The people want five pounds phone credit!


There’s been a great series of articles on the Quietus recently about Cairo’s ‘electro chaabi’ music scene.

If you’ve got any interest in discovering new music, you should go there now and read all six parts (start with this one). They’re the sort of articles that make you want to immediately get on a plane to Cairo, jump in a taxi to one of the city’s rougher neighbourhoods, and then try and find a street party with 25 rappers and kids twirling flares.

The New York Times also did a piece on the scene last month if you prefer your journalism from bigger name sources.

As much as I like spreading the love, the reason to mention the articles here is because of what’s apparently the scene’s biggest tune – The people want five pounds phone credit – and what that song starts with: the Egyptian national anthem.

The anthem’s played on a rubbish keyboard for about ten seconds until there’s the sound of a window being smashed and the Arabic pop comes flying in, obliterating even the memory of the military march.

You could listen to that intro over and over again, and walk away convinced you’d found the sound of the Arab spring from a couple of years ago.

But having read interviews with the main musicians, they seem like the least political people in Cairo – kids who just want to be making music for mobile phone ads – so I’m guessing they did it just because it sounds amazingly good.

It’s odd that when you hear music from “troubled” places, you always assume it’s political, as if kids aren’t making tunes for the same reasons they do in Europe: boredom, fun and a desire to get laid!

(By the way, the picture at the top is from the wedding of one of electro chaabi’s stars and was taken by Ester Meerman, a Dutch journalist in Cairo. You can find her great work here)

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