Re: “Egypt sees resurgence in independent music scene” by Maram Mazen

Because I’m a 32 year old musician and promoter, I have a lot of friends in the independent music scene here in Egypt…and lately I keep seeing this article a lot of them are sharing. The article is made up mainly of incorrect information and misinformed opinions from the author, as well as the interviewees (some of whom are personal friends). I usually bite my tongue whenever I come across local music journalism because there’s always just so much that’s wrong with it, that a) I wouldn’t know where to start; it would take too much time and energy addressing everything, and then b) only to be called “hater”, “negative”, “pretentious” etc. by the authors and their cliques, who c) a lot of are my own friends who’s feelings I care about.

Today, though, I’m feeling a bit of a responsibility to speak out. I feel like: I care about music and I’m here…so you fuckers have no choice but to deal with me. Note: constructive debate based on facts is always welcome…in fact it is encouraged.

Now, the article at hand by Maram Mazen: who is Maram Mazen, and what makes her qualify to write about music? I do not mean to be condescending in any way; I think it’s the first question we should ask about each and every music journalist before hiring them to inform the public about our scene. I do not know the answer to that question because I don’t know Maram, but what I do know is what I read in the article. So here are 13 different parts of the article that make me questions Maram’s credentials.

1 - “Ahmed Saleh pumps electronic beats from his laptop as Abdullah Miniawy chants to a cheering crowd, the duo part of a wave of new talent on Egypt’s underground music scene.”

The last thing you would call Ahmed Saleh’s music is “beats” - not everything electronic is “beats”. More importantly, Saleh and Miniawy have been active on the scene since 2013 – almost 4 years now, so you cannot consider them part of a “new” wave of anything. They even have a year-long hiatus under their belt.

2 - “Emerging artists are creating an eclectic selection of hip-hop, dubstep, electronic and rock music”

I wish that were true, but there’s nothing at all eclectic about the Hip-hop (bar a few MCs) and Rock coming out of Egypt; it’s all tired, safe and unoriginal - can you name more than 3 Hip-hop producers that aren’t whack? Can you name more than 3 Hip-hop producers aslan? But let me ask you; who are you referring to when you say that? And how is Dubstep not electronic? The cheap knock offs of Skrillex’s version of Dubstep that former Egyptian Metalheads have turned to in the past few years (ie not in any way eclectic) – how does that not fall under Electronic?

3 - “The movement began in the mid-2000s as musicians bypassed record labels to reach their listeners directly via the web”

What record labels did these musicians allegedly bypass? You’re implying the existence of one or more record labels that would have signed these musicians had they existed before the mid-2000s when “musicians became able to reach their listeners directly via the web.” Who? Can you name a few?

4 - “It was boosted by Egypt’s 2011 uprising which toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.”

How? In what way? Besides nonsensical, cliche slogans and buzzwords about the revolution on top of mediocre music, what else has the revolution added to music? On what basis are you making/echoing this claim? Again, which artists do you have in mind when making this claim of a boost? Can you name some? Enough to claim a boost?

5 - “From the second half of the 2000s, musicians have used websites such as SoundCloud, YouTube, and Facebook to publish and promote their music.”

Myspace Music launching in 2003? Also, I personally met a lot of Egyptian musicians on the internet in the first half of the 2000s. An example of someone I’m still in touch with today who can back me up is Tamer Auf who I met on a Trance forum in 2001 where we were active members, regularly sharing our own productions and DJ sets. Just because you haven’t heard of something, doesn’t mean it never existed.

6 - “That has challenged record labels’ traditional gatekeeper role between artists and audiences.”

Again, what record labels are you talking about? What pre-revolution record labels in the region have played a mentionable role in promoting Independent Music? I can only think of 100Copies and Nashazphone…and, surely, you’re not talking about either of those as they are operating on a larger scale today than ever before.

