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What's That Noise?

SceneNoise, brought to you by CairoScene, is the region's first comprehensive and fully interactive platform showcasing the very best of what the local music scene has to offer and providing an unparalleled platform for the hottest acts....

When I first landed in Egypt, just over 5 years ago, there were only three people I had heard of on Egypt’s music scene, and two of them weren’t even Egyptian. Tiesto, Shakira, and Amr Hosny: an overrated, over-paid, symbol of monotonous dance music from the Netherlands, someone who makes a living from shaking their booty, and Shakira. Sorry Hosny lollol JK lol.

A lot has changed since. Long gone are the days of metal heads, stigmatised as gothic devil worshippers and sent to prison. We have bands like Massive Scar Era, Egypt’s female orientated Heavy Metal band who recently got a spot performing at SXSW. Long gone are the days of overpaid French EDM ‘stars’ with top of the pops hits, selling out (and filling out) lavish five star hotels with one hundred barely-swayed onlookers glued to their mobiles. Egypt now has a burgeoning underground scene with organisers bringing in the sort of hyped up DJs and producers even your friends in the West haven’t heard of yet. Just look at the likes of Nacelle, Audio Damiana and Awesome with their incredible roster of international artists more eager to fly over and be part of something new and exciting, something special, something akin to the New Rave scene that exploded in Manchester in the 90s.

And then of course there’s the 'Everyone’s a DJ’ trend. And you know what, if making and mixing tunes from a laptop has made it easier for this generation to create, to manifest their inner most expressions through music, to make people jump up and dance like mad, make them feel they're a part of something or even just give them something to do in such a dull country, then fuck yeah! Why not everyone become a DJ? (N.B. Just be modest about it. To quote Hisham Zahran - who gave us one of our favorite answers from any CairoScene interview -  “You’re just a guy pushing some buttons, no need to be a dick about it.”)

Chopstick & JohnJon spinning at Nacelle

And if we’re talking about DJs then we have to mention Electrum Records with their 2012 Red Beats competition making local heroes out of the likes of Baher Eid and Aroussi, now two of the hottest acts on the CairoScene. This year Electrum have also just laucnhed the massive Student DJ Competition .

Then we have the true creative geniuses pushing the boundaries of genres in their own art, the musicians unwilling to go with the status quo, who yearn to create something new and special that may just put Egypt on the map and boost the hopes of many other young artists in the region. Take the KIK (Kairo Is Koming) collective as an example who got together to put their innovative sounds from Trash-Pop and Electro-Clash to Techno out into the world. They've been gigging across Europe and the US in recent months.

We have the 100 Live Copies Music Space, founded by legendary Egyptian producer Mahmoud Refat, which provides a powerful platform to absolutely anyone and anything that makes you go “Errrr What the f***, what’s going on here, that sounds weir…, what is he doing…wait I kind of like this, yeeeeahh this is awesome, Woooo!”. Mahmoud Refaat, is also the critically acclaimed music curator behind the D-CAF festival happening all across Downtown Cairo this month which we’ll be covering in depth. Meanwhile Discord Music Magazine, Egypt’s first legitimate music publication, now organises events for those who still believe guitar music is real music. And then of course you have Cairo Jazz Club and their consistent and diverse schedule of gigs from Jazz to Electro and Disco.

Over the last few years I’ve found myself almost exclusively hanging out with musicians, and recently got into producing myself thanks to EPIC 101 Studios amazing production course that, as we speak, is creating an army of creative and educated music producers from kids who've never picked up an instrument in their lives, to experienced DJs who want to take the next step up. I used to do things like book the genius Electro producer NEOBYRD for the opening of Opium (Now Otium). Yeah, let that sink in… I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for that. I didn’t know the difference between TOKiMONSTA and TOYBOYS. Now, through my work at CairoScene, I’ve interviewed more musicians than I can remember. I’ve somehow become one of the first people to hear any new track from local artists before release. I never ever thought I would be someone who knows the difference between House, Progressive House, Tech House, Electro House and Boat House. Hell, I even enjoy Minimal Tech now apparently…

Me enjoying Byetone's Minimal Tech at D-CAF last week (a little too much)

I never thought the following phrase imaginable, but, Egypt has educated me. And it has made me appreciate music to a degree that ironically would probably never have been possible anywhere else in the world. There’s just so much talent about these days, so here’s our chance to give back, even just a little bit, with SceneNoise.

Back when CairoScene started interviewing local artists - whilst most newspapers and music publications were asking the humdrum questions like “What’s your favorite song?” and “Do you like Shakira?” - we were really digging deep, getting to know the soul of the artist. We asked the important questions… Would Tito have sex with an engine? What is Minus T’s favorite character from Home Improvement? How much do you love Hafez, Misty?

In our Music Matters interviews we’ve taught Lara Scandar how to dance to Skrillex, played Pokemon cards Bosaina II, introduced our very own DJ Tree, had High on Body Fat improvise a song about industrial fertiliser, discussed Murakami and cats in depth with Ahmed Samy, freestyled with Feedo, had every girl in the office swoon to Hassan Ramzy’s originals, traveled in time with Jazz star Ahmed F Harfoush and created the first Red Bull Spoon Clash with Cairokee and Wust El Balad (coming soon), plus many more awkward shenanigans.

SCENENOISE will now feature all of these somewhat retarded interviews, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually introduce a thing or two about music from now on. We’re building a team of passionate contributors and music writers to power the section so, as well as our artist interviews, we’ll be keeping tabs on everything on the music scene in Egypt and eventually the Middle East, from album reviews to opinion pieces. We’ll be shining the spotlight on talented young musicians who otherwise wouldn’t get the exposure. There’ll be a weekly advice column which will cover everything from artist promotion to mastering, to not being a dick behind the decks. We have a diverse line up of musicians willing and ready to hit us - and you - up with a weekly playlist from a wide range of genres in addition to a special weekend House (Khabt as I’d like to put it) playlist from Ahmed El Sebai, AKA Sebzz, that I hope will be the go to set for any House parties and after parties. I’ve never met a guy so in tune with this whole Deep House trend, except of course, he was into it years before it arrived at our dusty shores.

Last but not least, I want to introduce our innovative new SCENENOISE PROFILES. A one stop hub showcasing the best in original music content Egypt has to offer. Each musician profile boasts their latest track releases, gig schedules, event images from CairoZoom, articles written about them or mentioning them on CairoScene, latest videos, artwork and more, all automatically updated. And each profile comes with an iconic illustration made by the brilliant Ziad Ashraf of Bouklao Illustrations. The profiles are selected based on how active the DJs or musicians are. I would hope these profiles can act as a sort of press pack for each artist too, whch they can share with their friends, fans and event organisers.

On launch you’ll mainly find some well-known DJs and a couple of bands and solo artists but this is by no means a reflection for the direction the profiles will take. It was simply a matter of timing and you’ll find plenty more Noise Profiles being created for local musicians, particularly bands, within the coming weeks, some well-known, others not so much.

For all my optimistic prose about what’s happening in the music scene in Egypt today, we still have a long way to go as far as educating the ears of the masses. People are still going out based on who of their friends are going, and who the organisers are. The same kind of people complain about the music at an event without bothering to hear any of their tracks before leaving the house. Many people still have tunnel vision as far as their musical preferences go, and that’s fine too, as long as there’s an acceptance or even a willingness to diversify what they’re exposed too. My hope is for SceneNoise to gradually create that.

Have I been heard?