So I have been anxious to find out what’s happening here culturally. I wrote about the Darwish tribute last week. On Sunday I went to a screening of a few short experimental films at the Townhouse Gallery, a cool contemporary art space. The program featured shorts by filmmakers from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Denmark and were interesting, if a bit uneven.
So you know I was jazzed to check out my first Egyptian hip hop show. It was held at El Sawy Culture Wheel (where I went last week), and I even remembered to bring my camera (though the pictures did not come out as I had hoped). The headliner was Feedo, an Egyptian DJ who, in the past as I understand it, has performed with some of the country’s best MCs. Now he is going out as something of an R&B singer. His voice sounded a bit thin to me; he may be trying to do too much. I think he is trying to do a Pharrell kind of thing, but what I have always appreciated about Pharrell is that he seems to understand his voice and, to my mind, makes it work for him. To put it differently, Pharrell knows he is not Joe. From my perspective, Feedo, who sang almost entirely in English, just wasn’t cutting it as a vocalist, which is a shame because the show otherwise showed that he has a great musical sensibility.
As a DJ, Feedo can cut it, as he did with some classic Earth, Wind, and Fire, Public Enemy, and Sugar Hill Gang tracks. And the final set was great—it featured Feedo back at the controls with three percussionists, so it was a riveting incorporation of different kinds of drumming into a hip hop set. These kinds of innovations were to me exciting and fun, more so than Feedo half singing, “My name is Feedo/If you don’t know/This is how I flow.” (Seriously—I couldn’t make this up. Oh, wait, actually I could.)
The crowd was lively. Perhaps two-thirds male, similar to the US. It was slightly older than I think would come out to something comparable in the US, mostly mid-20s to mid-30s. Folks were enjoying themselves, responding to his repeated calls to “Put your hands in the air” (which he interjected in English in the middle of an otherwise Arabic monologue).
There was a group anthem, shouting out the women of Cairo. He had some guest MCs—my favorite was a young guy from Alexandria (below on the left), who with his partner forms the Alex Sharks. (I think there is a play on words in that his name in Arabic is similar to the word for sharks, but most of this is lost on me.) He was great—he rhymed exclusively in Arabic, which as a language has a great rhythm for hip hop (it reminds me of some reggaeton or dance hall collabos), and some of the tracks looped Arabic music in ways that were very cool. I talked to his partner briefly after the show and they are putting out an EP. I’m glad this scene is here and I look forward to hearing more.