7 - “"This is the first time in Egypt, at least since the 1920s, where music really represents the people in a direct way, without any intermediary,” says Mahmoud Refat, founder of record label 100Copies Music.“

Intermediaries such as who? You know, people have had free access to the internet since before Myspace Music launched 15 years ago (via those 0777 numbers you could use for a free dial-up connection). And if you mean Egyptian record companies at the time, well they would never be in the picture anyway; just look at the kind of music they are involved in and how different it is to the music you’re talking about. Would 3alam el Fan ever sign someone like Maurice Louca? What intermediaries are you talking about, Mahmoud?

8 - "Using cheap or free software, young men began mixing traditional Egyptian music with electronic sounds, creating loud, eclectic beats.”

Again with the eclectic beats…what do you mean by that phrase? Now one thing I’ve been wanting to set straight for a while: Shaaby has always been electronic and loud. I’m assuming you know what a keyboard is? An “org shar2y”? It’s an electronic music instrument. Name 5 Shaaby songs throughout history that weren’t written on an “org”. The only difference with this new Shaaby they call Mahraganat/Electro-sha3by is that, because it’s 2016, people use software like FL instead of the old oriental editions of Yamaha keyboards or whatever…that and Autotune. Anything else I might be missing? Please correct me if I’m wrong: are there any other differences between the two that you can point out?

9 - “Meanwhile, artists began networking online, says musician Rami Abadir, who released his first official album with Canadian record label D.M.T. Records in May. "This didn’t exist until 2009 or 2010, or it existed but on a very small scale,” he says.“

Rami mate, I love you, but you have a habit of pulling numbers/dates out of…nowhere. If I’m going to be 100% unbiased towards my own friends here, I’m gonna have to call you out on that. Again, this has been going on for waay longer than you know. Just because you joined the conversation in "2009 or 2010”, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist before that. FAO Tamer Auf

10 - “While most of the music was non-political, a security void made it easier to open spaces and organise festivals. "There was a very nice atmosphere where anyone who wanted to do anything, could just do it,” says Abadir.“

There is zero truth to that. I’ve been a promoter since almost a decade before the revolution, so I can tell you first hand that the obstacles are the same, the permits are the same (if not more difficult to obtain because of obvious security reasons), the bribes, everything…

11 - "Human rights groups have accused then-army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who went on to become President, of limiting freedom of expression. Venues like Vent, which opened in 2013, promoted new, experimental music. Many have since closed, but several still hold regular live sessions.”

Starting VENT had nothing to do with any alleged “security voids”; why would we need a security void? We were running a music space, not a Jihad workshop…and we left Arabesque because of creative differences with the owners; nothing to do with limitations on freedom of expression or anything like that. Another point is; 100Copies have been promoting experimental music ON A REGULAR BASIS since waay before the revolution. For example, the first annual 100LIVE Music Festival started in 2007.

12 - “As the artists diversified, so did listeners’ tastes. Now, the audience "is receptive to this and waiting for new things… especially in Egypt,” says Abu Ghazaleh. “

Again, I wish that were true. Artists have actually been playing it very safe; artists and promoters keep feeding people exactly what they want and expect from them (for obvious reasons).

13 - ”“We kind of found it staggering the amount of talent around, and a lot of people doing what we consider to be very high-quality music,” says Abdel-Rahman Hussein, co-founder of Dandin, a Middle East music platform. “

This type of patting ourselves on the back isn’t useful at all. We have a looong way to go, and the first thing we need to do in order to move forward is to admit that. The amount of talent in the local music scene isn’t staggering; it’s depressing in comparison to other countries - Arab countries included. Were you able to name 3 decent Egyptian Hip-hop producers up there? Compare them for a moment with any 3 from the Ramallah crew, and be honest with yourself…


People tend to make up more romantic and intriguing versions of reality, and then they end up believing in their own stories and pass them on to others as facts, who in turn start parroting them to other people, and so on…until all you end up with are the same conversations about things that don’t even exist, and none about the issues that do. This isn’t good for an underdeveloped music scene like ours. We need to be very honest about our reality if we wanna identify the flaws and overcome them.

