03 Editor’s Note 05 The Year in Albums 07 Jordan’s Akher Zapher 11 How to Start an Underground 15 Underground at its Best: Rock Stop 20 The new Workers for Art Profession Syndicate 23 Red Bull Music Academy: Bass Camp Beirut 29 A Smidgen of Kraut in our Rock 34 Reliving the Music: Egypt’s Golden Age of Rock 36 Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-leya! The Rhythm of a Nation 39 The Simpsons: Exclusive One-on-One with Mike Reiss 45 Interview with Ahmad Abdalla 51 A Selection of Go-To Music Websites
STAFF Publisher: Director: Managing Partner: Creative Director:
Gonzo Co. Sherif M. Zaazaa Nader Ahmed Walid Abouzeid
SALES & MARKETING DEPARTMENT Marketing Director: Sales Manager: Distribution:
Maha El-Nabawi Laila Helaly Marawan Alaa
EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT Editor in Chief: Online Editor in Chief: Senior Associate Editor: Associate Editor: ART DEPARTMENT
Mohammed Ashraf Noha El-Khatib William Mullally Ali Soliman
Art Director: Photography:
Salma Abou-Aisha Ashraf El-Mahrouky – OJO Studios
Angie Balata Chitra Kalyani Ines Khedira James J.M. Kareem Hosem Cover Illustration: Essam Abdallah Photography: Khaled Roshdy Christina Rizk
EDITOR’S NOTE /// Mohammed Ashraf
ast week I found myself in Stockholm; walking down its pristine streets, crossing its archipelagos, hands buried deep in my pockets to avoid having my fingers freeze and eventually fall to an untimely demise, strolling around with the dumbest smile on anyone’s face ever. Having been travelling constantly for the past two years or so, I have acquired the habit of examining almost every lamp post/tree trunk/wall I come by for the simple reason of them always having the most exciting concert announcements, something which any Egyptian who had ever walked down Zamalek could probably relate to. In fair old Sweden, however, it doesn’t take an acute observer to notice the wealth of concert flyers hanging on every other lamp post. Amazing concerts and festivals announcements everywhere, awesome bands and musicians playing every genre in existence; jazz, metal, post rock, prog rock, hip hop, pop, dubstep, half step, two step, step step! For a couple of hours I WAS the kid in the candy shop and the world’s dumbest smile got that tiny bit dumber by the second. Reflecting on this now, sitting in the world’s most yawn inducing, uninspiring room in Kish Island, Iran, I find my mind riddled with myriad what ifs pertaining to Egypt’s music scene specifically and the Mid East’s in general. What if this seismic shift in people’s way of thought and the region’s almost unanimous inclination towards the betterment of the quality of life would lead us to have an art scene that is at least relatively comparable to what they have in Scandinavia, Germany or the UK for example? What if with these changes musicians and audience alike would become more open to experimentation, to stepping outside the norm and make something that would finally reserve a place for us among music’s elite? What if this “revolutionary” spirit or whatever you’d like to call it doesn’t stop at politics and finds its way to arts and culture? Wouldn’t that be just fabtastic?! (The correct answer is yes by the way) Put on your rainbow tinted lenses and sprinkle a couple of unicorns in the background and let’s look at it from a full on
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optimistic point of view, shall we? In the last month alone, bands like the post-metal meets Rage Against the Machine Syrian trio Tanjara Daght, the industrial-tinged synth pop stylings of Wetrobots (heart) Bosaina and Tunisian experimentalist FUSAM all managed to provide me with a surge of hope towards our collective scene. The creativity, the carelessness for the ordinary and the great musicianship are all there, just waiting for a bigger audience, a round of well deserved appreciation and more bands and artists to tag along for the ride. On the opposite corner, however, with dark shades and a half empty glass in hand, we have those who will never stop playing covers, the crowd pleasers, the entertainers, the pseudoartists. Yes, they are everywhere and in every art scene in existence, but we have them by the dozen. Statistically speaking, to each band worth listening to there are exactly 25494 that will make your ears bleed and your heart cringe. OK, so I might have just made that number up, but with the buttloads of utterly crap music we are exposed to on satellite channels, concert halls and what not, the number doesn’t seem too exaggerated. That said, we have got the ammo and the will seems to be spreading, the hope is there and its light is shining brighter by the day, now all that remains is to feed the fire, set the scene alight! Maybe Cairo won’t be the next Reykjavik or Beirut the new Bristol, but fuck that, develop the underground, get those damn wheels turning, we’re getting somewhere and for my money’s worth, that “somewhere” looks mighty fine.
ADDICTED TO BREAK -ING
Dedicated to Walid Abouzeid Kabuto is King, forever...
Discord // music magazine 04
05 Discord // music magazine
track to your reading experience if you will)
(Feel free to check out the accompanying mix of chosen songs from the below featured albums on our website, a sound-
So without further ado, here is the cream of the crop from the first couple of months of 2012 so far.
aware of the fact that the average person has no time to filter through all that to strike gold, we have done that for you.
We’re five months in and my trusty album counter has already signaled in excess of 300 albums released this year. Fully
Musician, Writer, Professional Procrastintor
/// Mohammed Ashraf
TUNES FROM THE UNDERGROUND: THE YEAR SO FAR
ALL THE BEST RELEASES FROM THE WORLD OF UNDERGROUND MUSIC IN THE YEAR’S FIRST QUARTER…
discord : album review FOR THOSE LONGING FOR THE WINTER BLUES… Those who find refuge in the slowness of the cold season should look no further than The Caretaker’s follow up to last year’s Alzheimer/nostalgia driven An Empty Bliss Beyond this World which comes in the form of his soundtrack Patience (after Sebald). A beautiful piano based affair with his signature vinyl hiss forming the background and creating an ethereal soundscape that is bound to please the fans of all things languid. A-Sun Amissa’s Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep further cements Gizeh Records as one of the best labels in ambient and experimental music and brings back to focus Richard Knox’s love for dark textures and snowy imagery. Fabrizio Paterlini continues producing amazing solo piano albums in Autumn Stories and Japanese favorites Anoice have produced one of the most relatable pieces of languid, heart break heavy music in the very suitable titled Black Rain. The highest profile release (and that’s speaking in very relative terms) in the ambient genre comes in the form of Aaron Martin’s and Dag Rosenqvist’s (of Jasper, TX) collaboration, From the Mouth of the Sun, and have released a stunner of a debut in the form of Woven Tides. Sticking with the relatively famous, dream drone duo Windy & Carl have released what just might be my favorite of theirs since 2001’s Consciousness, and that is We Will Always Be. The Boats’ Ballads of the Research Department, which takes the duo’s music to new heights is a delight from start to finish and is considerably easy on the ears for those unfamiliar with the genre. Ambient dub producer extraordinaire 36 finishes off his trilogy which started with Hypersona and Hollow with Lithea, and if anything, he’s reached a new fantastic high with this album. Speaking of ambient and dub, bvdub has beefed up his sounds with more focus on vocal sampling and steady beats in his new masterpiece The First Day. Olan Mill continue to prove their worth in combining classical instrumentation with serene soundscapes with their sophomore effort Paths and Australian dronologist Oren Ambarchi has released a knockout of an album in Audience of One. Finally, don’t miss out on Plinth’s Collected Machine Music, a quiet little gem of an album that uses music boxes to maximal effect. THE PICK OF THE BUNCH: GREG HAINES – Digressions Talk about a near perfect work of art! Mr. Haines’ third album sees him drifting away from the more dissonant/avant-garde inclinations of From the Point of Hushed Support and embrace nothing but unadulterated beauty. Every song on this album is a revelation and every listen is a journey to behold. Get this album! FOR THOSE WANTING TO ADD A SPRING TO THEIR STEP Egypt has reason to be proud in 2012, musically speaking at least. Ahmed Ghazoly (under his Zuli alias) has released a wondrous EP titled Remember and sees him utilizing the influences of musicians in the vein of Burial (who keeps blowing minds with the release of a new EP, titled Kinder), James Blake and Clubroot to almost maximal effect. Keeping on with the less wobwobwobwob side of dubstep, Sun Glitters kicks off 2012
discord : album review with High, an EP that proves that he just might be the most interesting musician in the so called post-dubstep scene at the moment and hot on his heels would be Shlohmo’s fantastic Vacation EP. Speaking of dubstep, The New Law’s The Fifty Year Storm has a lot of that, but it also has a lot of everything! Latin, dance, glitch and hip hop all combine to bring home an early favorite for the year end lists. Blondes are always fun and their self titled album further proves that and deepens our love for all fair-haired humans, and more fun is to be had with the long awaited full length from Virtual Boy, which sees the duo exceed all the high expectations they’ve amassed throughout the years. The Field’s Axel Wilner embraces the Krautrock aesthetic (the what aesthetic?! Read a whole article on Krautrock on page 29) with his new project Loops of Your Heart, and does so in quite some fashion. Capturing their influence of the 80’s are Chairlift, whose album Something truly is well, something (sorry). The synth-pop meets electro-rock duo’s album is a fun little affair brimming with catchy tunes and avoids resorting to cheesy riffing and lyrics for hooks. On the more chilled-out side of electronica, the big name release would be Air’s Le Voyage dans la Lune, which is based on the silent movie of the same name and sees the French duo at their dreamy best harkening to mind classics like Moon Safari and The Virgin Suicides’ soundtrack. Finally, one can’t fail to mention Saltillo’s long awaited sophomore album Monocytes, which is, in a word, stunning!
