known as mahragan or “festival” music. The music has other names, ones that are gaining currency in the West, namely techno-sha‘bi or electro-sha‘bi. The sound comes from Cairo’s slum areas and is often seen as a sort of manifestation – or maybe accompaniment to the revolution there. You can maybe see this in some of the titles which are fascinating: beat this, Union Summit and Six Military Officers (moon girl, Inna Remix)- dj filo. Or Princes Deliberate, Part 2- Philo, chinstrokers.

Regardless of the politics that undoubtedly energise the sound, this compilation is just superb, enervating. In fact, when I got into it I thought, ‘this is a really long listen’, until I realised I’d unwittingly started listening to related streams, so caught up was I in this broiling, insistent sound. Joost - the selecter and Yannick - the dj, (‘Jamaica style’) have put together a turbulent mix, the sort of thing that veers giddily between utter brilliance and total (to our ears) corporate high-gloss naff. When presented like this though, it’s not an issue as the primary impression is the energy and colour and determination to get a message across. It’s punk in the true sense of the word. It’s also weird hearing phrases nabbed from shite Western pop and rendered even more abstract here. Weirder still; the initial, “core” vapidity of the original phrase probably means something altogether more insistent… and thinking of that renders it even more crazy shit. But what remains the best thing is the severe cut up nature of the mix, disorientating at times, as the best normally drives the music and because of that you can get caught in a loop.

 I can appreciate I am in danger of sounding like the Pete n Dud sketch “Bag” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btS7-UoK2Oo so I’m going to stop here. Remember, I think without any background, and coming to listen to this mix cold, without any appreciation of what drives the sound can be counter-productive. So please, read up! Watch some vids before diving in.   I’m going to send you the links Joost sent me, so get stuck in.

Info for the curious:

http://www.thefader.com/2012/10/16/cairo-something-new/

http://vimeo.com/42076804

http://www.arabist.net/blog/2013/2/20/ted-swedenburg-on-egypts-post-revolution-music-scene.html