Egypt's Newest Music Style: Mahragan
By Alessandra Dance on July 08, 2014
There is a new underground music style quickly gaining popularity in Egypt, especially around the suburbs of Cairo. It's known as mahragan, or also referred to as mahraganat (the plural form), which literally translates as "festival music". Sometimes it's also just referred to as techno or electronic sha'abi. As the last name implies, this new style of music is rooted in Egypt's sha'abi music (sha'abi meaning "music of the people").
Mahragan music can typically be recognized by its distinctive sha'abi beats that are overlaid with an electronic melody which is commonly improvised by the DJ, and singing that is frequently closer to U.S. style rap. As far as the production of the music, it is almost entirely digital, with a DJ on a computer and mixer, occasionally a keyboard, and the singer's voice often distorted by synthesized autotuning. And what the singers are singing about is definitely new as well. The lyrics range from humor to sex to religion to political rants, and oftentimes include slang and vulgarity. Something typically taboo and unprecedented in Egypt's conservative musical and cultural past.
Like most belly dancers, I've been familiar with sha'abi, and sha'abi songs been a frequent staple in my classes for many years now, but mahragan itself only recently crossed my path. While this new genre of music has roots that can be traced back as far as 2007, it really only started to become popular shortly after the Egyptian revolution in 2011. And for myself, I was first introduced to this style of music a short while ago during Seattle's International Film Festival while watching the documentary Electric Shaabi, which documented the music of some of the rising stars in this genre. The documentary showed glimpses into the lives of the artists, including exhibiting the poverty-ridden neighborhoods encircling Cairo that most of them came from, neighborhoods such as Salam City, Matareya, Sabteya, and Amareya.
To read more and see videos of the artists, please visit: http://www.alessandraraqs.blogspot.com/2014/06/egypts-newest-music-style-mahragan.html
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