& Champagne which should be greeted favorably by Middle Easterners due to its Arab tinged samples and eclectic array of sounds on show in their debut album. For those with a knack for the heavy, Alcest has released his third album Les Voyages De L’Âme and atmospheric doom metal seems to have a new champion in the form of Rituals’ crushing self titled debut. On the jazzier side of the spectrum, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation released an absolutely stunning album, totally improvised as usual, titled Egor and the London based Portico Quartet’s self titled effort, which takes the finesse of bands like Mercury Program and Wires.Under.Tension, adds a bit of jazzy sexiness to it and seals the deal with some electronica in the background is one of those albums that are well worthy of the attention it’s been garnering so far; superlative stuff.
THE PICK OF THE LITTER: ERRORS - Have Some Faith in Magic The Glaswegian postrocktronic© quartet’s third full length (released on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records) is everything one would expect from the already accomplished band and a little bit more. Their sound has gotten tighter, their song writing has reached a new level of maturity and the end result is absolutely magnificent!
So here you go, ladies and gents, boys and girls, more than an ear full of what should keep you thoroughly enamored and massively entertained for quite some time to come and be sure to catch up next time with new albums from Sigur Rós, Storm Corrosion, Bersarin Quartett, Beach House, Rush and many more in line to be featured. Till then, á dieu!
THE PICK OF THE LOT: THE MARS VOLTA – Noctourniquet Well, they’ve finally done it, Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala and co have finally (FINALLY) released an album that’s a rightful heir to their, now classic in the world of prog, De-Loused in the Comatorium. Noctourniquet is a world of beauty and chaos, subtlety and self indulgence, a world of contrasts that reveals itself as a majestic work of art on each listen. They have finally done it and I don’t see many prog albums competing at this level of supreme song writing this year.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO ROCK!! Post-rock veterans Caspian have released their first live album Live at South Old South Church, which accomplishes the stunning feat of making every track sound far superior to its studio recorded counterpart. Keeping with post-rock, Australian trio Dirty Three are back with a blast on Towards the Low Sun while Earth push their gloomy calmness even further with the second part of last year’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light and Rumour Cubes have released what could be seen as the rightful heir to Yndi Halda’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss in their full length debut The Narrow State. Folksy indie rock band Shearwater have pushed their music towards the more upbeat with Animal Joy, The Twilight Sad remain as sad and sulky as ever in No One Can Ever Know and noise-indie band Cloud Nothings have released what might be the best indie rock album of the year so far, Attack on Memory. On the more experimental side of rock, Kayo Dot return with a sound that combines their old maudlin of the Well sound with their usual over the top weirdness in their fifth album Gamma Knife. Delving deeper into experimentation is the collaborative between Grails and OM members Lilacs Discord // music magazine 06
discord : band review
BREATHE IN JORDAN’S
AKHER ZAPHEER /// Noha El-Khatib Having a love/hate relationship with the world, Noha edits our website and regularly inhibits spontaneous outbursts
Those of you who have visited or lived in Jordan know that it is generally a vast desert with random clusters of civilization. It looks very uniform, but is not homogenous at all in its demographics. One thing that does stand out, is that the single largest group of people is the youth. What this means in numbers is that 40% of the entire country’s population is YOUNG, between the ages of 1230. 30 in Jordan is not quite considered independent adulthood yet, for most 20-somethings are transitioning through the process. And for some reason, in the last two decades, a LOT of these youth LOVE ROCK AND ROLL. It was a trend in Jordan ten years ago (when these statistics were gathered by the UN) and the lovers of rock and roll are now using those influences to innovate (rather than mimic) their own style.
came across this song on YouTube, and perhaps touched by Basem’s longing voice and lyrics, I realized these aren’t kids experimenting with instruments and aggression. The song is called Akherto Lahen Hazeen (translated: In The End, A Sad Melody, or His Ending is a Sad Melody, you get the idea) and observes a young scowling man and a young elated woman wake up in the morning, in separate houses, and takes the viewer on a play by play of their preparations that morning. She cannot control the smile on her face as she puts on her white dress, her veil, her hairdo, her makeup, and the young man never breaks scowling character. You gotta watch it, I won’t spoil the mini-film. There is something both new and nostalgic about their sound. Someone compared them to Mashrou’ Leila (though I disagree). For some reason I thought of Kurt Kobain. Wait for their second single, even their full album to decide. They are way more punk and grunge than this video lets you believe. 07 Discord // music magazine
While their story unfolds, Akher Zapheer is performing the soundtrack to a (very well-made and artsy) music video, where you can feel (and see) the band’s relationship with their instruments and their music. It feels like making music is natural to them and they are finding their voice together. It didn’t feel like they were trying to portray a persona or mimick any other style. They are rockers singing in Arabic, and it’s not cheesy wannabe rock. (I just shuddered when I remembered this greasy haired yet well-groomed Lebanese singer yelling “Hayda Mish Ana” in a music video. Heard of it? No comment. Just a smirk) I think this Akher Zapheer video on its own made me hit the “Like” button and get in touch with them for an interview, and months later (they are super busy already) I finally managed a quick one (that’s what she said?) with Basem, the vocalist.
discord : band review
“ Many just escape through a ride outside the borders of Amman, with a friend and a smoke. However, you always have to go back and continue. That’s why its ‘akherto lahen hazeen’. ” Akher Zapheer is still a mystery. They sing for an escape from the routine of living in Amman, and if they continue to hone in on their unaffected, unpretentious style, they will BE the escape they seek. You can see for yourself if you go to their website www.akherzapheer.com that they have one song posted, one music video, and nothing else besides the lyrics and an introduction to the members. That is the only visual we’ve got until their album comes out soon. Can’t wait to hear it! First, an introduction! AKHER ZAPHEER IS: Basem Sayej: Vocals/ Lead Guitar Salem Dallal: Rhythm Guitar Kayed Qunibi: Drums Yazan Risheq: Bass Guitar TELL US THE STORY OF YOUR UNION AND HOW AKHER ZAPHEER WAS BORN. Akher Zapheer was formed in 2007, as any band, Basem and Salem are childhood friends and went to music school together, composed songs together and decided to form the band, Kayed joined as a drummer and Yazan is the latest member in the band. Each member put his own influence in the material that is introduced through Arabic lyrics. THE BASICS FIRST. YOUR INFLUENCES? Basem: Nirvana , Radiohead , Muse Salem: Nirvana, Placebo, Radiohead Kayed: Tool, Deftones Yazan: Muse, Metallica ONE OF OUR PARTNERS THOUGHT YOU SOUNDED A LITTLE LIKE MASHROU’ LEILA BUT I THINK HE MEANS MORE THE 'GENRE' THAN THE ACTUAL SOUND.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU BELIEVE YOU FALL INTO? Well we don’t believe we sound like them, or that they sound like any other band. We like them very much, though. However, in musical production and instrumentation… it’s like comparing the Gorillaz to Nirvana. I think the comparison is probably based on the idea of an Arab band using their childhood influences from western alt/punk/new wave/hardcore...etc. ROCK. Writing an original song, a set and performing it, is new to people here thus this generalization occurs. But if it helps clarify, we believe we fall under Indie/Punk/Grunge Arabic rock. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT A NEW GENRE HAS BEEN BORN... ONE THAT VOICES AND FREQUENTS LOVE (UNREQUITED OR NOT), LIFE AMIDST POLITICAL UPHEAVAL, AS SO ON… To an extent, yes. But I’m not sure of continuity of such a genre, because the music scene and the acceptance level of the audience is a hard wall to infiltrate. However, yes, it [has been] born and it’s out there and it’s the same generation slice who was never inspired by an existing scene in their region, and had to express themselves through western musical idols, through their daily life, sometimes through Arabic outspoken words in songs they composed in their bedrooms about love, life and politics. That doesn’t mean we are dissing the Arabic scene, all respect is held in our heart for Abdel Haleem, Um Kalthoum, Mohammad Muneer, Ziad Rahbani, etc. There is a song in the album that declares how inferior we feel we are compared to those legends. HOW’S IT GOING WITH THE NEW ALBUM? WE’RE WAITING! The album is 99% ready, we are just putting the final touches (finalizing the album design, printing... etc). The expected date of release is sometime in March… April maximum. But the songs are ready and we have them on our iPods. Discord // music magazine 08
discord : band review HAS THE REGIONAL UPRISING AFFECTED YOUR LIVES IN JORDAN IN ANY WAY? Honestly, it has no direct effect on the life in Jordan, though more protests are being held in the streets everyday. Though all of them are about living expenses and low salaries, nothing major like Egypt or Syria. As far as the relationship of the music to the political situations, our old material (which was written before all the fuss of the revolutions) has a more political blend than the newest material. We believe that the political aspect of our new Arabic age is being exploited by local independent artist, so it’s a trend that we decided not to follow just for the sake of writing a song, or just because the area is unstable. As a song writer I believe my political views have always been the same. If a song is written about that now it would be a cliché. SINGING IN ARABIC - IS IT BECAUSE YOU’RE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH ARABIC OR IS IT PART OF YOUR GOAL TO KEEP ARABIC LANGUAGE FROM GETTING LOST IN POP CULTURE? Well, I used to sing in English through my whole musical upbringing. But the use of Arabic was decided because we are Arabs, our target audiences are Arabs, and we are proud of it. And it’s totally true that the Arabic language must be used more in pop culture and we hope we can help regarding this issue. As a vocalist I have to admit it’s harder to sing in Arabic.