There is very little informed music journalism in Egypt at the moment – all it does is add to the cycle of self-congratulatory bullshit keeping our standards as low as they are right now…and you know what they say: "you can only be as good as your taste”.

This is just an extra sentence at the end so that I don’t end on a quote like some annoying bellend who thinks they’re a writer.

Link to the article in case you missed the gazillion hyperlinks: https://www.yahoo.com/news/egypt-sees-resurgence-independent-music-scene-064840438.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=fb


Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. ~ John F. Kennedy, U.S. President

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

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As a celebration of the beauty and joy of cycling, 300 noteworthy quotes are assembled to create this artwork. Drawn from a wide variety of bike lovers – from presidents to pro racers, scientists to artists – this collection expresses what makes cycling more than a sport. Some quotes are slices of life, while some are deeper musings. But all of them will resonate with, and inspire, your cyclist’s soul.


Date of release: November 2014
Sheet size: A1 (840mm X 594mm) Approx 24 inch X 33 Inch
Print Quality: Offset Lithographic Printing using 1 Pantone spot color. Printed on Recycled 220gsm Maple White paper. Suitable for archival use.

Photo credit: Angelo Calilap
11 Cityscape

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What started out as a collaborative project with LifeCycle has ended up winning 4 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and Spikes Asia Creative Awards. 3 slices of Pencil in the recent D&AD (British Design & Art Direction)

In the spirit of promoting urban cycling around the world, 100copies has now made this series available as posters.

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Date of release: October 2012
Sheet size for 13: 840mm X 335m (33 inch X 13.25 Inch)
Print Quality: 4 colours Offset Lithographic Printing with matt varnish to achieve better black and white contrast for the output image. Printed on Exel Satin 252gsm paper. Suitable for archival use.

Originally made for LifeCycle retail bike shop
Designers: Thomas Yang & Chris Soh
Copywriter: Andrew Hook
Photographer: Allan Ng from The Republic Studio
Retoucher: Digitalis

limited edition prints by 100copies in collaboration with lifecycle:

City-dwellers spend much of their day couped up inside. Yet there’s so much more out there to explore and discover. And the best way to do that is on the saddle of a bike. Cycling offers a unique perspective: a city looks and feels completely different when riding on a bike. To dramatise this idea, we created compositions from a variety of bicycle parts, encouraging people to break free of their daily routine, and to look at their surroundings in a completely different light.

[source 100copies]


Intrepid explorer
journeying to the Elevator,
bravely navigating past Office Politics,
catching your breath at Cape Watercooler before you venture to the unknown land they call the Pantry.
Step out. Get a life. Get a cycle.

What started out as a collaborative project with LifeCycle has ended up winning 4 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and Spikes Asia Creative Awards. 3 slices of Pencil in the recent D&AD (British Design & Art Direction)

In the spirit of promoting urban cycling around the world, 100copies has now made this series available as posters.

Originally made for
LifeCycle retail bike shop

Designers: Thomas Yang & Chris Soh
Copywriter: Andrew Hook
Photographer: Allan Ng from The Republic Studio
Retoucher: Digitalis

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15 The Great Migration
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Date of release: March 2013
Sheet size: A1 (840mm X 594mm) Approx 24 inch X 33 Inch
Print Quality: Offset Lithographic Printing using 3 Pantone spot colors. Printed on 9 Lives Recycled 250gsm paper. Suitable for archival use.

100copies is the brainchild of Singapore Creative Director Thomas Yang. An avid cyclist, he decided to combine two of his passions – bicycles and art – into 100copies. All of the products you see here are original designs created by him and are limited to, as the name suggests, 100 copies. Each piece of work will be watermarked, labeled with the title and edition number. As such, no two copies are ever completely identical.