With a new breed of musicians, producers and technical experts rising to the surface of Egypt's often-stagnant soundscape, we put a spotlight on five of the most unique and promising independent labels...
The 90s stereotype of fat cat music moguls puffing on cigars as their latest airheaded proteges get high and bellow out spoon fed lines in the recording booth is over. In today's day and age of DIY producers, MP3s and social media marketing, the need to be associated with 'a label' or 'get signed' has withered. Imprints and record labels have needed to adapt themselves to foster a new breed of underground musicians, and the ones still brave enough to create these ventures are the ones with the potential to shape the industry... there's no more money in having a record label any more; it comes from passion. A passion to find that expressive spark, incubate it and inspire a subculture to bloom in their vision. Whilst labels such as 100 Copies and Eka3 have become the cornerstone for progressive independent labels in Egypt, guiding the way for Arabcentric musicians, and labels such as Electrum Records have monopolised the commercial DJ and House industry in the country, here we're shining a spotlight on the even further left-field blossoming labels that are set to make their mark in Cairo and bridge between our burgeoning scene and the rest of the world...
Founded by singer and producer Bosaina fresh off the boat from RBMA Tokyo, as well as expert beat-maker ZULI, KultKairo's mission statement is to "document and archive future Kairo." That is a future of intelligent, forward-thinking and fresh sounds relative to them as talented artists and not attached to any geographical or socio-political position. For too long there has been that layer of musicians in Egypt who have been ignored despite creating music 'on par' with the rest of the world, for lack of a better phrase, and KultKairo hope to help these artists - the ones who don't necessarily play 'the music of the streets' - become relevant on the world map. The label stemmed organically from the KIK (Kairo is Koming) collective of Bosaina, Zuli, $$$TAG$$$, Hussein Sherbini, Ismael and N/A\A, a group of avant-garde Electronic composers who have flown the flag and made the right connections for Cairo's burgeoning scene which will provide the right exposure by affiliation to releases signed.
After its underground launch party last week at a secret Downtown location, KultKairo's first release will be $$$TAG$$$'s emotive EP Greater Than The Future and have more releases planned in early 2015 from the rest of KIK and affiliated artists.
With a dream to provide opportunities for Electronic music producers from Egypt and the region to have their sound heard globally, Besworx was founded late this year by long serving DJs Slim Nasr and Amr Mohey. They plan on distinguishing themselves by committing to artists' development and promotion whilst allowing them to bask in their own musical creativity. "Our aim is not to pack as many artists into the label and release masses of any Electronic music, but to work with select artists to release quality Techno, Tech House, and deeper House cuts," Mohey explains. Besworx will also be supporting local graphic designers and artists by commissioning their artwork to feature on release covers.
Nawa is a new record label that has plans to develop the Arab contemporary music industry in the Middle East and have gotten off to a massive start with the release of Maurice Louca's explosive Post-Shaabi Electronic masterpiece Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute The Parrot) digtally, as well as with a special vinyl press. The record is being distributed globally with the help of their excsessive connections with specialised PR agencies across UK, Europe and the Middle East, and it's been listed on countless international publication round ups from The Guardian to The Quietus as one of the albums to listen to this year - quite deservedly. With 15 years of experience behind him, founder, musician and composer Khayam Allami is developing Nawa as a partnership with artists: "We work directly with the artists at every step of the way (production, rights and publishing, and artistic and managerial support) to help them realise their vision. In return, we expect the artist to show their best efforts at making this vision a reality," he explains. They will also soon launch the Middle East’s first legitimate distribution network, an online store that will make their artists’ music available to purchase online through CD, vinyl LP, and high quality digital downloads.
Although staying tight lipped as to their future plans, we can expect a handful of big releases in 2015 with the first one appearing sometime in spring. Watch this space.
Subspace have had two extremely solid releases under their name to date, both Virgin best-sellers and completely diverse in nature. The first, Electro producer Neobyrd's sophmore album The King is Dead and the second, the Lana Del Ray-esque Malak's brilliant debut effort Alters. The brainchild of Aly Samaha and Hip Hop producer Teknyk, Subspace strives to support and inspire musicians who wish to defy accepted musical norms and transcend the traditional notions of genre, whilst also working on artists brand management.
This year Malak will be participating alongside top class signed acts from the Middle East in the upcoming X-Factor Arabia, taking her fanbase to new heights. Their studio space will also soon be open up to the public providing top quality production, recording, and mixing and mastering services for musicians.
Founders of Skateimpact, brothers Omar and Cherif Herrawi, teamed up with experienced producer and guitarist Amr Abiad as well as sound engineer and DJ Wassim Barsoum to bring Alexandria its first ever Electronic music label. Not merely confined to the local talent of the seaside city, Noizem's plan is to to take local talents from Egypt, France and Italy to the international scene. "We develop artists from scratch and make them shine. We seek the diamonds in the dirt. Egypt has so much talents specially in Alexandria," they tell us. With a focus on production value and live performance, so far Noizem have made several tentative Deep House releases from local producers PD White and Modkerk with a few mix-tapes scattered in between by the likes of Alexander Fosberg and international spinners on their label include Italian Krisme Kristina.
With a focus on production value and live performances, their roster of artists will all be releasing new EPs in 2015, and they will soon venture into the Punk and Rock scenes as well.