WHAT KIND OF OBSTACLES HAVE YOU FACED TRYING TO FORM A BAND AND RECORD SONGS AND VIDEOS IN JORDAN? IT’S NOT EASY ANYWHERE BUT WHAT’S IT LIKE IN AMMAN? IS THAT PART OF WHY YOU WANT TO GO B3EED 3AN AMMAN? (listen to the song for these lyrics where Basem sings to be taken away from Amman, far away) The major problem we faced as a band in Amman is finding a practice place, especially when neighbors would rather hear car horns in the street than a guitar playing. Moreover, playing live is challenging in two aspects. First, it’s hard with loud guitar distortion and drum grooves to play in small venues since people don’t expect such huge amount of energy transposing in a small crowded place. We don’t have places in Amman where bands can play regularly and some people still have a low tolerance for Arabic rock. The second aspect is the sound setup of any venue, if you want to prepare a good show you need to pay a lot from your pocket to have a decent sound otherwise you are just pure noise.
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The above is just a slice of the reasons to go “b3eed 3an 3amman” [winks]. The major idea is (as most of the youth would agree) that there’s nothing much to do in Amman, along with the difficult financial/emotional/political conditions our generation faces, many just escape through a ride outside the borders of Amman, with a friend and a smoke. However, you always have to go back and continue. That’s why its akherto lahen hazeen.
“It’s totally true that the Arabic language must be used more in pop culture and we hope we can help regarding this issue.”
discord : opinion
TOP NINE WAYS TO START AN UNDERGROUND: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN INDIE ROCK /// W.H. Mullally Itinerant Raconteur and Socratist
Tell me if this has happened to you: You turn on the radio, trying to find that perfect song that fits your mood. You fail miserably. You keep turning the dial, lowering your standards, looking for something new that will catch your ear, but every hook leaves you swimming away. You religiously check the local concert lineup, and find nothing but bland imports, overrated DJs and cover bands. You read about festivals in Germany and indie clubs in Brooklyn, and curse your local scene for not providing you with the cultural vibrancy that other cities take for granted. The question is: What are you going to do about it? Hereâ€™s another question: When someone mentions liking 80s music, do you laugh? What does 80s musicâ€™ even mean to you? Do you think ridiculous synthesizers, shoulder-pads, girls just wanting to have fun, Flock of Seagulls haircuts and George Michael asking you to wake him up before you go-go?
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hough we have an image of the 80s as this artlessly commercial time, there were much more interesting things going on right underneath the surface. Scores of bands were tirelessly working outside the system, searching to find new answers, new ways of approaching music, and, so too, their own lives. They were starting their own labels because no one else would have them; they were wandering the country in broken-down vans; they were playing passionate shows to crowds of two in towns no one had ever bothered to visit; they were making things harder than they needed to be because they knew that only then would they be able to create something worthwhile. Without the tireless efforts of these musicians, as well as the countless others who supported them, it is very doubtful that many of the things we love about music today would have ever happened. Most certainly, we wouldn’t have the bands we worship today—Nirvana, Radiohead, etc. We wouldn’t have a lot of the sounds and genres we love. Hell, without them, we might not even value the things we do. There’s a book about this very subject that I highly recommend: It’s called Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad. In it, he details the stories of 13 of the bands that were integral in the development of the independent music scene in America and abroad. It by no means covers everything there is to know, or all the bands worth hearing, but it is a fascinating, entertaining, moving and—above all else—inspiring read. Here are 09 lessons to learn from those pioneers: 1. THERE’S MORE THAN ONE PATH TO GREATNESS The fairy tale blueprint how a band develops is brought to us from many sources. Maybe you’ll see a movie like Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do, or you’ll hear the most famous story in pop music, the story of The Beatles. If you peruse Wikipedia for almost any famous musician’s “early days” they usually have the cliché of the Discovery. That moment that the young great ones seem to inevitably have. Sure, they are put together in their garage by a bunch of guys who are still learning their instruments, but sooner or later, someone takes notice—someone with the clout to be able to turn that band from a nothing to everything. Record contracts are brought down like the Ten Commandments, and from there, careers begin. This is the Discovery. It has happened many places, but it is always the same. For most bands, it is also a myth. Especially to those bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Minor Threat, Mission of Burma and Husker Du. To them, there was no moment when one man with a black hat entered into the back of the room, pointed, and said “You! You’ve got the goods!” Each of them toiled away at their career.
discord : opinion 2. GET OFF YOUR ASS AND DO IT YOURSELF And they did that by refusing to wait around for people to notice that they were making great music, and started going out and making people notice. Bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat didn’t have labels—so they made their own (SST and Dischord, respectively). They scraped together some money and recorded albums with shoddy technology; they contacted the people who press albums and had them produce as many as the band members could afford; they sent off their records to distributors around the country and to the small mom and pop record stores that would dare sell something new and strange in their stores, and pray to god that someone would eventually send some money back if and when the record was actually bought. When these bands started out in around 1981, there wasn’t a concert scene to be had. There weren’t all the small clubs, there was no infrastructure for something like this. So these bands created one. They played anywhere— basements, empty bars, elk lodges. How did they get people to come? They aggressively promoted themselves, often wandering the street with fliers just telling people to come down to the show that night. They united with other bands too—they toured in packs and followed each others lead. Sure, they failed, but they didn’t always. Once Black Flag played a club, another band would come too, and before you know it, there was a haven for a band to come to in that area.
There was no moment when one man with a black hat entered into the back of the room, pointed, and said “You! You’ve got the goods!” Why would you go through all this trouble? Simple: 3. BE YOUR OWN BOSS Because if they did it themselves, then no one could tell them how it should be run. There was no one forcing them to play in giant arenas and change their sound so that it could get on the radio as fast as possible. There was no label rejecting their latest masterpiece because they “didn’t think it had a single.” There was no one deciding their name should be changed and their album cover was too risqué and they should dress in a different way, because the way they dressed was a bit too weird for the MTV crowd. They controlled what came out. They controlled everything. And as a result, there was no one there to mess it up and change the vision. The art that was produced, the concerts, everything was of the bands design. If people didn’t like it? Who cares. They’d just keep pushing until they found the people that did.
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discord : opinion And besides, 4. THINGS ARE BETTER WHEN THEY ARE HARD A lot of us creative types, or at least those who consider themselves creative, are probably some of the most expert procrastinators who ever existed. They look at their schedule, and point to their next three day weekend and say “hmm okay, I have nothing better going on, I’ll have some inspiration there.” And when that day comes, something will come up. They look at the infinite time that others have when they are creating and envy that, saying to themselves, well if only my life were like that, then I’d be able to accomplish my dreams. But when you look at what these bands went through, the art came from the struggle. Sonic Youth, for instance, refused to do things in a conventional way. They would invent dozens of new tunings for their guitar because conventional tuning sounded too conventional. They would buy the cheapest instruments they could find and pull the instruments apart or stick screwdrivers in them until the knock-off guitar made a sound they found interesting. They would sit for days just experimenting with whatever they had around them, all for the sake of finding something new. They turned up the volume and alienated audiences looking for simple rock hooks. These people, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo predominantly, made nothing easy. And in the process, they changed music. They not only set up the indie archetype of what a band should be, they changed people’s ideas about what music could be, and even what could be considered music. They brought audiences to accept experimentation. They became an artistic gateway drug. And that didn’t come from trying to get famous. 5. DON’T DO IT FOR THE MONEY Never were bands like Sonic Youth or the Minutemen trying to get rich. They were trying to do something new. Sure, they hustled. They played the system they were creating—Sonic Youth, for example, became friends with the rock writers and the rest of the media and even participated in journalism themselves. They called bands all over the country, networking to the point that they were everyone’s connection to everyone else. They were shrewd and knew how to market themselves—but they were not simple profiteers. The Minutemen were fine with being successful—they just didn’t define success as “stardom” like so many others do. Let’s take Steve Albini, for example. He was, in the 1980s, leader of the band Big Black and eventually became one of the most respected producers and sound engineers in music, famously producing work for Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, PJ Harvey and Nirvana’s In Utero, among other masterpieces. Sure he went on to make money, but he would also produce albums for next to no money if he thought they were worthy. When major labels called trying to sign his band, he literally just hung up the phone. He didn’t sign contracts and paid for 13 Discord // music magazine
discord : opinion everything himself. He and his band members didn’t quit their low paying day jobs because they never wanted the band to be something that needed to be profitable, and so that way, they’d always be making it for art, and not to pay the bills and risk writing songs they knew would find a big audience for the sake of getting paid.
Once things are set in stone, and once ideas become dogma, that’s when ideas die. The only way to keep things alive is to keep changing the game.
6. DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT TO DO Punk as a genre, though rooted in bands from the 60s and 70s like the Stooges and MC5, famously broke through in 1977 with the Damned, the Clash, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. A few short years later, most critics had already decided the genre was dead, and the only people who hadn’t moved on were sad posers. That’s all well and good if you are living in New York or London. But to the kids in small towns where there was nothing else, you know what they had to say to that? Fuck off, and don’t try to tell us what’s cool. They embraced punk even though many had abandoned it and society had spat upon it because not only did they love its energy, they found it was something they could build philosophies around. They invented scenes like Hardcore and played the kind of music they wanted. Music isn’t dead until you say it is.
ists who’s ability to play their instrument is unparalleled. And there’s good reason for the obsession with musicianship—it’s damn hard to be that good. It takes years if not decades to become truly a master of the instrument you play. But there are many fantastic guitar players that put me to sleep.
7. KILL YOUR IDOLS—THERE ARE NO RULES A funny thing happened after bands like Black Flag and the Minutemen founded the hardcore scene—pretty soon, people started getting out the rulebook. Punk was made in the spirit of rebellion, and just as with any rebellion, eventually the rebel becomes the establishment. For the next ten years, every band that really meant something broke the rules that those-that blazed trails before them- had inevitably set in stone. It has to be hard and fast? Well, not if you’re Mission of Burma. Rockers had to be drug crazed sex mavens? That’s not the way Fugazi and Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye saw things. You couldn’t incorporate pop history with killer hooks and melody? Husker Du said you could. There could be no guitar gods with with epic solos? Meet Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis. You couldn’t sign to a major label and keep your credibility? Sonic Youth did. Your sound’s got to be a macho, aggressive assault? Not if you’re the Beat Happening. Once things are set in stone, and once ideas become dogma, that’s when ideas die. The only way to keep things alive is to keep changing the game.
8. CREATIVITY TRUMPS TECHNICAL ABILITY This is the breaking point for a lot of music listeners. Let’s take my father, for instance. There are not many bigger music fans I’ve ever met. He talks about music at least half the time, he practically worships the greats of Jazz and Rock and he still goes to concerts and chats up musicians even now that he’s well into his 60s. But if there’s one thing we disagree on, it’s one of the most fundamental of values. There are many art-
If I had to choose, I’d pick creativity every time. There’s something much more exciting about a guy who just picked up the guitar he can barely play, playing next to someone drumming on a bunch of discarded yoghurt containers. That’s exactly what the Beat Happening did. They couldn’t strum. They couldn’t keep a beat. They couldn’t even sing. But could write songs that would stick with you for the rest of your life. And who cares about anything else but that? If there’s anything that a band like the Beat Happening exemplified it’s that if you have a song in you, don’t talk yourself into holding it back. Who cares if you sound like shit? Who gives a shit if you sound nothing like anybody else? Greatness isn’t the sole territory of the technically skilled. 9. BELIEVE IN SOMETHING AND WRITE ABOUT IT “The underground scene was not just defined by the music— it was defined by the fans.” The people who went to the shows in small venues and ordered away for ten inch split singles were not people with a passing interest in pop. These were connoisseurs who cared about music and had strong ideas about what it should be. And often times, even if they were just teenagers, they would create fanzines like Flipside, Maximumrocknroll or Op Magazine. They would get their friends to contribute. Op got pieces about local bands written by people like Matt Groening, who went on to create the comic strip Life is Hell and more famously, The Simpsons. Steve Albini wrote a monthly column in a Chicago zine named Matter. These guys, and countless others, covered bands the mainstream wouldn’t touch and championed ideas that others took and ran with. Sometimes the bands would be inspired by the zines, sometimes the writers themselves would go on to form bands. But it was these places that the philosophy of the underground was born. Is there a band you like that no one else seems to know? Write about it. And write about why they excite you. Don’t have a place to do it? Why not in the pages of Discord? Not many bands out there that interest you? Well, then fucking start one that does. So let’s get moving. We should have done this a long time ago. Discord // music magazine 14
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n the outskirts of Cairo, far away from the chaos of traffic and the bustle of campaign buses, the first ROCK STOP took place in the majestic gardens of the Royal Muhammad Ali Club. Presented by UMF and Mobinil, the all day concert featured some of Egypt’s best in rock. Without words and accompanied only by an array of drums, The Percussion Show began with a set that had the audience in awe at the spectacular display of talent. With unusually perfect weather, the various bands, including Hany Mustafa, Digla, Simplexity, Shady Ahmed and Faking It rocked the evening away to an ever-increasing crowd. In between sets, fans enjoyed playing table tennis in a court courteously provided by Fred Perry, alongside the picturesque Nile shoreline of the Club.
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But the showstopper, and headliner of the event, was Mashrou’ Leila. The Lebanese university-workshop-turnedinsanely successful-underground band exceeded all expectations. The band kept the audience entertained and energized playing from their two albums, but the surprise for anyone in the crowd was the sampling of four songs from their upcoming album. The highlight of the evening came at the end of the Mashrou’ Leila set, for as the band finished their last song and the crowd began to exit in the silence left by a stunning performance, the band suddenly began playing and front man Hamed Sinno got back to the mic, executing one of the best live performances of their first hit single, ‘Fasateen’. A perfect end to an exciting day.
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est b e h t u o y Bringing NE W BR ITI SH MU SIC
EVERY FRIDAY On 104.2 Nile FM at 3.00 p.m.
discord : opinion
SHIMMER OF HOPE FOR STRUGGLING ARTISTS: THE NEW ART SYNDICATE
/// Maha ElNabawi Egyptian. Writer. Marketeer. Sees life through an allegorical prism of connectivity.
few months back, nearly one year after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, I again found myself in and around Tahrir Square, but this time, I wasn’t celebrating in the naïveté of the reverberating chant, “the people and the army are one hand” - instead, I was fighting an attack of tears after watching a screening of Ahmad Abdalla’s film, “Microphone.” Using fiction, documentary, and musical techniques; the film mixes and remixes various cinematic styles as it follows protagonist, Khaled (played by Khaled Abol Naga), as he returns to his hometown of Alexandria, where he dives into a thriving underground music and arts scene. Out of nearly 45 characters in “Microphone,” only a few were professional actors playing fictional roles. Instead, Abdalla blends the lines between reality and fiction, featuring real Alexandria-based artists and musicians within the cast. Notable cameos include graffiti artists, Aya Tarek and Ahmed Ragab, the all-female band, Mascara, hip-hop group, Y-Crew, and progressive Arabic rock band, Massar Egbari. The artists and musicians featured in the film play themselves, and their storylines are often inspired by their own lives – Abdalla’s use of cinéma vérité gives the film a more vivid portrayal of the struggles faced by independent artists in the mind-numbing bureaucracy associated with the Mubarak regime. The kaleidoscope of stories provides the framework for the film’s stronger, more evocative sequence in which the bands audition for a spot in a government-sponsored concert. The sycophantic official who presides over this process manages to censor each group, while denying he is doing so: “I am an artist myself you know, to prove to you that we are a democratic institution, we’ll include one song, but you have to change the lyrics,” he says before eventually turning them all down in favor of an all too typical choice – a singer who covers Umm Kulthum songs. Finding himself increasingly drawn to the area’s burgeoning arts scene, and utterly disturbed by the red tape that prevents the bands from entering the show, Khaled takes it upon himself to organize a concert for the local underground bands. The film ends on a somber note, when the concert is inevitably hindered by more bureaucracy, a lack of licenses, and of course, Islamists – because after all, music is not a God-given talent in the eyes of religious fundamentalism, it’s a sin. Brilliant.
When and how will all these young artists find the audience and the stage their work deserves? Discord // music magazine 20
discord : opinion Released on January 26, 2011, the film metaphorically depicts the struggles faced by independent artists and musicians while aggressively tackling the issue of freedom of expression, making Abdalla and his microphone one of the boldest acts of artistic resistance against a system defined by despotism. So there I was, on February 8th 2012, leaving the screening at “10 Mahmoud Bassiouny” (likely one of the coolest new, downtown independent art spaces), teary eyed, and angry on behalf of our repressed musical community - the experience left me wondering: when and how will all these young artists find the audience and the stage their work deserves? Eagerly seeking vengeance on a system that has done nothing but repeatedly amputate Egypt’s cultural progress (amongst many other things) – a modicum of new music and art syndicates have mushroomed into existence since the fall of Mubarak. On the vanguard of this artistic-political movement is the Dokki-based, Workers for Art Profession Syndicate, which aims to provide radical solutions to the social and economic impotency defined by the previous regime whose cronies continue to hold authority in the government-tied Artistic Professions Syndicate.
I gained a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the rights available to Egyptian artists – rights that have been previously overshadowed by the fear-mongering tactics of the previous system. Prior to the Jan 25th revolution, the three main artistic syndicates included the Actors Syndicate, Musicians Syndicate and Cinematic Professions Syndicate – all of which fall under a supreme union of syndicates (Artistic Professions Syndicate) that are still run by Mamdouh al-Leithy, one of the spearheads of official media amongst the Mubarak regime. 21 Discord // music magazine
The Artistic Professions Syndicate law stipulates that only those artists and musicians who have studied at official art academies are eligible to receive permanent membership and work – practicing artists who do not have such a degree must pay the syndicate annual fees in order to work, yet are still not allowed to receive a permanent membership. As most musicians know, prior to the revolution, performing in Egypt was no easy feat. Often times, scheduled performances were shut down due the bureaucratic system that required artists to hold a performance license as part of the Artistic Profession Syndicate. As seen in “Microphone”, this supposed “law” was often enforced by smarmy security officers, who meander into public or private performances demanding to see the musician’s license – if the artist couldn’t produce the said license on the spot, or if they couldn’t scrape up enough dough to pay off the officers, the performance would be shut down. In hopes of learning more about combating this corrupt and downright inhumane treatment of artists, I took it upon myself to go visit the new Workers for Art Profession Syndicate – one of nearly 180 art related unions that have emerged since the Jan 25th revolution. To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical when first walking into the shabby office of this new syndicate – what could these guys possibly do to change a system so deeply poisoned by decades of despotism? Upon my arrival, the syndicate’s general manager, Dr. Nabeel Rizk, warmly greeted me; introducing me to the many actors and musicians floating around the office, I quickly realized this syndicate was already accomplishing something by simply providing these artists with a place to meet, collaborate and rehearse. While sitting at length with Mohamed Salama, the head of the actors department, I gained a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the rights available to Egyptian artists – rights that have been previously overshadowed by the fear-mongering tactics of the previous system. According to Mohamed Salama, “The whole point of a syndicate is to fight for your rights that are not being granted to you by your government, so it goes against all logic for syndicates to be government controlled – which they have been. “ “As an artist, you should not be required to have a syndicate membership in order to perform what you do – being an artist is a talent – it’s different than being an engineer or a doctor – as an artist you’re a creative person, so your work is your expression.” He added.
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The previous regime’s marginalization of artists is solely responsible for the near obliteration of modern Egyptian art and music. According to Salama, the Workers for Art Profession Syndicate depends mainly on the laws enacted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), stipulating that an artist should have the right to work through his talents – it is his or her personal choice to select whatever union they see fit rather than being forced to join one in order to work. Within only a few short months, the Workers for Art Profession Syndicate have already boasted close to 9,000 members, with nearly 18 different departments including, but not limited to: Actors, Music, Theater, Dance, Cinema, Media, Fine Art, Sculpture and Graphics. There are two membership types within the syndicate – both active members and associate members pay the same fee of LE50 to open an account, which qualifies them to be presented in front of the yearly-elected evaluation committee. Depending on their talent, education, and work-experience, applicants are then delegated into one of the two membership types where they pay LE120 annual fee plus an additional LE 20 for their entrance card. In the years that follow, members are only required to pay an annual fee of LE140 – a staggering difference between the government tainted Artistic Profession Syndicate which requires members to pay between LE500 – LE1250 in fees, as mentioned by Salama. “We want our syndicate to be accessible to artists – we currently provide them with resources, networking, workshops, insurance, while also providing them with lawyers if their rights need to be legally defended.” Said Salama. “Now, if one of our members finds himself at a performance and is approached by a security officer that demands to see his license – we will send a lawyer, and come immediately to his or her side to protect their right to perform.” He added.
The overall mission of the syndicate is to address the burgeoning interest of a growing, competent collective of artists keen on pursuing creative activities, which they had been unable to pursue or afford in the past. They also work to build collabora-
tions between artists and inject them into various projects produced by the syndicate. Salama said, “We are currently producing various short movies, feature films, and a theater performance – what’s great is that we have 9,000 working professionals that can be hired within the projects, whether it be sound engineers, script writers, make up artists, actors and so on – we help create jobs for them.” The Workers for Art Profession Syndicate is a prime example that things are in fact changing for the better. The previous regime’s marginalization of artists is solely responsible for the near obliteration of modern Egyptian art and music – and while we still have a long way to go, the recent Do-It-Yourself attitude flooding the streets of Egypt just may put this country back on the map as cultural innovators and creative pioneers. Let’s face it, we are living in some wild times; a major shift in paradigm, filled with immense uncertainty - that being said, brilliant art and great music are often created during these times of deep moral ambiguity. And with the help of organizations like the Workers for Art Profession Syndicate, these dreams of creation are not as far off as they once seemed.
“As an artist, you should not be required to have a syndicate membership in order to perform what you do – being an artist is a talent – it’s different than being an engineer or a doctor – as an artist you’re a creative person, so your work is your expression.” Discord // music magazine 22
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RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY BASS CAMP BEIRUT—A MODERN DAY MUSICAL
/// Maha ElNabawi Photography provided by Red Bull Content Pool
t’s a gloomy Cairo morning in mid-March - the sky is grey, the traffic has crawled to a standstill and I’m officially late for my flight to Beirut. The Red Bull Egypt office kindly invited me to join their regional Bass Camp Beirut program, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA), held each year. It felt like a beautiful dream when the Red Bull representative described the program to me – three days filled with new faces, music, and cross-cultural collaborations. Now in its 15th year, the Red Bull Music Academy has been popping up around the globe - the world-traveling festival includes a series of music workshops and performances aimed at creating a platform for those who shape our musical future. RBMA’s Bass Camp, is currently taking place in various regions through out the world, and acts as a mini version of the real Music Academy, which will take place in New York in September. According to the program’s literature, “Bass Camp Beirut will arrive in Beirut on March 23rd, 24th, and 25th, with the aim of bringing together four leaders of the music industry with 3040 gifted instrumentalists, vocalists, DJs, and producers from across the Middle East, for a three-day musical explosion.” Foiling the attempts of Cairo’s infamous traffic to put an overly premature ending to this dream weekend, I made it to the plane on time and a couple of hours later was finally in the Coral Suites hotel in Hamra, Beirut, where most of the visiting musicians are also staying and go down to meet more members of the Red Bull team. With contagious sense of enthusiasm they proceed to tell me, “You are going to have a blast on this trip. This year, we will host Academy lecturers, DJ Zinc (Rinse FM, London), one of JayZ’s longtime producer and engineer, Young Guru (New York), composer and trumpet master, Ibrahim Maalouf (France), and Lebanese underground music legend Fadi Tabbal.” For three back-to-back days, we will be submerged in lectures, workshops, recording and jam sessions all located within the Democratic Republic of Music (DRM) in Hamra. Following the 23 Discord // music magazine
lectures and studio sessions, Bass Camp will culminate in a “sonic invasion” of the city in various bars including, Le Pasteur, Dany’s, Bodot, Mojo and DRM, for two wild nights of live music all under the motto, “Let the music do the talking.” After lunch, and later that evening we are ushered onto a bus en route for the meet and greet dinner at Al-Falamanki. A young lady with a bustling spirit sits across the aisle from me and strikes up conversation, she turns to me and says, “Oh thank God there’s another girl in the hotel, I was totally unsure of what to wear and who to ask. Hi, I’m May Alqasim – I’m an R&B singer and pianist from Bahrain, what do kind of music do you make?” I reply awkwardly that I’m not actually a musician; that I’m a culture journalist from Egypt here to cover the weekend. May quickly stands up, claps her hands a few times and shouts to the bus, “Ladies and gentlemen, or actually, gentlemen – I’ve found the journalist on board, everyone proceed with caution!” Her black, flowing one-shoulder top falls nicely over her skinny jeans, and I notice, she needs no help at all in getting dressed – 21-year old May, knows what’s up.
For three back-to-back days, we will be submerged in lectures, workshops, recording and jam sessions.
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Fadi Tabbal, Ziad Nawfal
Musicians waiting for studio session
Kay Nassef, Ousso Lotfy (guitar)
Laughing, I thank her for the warm introduction and let it fuel my sociability in meeting the other artists. Behind May, sits Damian D’Costa, also from Bahrain and equally friendly – Damian, a veteran House DJ and producer started out as a turntablist in the ‘80s. Later as a DJ, Damian held residencies at big name Bahraini clubs including, BJs, Savage Garden, and Likwid. He later went on to host his own five-day a week radio show on the national radio station 96.5FM for four years and is now part owner of a House-music based club and venue called, Cocoon Lounge.
issue of DISCORD).
Saudi Arabian record label owner, Hassan Samman, then introduces himself as, “Big H from Jeddah Legends Record Label.” Within moments of talking to Big H, I realize he is not quite the gangster rap persona he dresses up to be, in fact, he seems like a big teddy bear, with a savvy business mind and an ear for budding hip-hoppers.
I then meet fellow Egyptian, Khaled Nassef, as we both reach for the same plate of perfectly seasoned Fattoush – we both back away from the salad and introduce ourselves instead. Kay is an electronic musician and vocalist, he started his career with a blast with his first single “Paralyzed” winning third place in the 17th Annual Billboard World song contest. Shortly afterwards he pursued taking his passion to the next level and joined the SAE Institute in Miami for professional electronic music production, while there he also took courses in vocal training and later went on to receive a first place prize in the ATB Remix completion for his vocal and electronic inspired tracks. He is currently working on his debut EP titled Things I Wrote which he describes as ambient, chill-out, with vocals.
We soon arrive at Al- Falamanki restaurant and head towards the private dinning room where we find several more invited musicians and Red Bullers. We are soon introduced to this year’s “Mr.X”, Red Bull’s selection as brand ambassador based on his deep immersion in the local scene, Zeid Hamdan of Zeid and the Wings’ fame (for more information on Zeid and the Wings, check out Tala Mukaddam’s interview in our past
Before slipping out of the restaurant, Zeid invites us to his show later that night at a bar called Blind Pig with his softspoken voice and French-Lebanese accent somehow making the request almost impossible to refuse. We agree to join after dinner, and Zeid zips off to catch his show. In the meantime, the long table full of musicians continues to meet and share stories of how they ended up where they are now, the regional music scene and so forth.
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Musician sign up for studios
Kay then introduces me to the mysterious seeming young man sitting next to him, “This is Ousso; he is also Egyptian and a killer guitarist.” Ousso has arguably been one of the most active musicians in Egypt and is most widely known for being founder of the Arabic fusion band, Nagham Masry, a leading member of Eftekasat jazz band and founder of the SoS Music festival, which between 2006 and 2010 introduced some of Egypt’s hottest rock bands. Ousso has also composed music for films and commercials, recorded and performed for Mohamed Mounir, Amr Diab, and several other Egyptian pop singers. And if his musical plate wasn’t already full, he is also a professor of guitar and music technology at the American University in Cairo. On our way to Zeid Hamdan’s, I also meet Iranian pianist, harmonica and qanoon player, Babak Safarnejad. Babak is from an artistic family and was exposed to world music from a young age. He later entered the conservatory music school to study qanoon (a Persian zither with a narrow trapezoidal soundboard) and later picked up the harmonica after being inspired by the legendary jazz musician and harmonica player, Toots Theilemans. Babak has since developed his own gypsy, jazz, and blues style and released his first album titled Friends. At Blind Pig, we all continue getting to know each other over the roar of bar-goers and fans there to hear Zeid Hamdan. His 25 Discord // music magazine
performance starts instantly, sending the room to a hush with his politically infused songs, most notably, “General Suleiman”, for which he was arrested in July 2011 and charged with “defaming the president”. After Zeid’s performance, we go across the street to Bodo – we take with us Zeid’s amp and electric guitar and set up an impromptu jam session. May Alqasim begins singing, “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”, while Ousso plays the blues riffs on the electric guitar, Kay-Nassef on the riq (Arabic tambourine), and Zeid singing back up vocals. The musicians jam playfully for a couple hours, then we take the street and attempt to find our hotel. May sings behind us the entire journey, acting like a vocal soundtrack to our disoriented state. The next morning, we receive wake-up calls at 7:30 am and head to DRM for breakfast and the start of the lectures. The café soon fills up with the 30-plus musicians invited into the Bass Camp. I circle the room attempting to meet everyone and learn their musical talent - along the way I meet Lebanese electric violinist, Avo Demirdjian – Avo has played the violin for the past 20 years, and the electric violin since he was 15. In 2004 he joined Arcane band and later formed his band, epiSode who have opened for none other than Serj Tankian. Then comes Lebanese bass guitarist, Imad Jawad (from the Lazy Lung band), who sidles me with a warm introduction
discord : journal while bursting with a beautifully quirky and positive aura. The highlight of my morning culminates when I bump into Egyptian hip-hopper, MC Amin, who had also been invited on the trip. MC Amin has been on the vanguard of developing rap as a means of socio-political commentary within Egypt and the region. His combative lyrics and militant rap-persona aka “The General” have succeeded in transforming his music into an art of dissent and is most widely known for three-part song, “The Situation Must Change”, as well as his collaborations with hip-hop artists from the Arab region. We shake hands, pulling each other into a hug and a doublecheek kiss - we’ve met a couple times before in Egypt being that I’ve been slightly stalking him for interviews and quotes throughout this past year. One of the many interesting things about MC Amin is his clear and beautifully human vision for his country and the region – a sentiment many of the regional rappers share. Sitting across from MC Amin is one of his collaborators (and friend), the Lebanese female rap phenomenon, Malikah, who warmly shakes my hand while flashing a bright smile. Next to MC Amin is DJ Lethal Skillz, one of the masterminds behind mobilizing the Arab solidarity hip-hop movement – Skillz is a hip-hop and urban musician, he’s also a wicked turntablist, and producer. He recently dropped his compilation album Karmageddon featuring musicians from around the region including MC Amin, Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst and more. After breakfast we go down into DRM’s skillfully architected space, designed in a stadium setting, which gives the room brilliant acoustics capabilities, and the lecture segment begins… The first speaker is DJ Zinc who discusses his experience in the Red Bull Music Academy, his career, and the emergence of Pirate Radio (illegally or unregulated radio transmission) stations in England. We then meet Lebanese sound-engineer and musical Renaissance man, Fadi Tabbal. Working as an engineer at Tunefork recording studio, Fadi has made a reputation for being a jack-of-all-trades within the fields of sound design and sound conception. As the theoretical program ends for the day, we are ushered into the back offices of DRM, which have been transformed into 4-custom built studios packed with almost any basic instrument or gadget one could think of including synthesizers, keyboards, drum kits, pads, and production programs such as Ableton Live, and Logic Pro. The musicians sign up for time slots within the studios, asking one another what their desired style is and figure out what talents and instruments are best suited for each studio session.
Jumping between rooms, I watch the musicians integrate musically with one another, hearing the most organic and improvised combination of sounds form into melodies, chorus lines, beats and bass lines. In one room you may find a bass guitarist, a rapper, a producer and even Babak, ripping the harmonica in a blues rhythm and warping the sounds with his effect pedals. In another room, May lays down her R&B vocals, along with a verse from Malikah; brought together with break beats produced by DJ Skillz. The walls of the studios are lined with Lebanese artist, Mazen Kerbaj’s, music inspired, comic styled paintings, drawings, and mixed media pieces, tantalizing our senses even more. I quickly notice that the inspiration of creation happening all around me is wildly infectious – musicians spill over into the venue space while waiting for studio sessions, causing the entire building to be transformed into a musical labyrinth and creative laboratory. Night falls and we are rushed back to Coral Suites to change and hit the town for the scheduled jam-session performances within the designated bars in Hamra. One band plays in a bar, they’re done and off we go to the next and again and again. A wall of sound created all around Lebanon’s beautiful capital. The entire weekend continues on like this, we wake, eat, sleep, and drink music – every conversation we have either directly or indirectly addresses the art form, even on the socio-political level. Topics like combating illiteracy with art, the parallels between Europe’s Age of Enlightenment and the Arab Spring and joke that our movement is called the Age of Illumination – where everything will come to light and be brightened by the cultivation of art, science, freedom of expression and religious tolerance. The next lecture, conducted by Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton (Jay-Z’s longtime engineer, and producer) sees him take us through his career, the emergence of hip-hop in the boroughs of New York and the importance of alternative media. Halfway through this lecture, I realize this is likely the most inspirational lecture I have ever heard. Not only is he dissecting Jay-Z’s Blueprint album and explaining how he found certain samples, how he engineered particular sounds but also, he goes on to mention the importance of the DIY attitude within music, emphasizing that we live in a digital age and that the only way to break our limitations is to cultivate our creative independence from capital institutions. Before I know it, the weekend is over and reality finds its way back into the dream. I ride in silence on my way back from Cairo airport as I revel in the memory of my senses. The music remains with me, May Alqasim and Kay-Nassef’s playfully harmonized vocals, the rappers and their poetic free-styles, Zeid Hamdan and his omnipresent ukulele and, of course, Babak Discord // music magazine 26
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Yung Guru’s Lecture
and his beguiling harmonica - the beautiful combination of characters and sounds play endlessly in mind as I suddenly realize, RBMA’s Bass Camp feels as though you are living in a modern-day musical, but instead of being confined to a set and stage, the program leaves you empowered and free to express and inspire the world. I gaze out the window, and pass a wall of graffiti, everything seems a bit brighter than before. And in a brief moment of clarity, I realize that since the Jan 25th Revolution, Egypt has witnessed an explosion of cultural activity and an illuminating outpour of artistic expression – the graffiti and music reverberating through the streets, the brilliantly-curated DCAF (Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival). The situation in Egypt is in fact changing. All you have to do is leave your comfort zone and step into the bustling culture scene - just remember to open your ears, and open your eyes.
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“The secret of art is to correct nature” Voltaire
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TUNES FROM THE UNDERGROUND: A SMIDGEN OF KRAUT IN OUR ROCK… A TRIBUTE TO ‘60S AND ‘70S GERMAN EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC
/// Mohammed Ashraf
he world of experimental music is full of unsung heroes; the innovators, the pioneers, those who decided to step outside the ordinary and try things differently, those whose contributions have become a part of our daily lives without us ever knowing so. Case in point: the wide host of German artists and bands that sprouted all over post-World War II, West Germany. These musicians laid down the foundations for bands like Joy Division and Sonic Youth, took Psychedelia and Space rock from the edges of Pink Floyd’s and Hawkwind’s stratosphere to the upper echelons of the universe, were the first to depend almost equally on electronics in the form of synths and drum machines as well as real instruments. The bands and artists they have influenced range from Radiohead to Autechre, David Bowie to Wolfgang Voigt, Brian Eno to The Mars Volta, The Deerhunter and Stereolab, yet their names and their music remains unknown to many. Whereas many of the above mentioned are household names, bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Neu!, Amon Düül II and Kraftwerk have never been heard (or heard of ) by many. This is a tribute to them, the unsung heroes and their influence that has lasted almost four decades so far and still going strong.
“They had a vision of creating some sort of Sonic Utopia, a different world with different sounds…sort of a promise that there is a way out of the surrounding society” Wolfgang Seidel (Ton Steine Scherben) German youth growing up in the mid sixties had a lot to run away from; their shameful Nazi past, the total ruin their society lay in, the fact that their parents had most probably been 29 Discord // music magazine
part of that regime that had brought most of Europe to its knees and in turn massacring millions. It was a time to forego everything and start something from an absolute zero. The artists renounced Anglo-American rock ‘n roll and blues and looked more towards the avant garde, the new, the exciting; they wanted to make something so far removed from everything else, something that would be true to their identities, forward thinking, unique. It happened all over West Germany, almost simultaneously, a universal drive for creation. Amon Düül II gave rise to a mix of politically charged angst amidst a world of spacey soundscapes and ethnic percussion in Munich at the same time that saw Berlin’s Zodiak Free Arts Lab hosting the likes of Hans Joachim Roedelius and Klaus Schulze. Cologne, referred to on many occasions as the heart of avant garde electronic music with visionary Karlheinz Stockhausen leading the way, gave birth to one of the most exciting acts of the time, Can. Kraftwerk and Neu! were plying their trade in Düsseldorf while Faust were utilizing all their surroundings in the more rural Wümme. It wasn’t a case of one influenced by the other, nor was it one big community of musicians that sprouted all these bands; it was a need for absolution from the past, a need for creation, an uprising of artistic spirits.
When artists venture so far away from the norm, allow themselves to take risks, this is when music evolves.
discord : opinion “My first group, before KLUSTER was called GERÄUSCHE [Noise]. If lots of people make noises, it becomes an orchestra... If you do it alone - for example the sound of a stone on linoleum - that’s a solo-track. If you play these sounds and record them onto different tracks, it becomes a composition... Make horrible noises with instruments and microphones and echo-machines. Just do it and produce as much noise as you want. If you organize this noise it’s not just pure chaos... it can grow into music.” Conrad Schnitzler
The only thing stopping Egyptian, or Mid Eastern, musicians from realizing the heaps of potential they have is themselves.
When artists venture so far away from the norm, allow themselves to take risks, this is when music evolves, following generations influenced and in turn create works that rid themselves of the constraints of time and place. This is exactly what this extraordinary group of people achieved, timelessness. Their innovations spanned every genre possible, with the term Krautrock, being nothing more than an umbrella term describing the music of that period of time.
worse than Arabic Pop. The only thing stopping Egyptian, or Mid Eastern, musicians from realizing the heaps of potential they have is themselves. We need to summon these spirits of experimentalism, of looking forward, of denouncing cover bands, the tired four chord structure, down with all that. Open your ears, your mind, make something worth listening to, fuck fame and fuck the posers and while you’re at it, fuck Egyptian Contemporary Music, that’s just pop rock with an accent!
It would be difficult to imagine someone listening to Cluster’s experiments in ambient electronica and being able to say out loud that this is music that was done with the very first examples of synthesizers. Same would go for Popol Vuh’s extremely spiritual soundscapes, ones that made their work on Werner Herzog’s (exclusive interview in the comming issue) movies stand as veritable landmarks in the world of cinema. The, Salvador Dali inspired, Edgar Forese’s work on the first four Tangerine Dream albums could’ve been made yesterday.
Listen to these albums as a starting point, then listen to them again, embrace them, realize how much was made out of virtually nothing; these are the people we should be looking to for inspiration!
The propulsive beats of Neu!’s albums clashing against the walls of soothing guitar and synth work. That steady motorik beat that has become a staple of every rock genre and subgenre wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother! Better yet, without the fully electronica embracing Kraftwerk, undoubtedly the most internationally successful group out of that era, the use of drum machines would’ve remained a big no-no, they embraced their devices, made their own instruments, used vocoders when no one had ever heard of them. Going through everything the German artists created would take an article three times as long, but hopefully you got the picture. One question remains though, why Krautrock? Why would German space music be of interest at this point in time? Simply put, at this point in our history, a point of change, a time of awakening, we seem to yet again be underestimating the power of art, of music in getting a message through, of exorcising frustrations and getting a collective point through. Check the student riots in the mid-60’s and compare them against the ones we have now, it’s almost the same. Check the prevailing form of pop music in the ‘60s Germany, referred to as Schlager, and you’ll realize that there can be something
Agitation Free – Malesch Amon Düül II – Phallus Dei Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel Can – Tago Mago Cluster – Zuckerzeit Faust – Faust IV Gila – Gila: Free Electric Sound Harmonia – Musik Von Harmonia Klaus Schulze - Mirage Kraftwerk – Autobahn Neu! – Neu! 75 Popol Vuh – Hosiana Mantra Tangerine Dream – Rubycon References and Useful Resources on all things Kosmische and Krautrock: “Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany” Documentary by BBC Four. Krautrocksampler by Julien Cope Post-Rock Paper Scissors – Episode 114: A Kosmische Tribute to Conrad Schnitzler Vol. 1 http://i.mixcloud.com/CkViA Post-Rock Paper Scissors – Episode 118: A Kosmische Tribute to Conrad Schnitzler Vol. 2 http://i.mixcloud.com/CmiVX
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YALLA UNDERGROUND! AN ENGAGING DOCUMENTARY ON THE REGIONAL MUSIC AND ARTS SCENE
/// Sherif Zaazaa Worker/wannabe writer by day, Time-traveller by night
If you were to take away last year; the uprisings, the roaring masses, and the acts of selfless heroism, Arabs were usually portrayed in one of two basic frames in western media. You were either depicted through a radical face of some sort or situated near old looking artefacts, smiling or selling beads. Because of the nature of televised media, the chances of an outsider crossing paths with elements of unique art or engaging music, that aren’t entirely “travel folkloristic shit”, were pretty slim. And so one man was out to change that… 31 Discord // music magazine
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orn and raised in Frankfurt, Germany to a Muslim father from Afghanistan and a Catholic mother from Prague, Farid Islam was out to explore the Middle East in hopes of mirroring a more accurate image for what the region really has to offer. This was how the idea of Yallah Underground! came to be; a documentary revealing the alternative culture of youth in the ME, their lifestyles, conflicts and dreams through music and the arts. Self-financed on the whole and packed with motivation, Islam and his team set out to the region to start filming in 2009 - a matter of chance that delivered a clear difference on the rebellion of arts from pre to post-revolution. During our brief interview, Islam explains this change on some of the bands he got acquainted with, “It’s as if a creative explosion had happened, like somebody turned on the lights. It’s a really big difference, how they talk, how they walk. The whole energy level is different.” From Alexandria to Amman the crew took on a comprehensive tour in the region on their rummage for art, filming in Cairo, Golan and Beirut amongst other places. To his surprise (and mine), the magnitude and diversity of the musical spectrum was something he did not expect to see. From a folk singer in Ramallah to a reggae artist in Haifa, Farid found it extremely inspiring to meet such imaginative, talented people. The likes of Zeid and the Wings, RGB, Lumi, Scrambled Eggs, Mashrou’ Leila, Makan, Bikya, The Choir Project, Gudran, Jadal, El Morabba’, Amer Shomali, Toot Ard, Walaa Sbeit and Bruno Cruz, to name just a few. When comparing the region’s artists to those of the West, Islam made an interesting statement on the true defiance these men and women take on; “Musicians in the ME are a lot more politically and socially conscious than a lot of musicians in the West, because they have so much shit to cope with. Granted that we [artists in the west] don’t have money and society looks down on us, but we don’t have to cope with oppression, roles of women, freedom of speech, civil war and so on.” It was blatant then that this is the essence of underground in the Arab world: rebelliousness and anarchy for a cause, for defying what is no longer socially or politically tolerated, while putting your life on the line. I personally hope more musicians and artists will stick true to these grounds, keep on fighting the good fight so to speak; to always break the barriers of what is commonly accepted as truth and in turn transfuse their newfound beliefs to us, the masses. It’s only through the arts does a nation take on its fullest form Yallah Underground! will be released around early fall, don’t miss out on it.
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R RELIVING THE MUSIC: EGYPT’S GOLDEN AGE OF ROCK
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Before a sea of young screaming fans, Donna Jean Godchaux, the only female member of the group, melodiously coos the words to “Bertha”, along with supporting vocals from the two lead guitarists, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. Decked out in typical 70s fashion, long hair, gold chains, and hippie flower dresses, the band sashays to their music guarded by the ever silent Sphinx and under the shadow of a total lunar eclipse. It’s 1978 and the Grateful Dead is performing on their last night of a three day stint that began on 14 September 1978 at the Sound and Light Theater outside of Cairo. One of the few international rock bands to have ever played in Egypt, the Grateful Dead had planned to produce a live album in the cradle of civilization, aptly titled “Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978”. The album wasn’t actually released until 30 years later, but, the band had left its mark—they rocked the stage to thousands, and not just Egyptians, but, also, masses of young hippies who gathered in Cairo from the US and Europe, likely drawn to the complete insanity of the idea. They jammed with Nubian singers and drummers, producing the famous track “Ollin Arageed” by Nubian oud player Hamza El Din and, almost as though planned, their last show of the tour ended on the day the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed. It was old skool rock, free lovin’, and music afterglow on an astral plane energized by pyramids. This was a ‘psychedelic’ trip in the flesh; this was Egypt of a long passed ‘then’.
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â€œPeople were good, art was open, and we lived by cultural rules formed through respect. We were at the beginning of really becoming something.â€? Sherif Nour
FACTOID THE NIGHT JIMMY PAGE JAMMED AT THE CAIRO SHERATON It’s the Summer of 1976 and Moody El Emam had just returned from the US that year. His first job was to play host at the famous Al Hambra nightclub in the Cairo Sheraton. Les Petits Chats had just finished playing their first set and were hanging out in the small, white tiled kitchen of the of the club. With no room for chairs, they sat on their instruments drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, laughing and singing. Moody had finished his bit on stage and went down to join the band—amongst them were Talaat Zein, Ezzat Abu Ouf and Pino Fares. Pino leaves them for a bit, to go check out the audience. All of a sudden, he runs back into the room, excitedly shouting that the great Jimmy Page himself was in the audience. Moody and Talaat sarcastically tell him: “Yeah, go get Jimmy to come and hang with us, maybe will sing together!” A few minutes later, Pino walks back with Page. Dressed in a white cotton suit and a skinny tie, Page, though tired from a day of touring the Pyramids, was gracious and sat with them. Still not believing that this was not some kind of imposter, Moody asks him if he knows ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and hands him Pino’s guitar, daring him to prove himself. And there, in that tiny kitchen, barely large enough to hold the entire band and Moody and their new guest, they sat and jammed with Jimmy Page on a summer’s night in Cairo. When I asked Moody, completely shocked (and truthfully, completely jealous) what it was like to meet the great Page, he tells me: “It seemed like a normal thing and he was such a simple guy.”
RELIVING THE MUSIC: EGYPT’S GOLDEN AGE OF ROCK
/// Angie Balata A ‘sometimes’ writer, often found chasing the quirky and unusual, with big plans to rule the world through art
ut the Grateful Dead played at a time when rock music in Egypt was beginning its downward turn. By the late 1970s, many of the godfather bands had started quietly leaving the scene and their members moving on to other projects, other choices. These ‘original rockers’ were born in the golden era of Egyptian art, when cinema was still magical and when music was all about that great black vinyl LP that you played on loop. They roamed a world where artists were true pashas, not because of wealth or fancy cars (for the dark truth, that no one speaks of, is that many of those stars struggled daily to make ends meet), but because they produced some of the best art modern Egypt has seen and, yet, walked among the people without airs, without egos. The 1970s generation of rockers lived in a time of uncertainty and political chaos, but also, when art was in the music and when music was all about the art. It is the greatest of untold stories in Egypt, one that makes you wonder what ever happened to them and what killed the music?
These ‘original rockers’ were born in the golden era of Egyptian art, when cinema was still magical and when music was all about that great black vinyl LP that you played on loop. THE BEGINNING Rock music continues to thrive because of its simple, yet contradictory, formula: it is about both rebellion and fusion. Musically, it is a fusion of different sounds, heavily influenced by blues, jazz and country music. Lyrically, rock is about rebelling against everything that is, protesting the status quo. Rooted back to the 1940s, Rock, much like graffiti and rap, is an art form about defiance—a nice ‘fuck you’ wrapped in lyrics and rhyme. In Egypt, the influence of rock began with Elvis Presley
in the 1950s and 1960s; however, it would be a decade before the music itself fully took hold here as an established presence. In Egypt, rock was born in a time of greatness, but it is a story of struggle, of a nation at war and a society in transition. Sadly, rock in Egypt never really became as ‘big’ as in the West, despite the talent, the bands, and the readymade ‘scene’, but its journey is a great tale. The first glimmers of rock, at least in appearance, started in films starring the famous trio, Deif Ahmed, Samir Ghanem, and George Sydhom who often leaned on either Samir Sabry or Souad Hosny as the fourth member to complete the Egyptian version of the Beatles. While films led the way, the music itself started to change in the late 1960s in Egypt, at around the time when the western scene transitioned from Beatles-type rock to Jimi Hendrix and Santana. As rock began moving in different directions, Egyptians found a particular love for hard rock and psychedelic rock, particularly leaning towards bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. By that time, the form of rock music had taken hold in Egypt’s local scene was being shaped by the formation of bands based on two guitars, drums and the Hammond organ. Popular melodies began taking on the edgier sounds of western rock. With the birth of rock in Egypt as a movement, came, as well, the rise of its major icons, including renowned guitarist Omar Khorchid. But it was neither an easy growth, nor an easy time.
FINDING MUSIC IN TIMES OF WAR “Pre-1967 and post-1967 were very different eras for Egypt,” explains Moody El Emam (son of filmmaker Hassan El Emam and brother of actor Hussein El Emam, whom he’d formed Tiba band with in the 1970s), “For example, during this time, we had lived in downtown, in Tawfiqqiyya, in a building that had Egyptians from all different nationalities and religions. We had Christians, Jews, Italians and Russians in our building, but we were all Egyptian and all neighbors. TV during that time, before the Naksa (the war Egypt lost to Israel in 1967), was also very different. We were exposed to all kinds of culture, more
than today.” Moody speaks somewhat sadly about this era, and rightfully so. He grew up among some of the most famous actors and singers of the period (confiding in childish happiness how the great Ahmed Mazhar would play the oud especially for the then young Moody), but, more than who he was exposed to, it was the world he lived in that he misses. Between 1952 and 1967, Egypt had begun to get poorer, so many of the different nationalities that made up its multicultural mosaic had began leaving and with them, their businesses. Nasser’s nationalization programs weren’t just about making private businesses public, but more so to monopolize independent industries and build his power base. Under Nasser, especially, culture and the arts flourished, but, at the same time, he made sure that he gained exclusive control over all state media organs - Maspero (Egyptian state media building) came under the full authority of the state, so did many of the key companies, and, even, the once independent Azhar. In the arts world, this monopolization meant the creation of censorship committees; and as the only supplier of resources and access, every artist had to go through the government for approval. ‘Freedom’ was a pretty mirage. With the 1967 Naksa, the general state of the country was one
Under Nasser, especially, culture and the arts flourished, but, at the same time, he made sure that he gained exclusive control over all state media organs. of brokenness and sadness. Sitting in his small bedroom studio, Hesham Nour, an original member of El Hob wel Salam band and a famous composer in his own right, describes in detail how rock music became the voice for a generation in search of authenticity and an outlet for the chaos that had begun to descend on the country. A regular middle-aged man who prefers an evening of conversation with his mother to a big party, Nour is typical of his generation of former rockers— men who changed the music in Egypt but had not allowed the music to change them. At the local level, he explains, there was a need for a different sort of music, outside of the typical ‘singer’ who monopolized the stage for hours at a time. People sought something that would not take them off to a happy dreamland, but that was more raw and expressive of their state of being, something that was receptive to the way they felt at the time. The move towards forms that were more
The Sunshine Band
‘authentic’ he explains, first began appearing more concretely in musical scores for films during this period. Baleegh Hamdy, one of Egypt’s foremost composers and who had composed for the likes of Abdel Halim Hafez, responded to this need in the movie She2 men el khof (‘Something to Fear’) for the famous actress, Shadia. The genius, according to Nour, lay in the rock based rhythm fused with two very oriental instruments, the nay (flute) and duff (drum-like instrument). But for many young musicians, this state of war and economic depression hit them hard. Between 1967 and 1973, especially, Cairo no longer looked like a city—sewage was everywhere, streets were broken, poverty had begun to affect all classes, food was rationed, water was hard to find, and electricity was often cut off for hours on an almost daily basis. Not only was there no money available to promote the arts, but, more importantly, it was almost very difficult to leave the country, thus, impossible for any young rock musician to get the basic instruments needed. So what does a young musician, in complete awe of rock, unable to get or afford instruments, and having nothing but big dreams of being on stage, do? Enter the three most insanely unique characters of this story: Father Agamy, Amin Batriq and Nando. A PRIEST, AN OFFICER, AND A FIXER WALK INTO A SCENE… Father Agamy might be Egypt’s most well kept secret. A priest at the church popularly known as the ‘Midan Ismailiyya Church’ in Heliopolis, Father Agamy was probably Egypt’s most fervent patron of the arts during the 60s and 70s. Recognizing the need to provide a space for young people to participate in activities to keep them away from drugs and harassing women. He opened the school of the church as a local community center. For 3 LE a month, he would give you a key to a room to practice any form of art desired—it was open to all, regardless of social
In Egypt, rock was born in a time of greatness, but it is a story of struggle, of a nation at war and a society in transition. or religious background. All of Egypt’s bands during this period began at Father Agamy’s place and he was always ready to help, you just had to ask. The system was simple—everyone had to give back in some way. In those times of economic hardship, Father Agamy became the patron saint of struggling artists. Moody tells me this story of the time he decided he wanted to play the drums. It was the late 60s and money was tight, but everyone knew that the Father never turned anyone away. Convincing his own father to go with him, they paid a visit to Father Agamy. There Moody told him that he wanted play drums, but could not afford a set. Like a scene from the Godfather, Father Agamy picked up the phone and called in a favor. A man, Lebanese in origin, was told that on his next visit to Lebanon he was to buy a set of drums, specifically an Olympic set of red drums, and bring it back with him. The man was also told that Father Agamy would repay him when he could. And so it was done; Moody received his first set of drums at a nominal monthly installment, no interest. Of course in the future, the same episode would be repeated, but this time it would be Moody who was asked to do a favor. Father Agamy’s saintly ways continued to be the main source of resource and support beyond the first generation of rockers. Sherif Nur, founder of the Sunshine Band and current keyboardist/bandleader for Mounir, shares a similar experience to Moody. His encounter with Father Agamy went further than a space to jam: “When I got into rock, the keyboard had advanced technologically and we needed to find a way to buy new instru-
These bands were unique because they were the cultural bridges who brought all this new music to Egypt. It is because of them that subsequent generations were born. ments to keep up with the music. We knew that Father Agamy also helped young people to find and buy instruments in order to improve themselves. So Ali Sedky, the drummer of Sunshine, and I went to Father Agamy to help us get new instruments. We explained to him our problem and he said he could lend us the money we needed. We told him that these instruments were not in Egypt and he said he would help us get it from wherever we wanted. So we researched and found that a store carried what we were looking for, but in Italy! Father Agamy agreed, and let us pay it back from our work, at no interest. He promised us to have the money ready on a certain day and we went, picked up the money and off to Italy we went. So Ali and I travelled alone, with our parents’ full support. When we returned, we started to work hard to improve ourselves. We started getting famous and playing more and more shows.” And so this was how it was for all bands and artists of the time. Father Agamy didn’t just help young artists with space and equipment, but, as well with emotional support. He made sure to know the intimate details of all his students, helping quietly whenever anyone was in need or in trouble. More importantly, he created an environment of respect. All the bands, while technically competitors, never felt or acted that way. They would all hang out with each other during and after jam sessions, but oddly they would also compete with each other for respect from one another, not fame. Where Father Agamy provided a home for each of these bands, Amin Batriq and Ferdinand Abib Gerges (Nando) acted as agents and, sometimes, suppliers of instruments. Whatever instrument was needed, no matter how unique, you could always find it with either Batriq or Nando. Nando, a former military officer, was also known as a great singer during this time, so for him music was more than just a side hobby. Nando played an especially unique role—he was a ‘fixer’. He rented out the most modern and the coolest of instruments out of his Zamalek warehouse, and if you didn’t have money, you’d just pay him back later. Nando was ‘good people’ to know—it was common knowledge that dropping by Nando or calling him every once in a while was good practice, as often he had a cool gig to offer or important information about the arts scene. FROM GODFATHER BANDS TO THE RISE OF THE SECOND GENERATION ROCKERS In the 60s, the scene saw the birth of the ‘carrier’ bands. At a time when the outside influence was limited (As Sheriff Nur portrays, western music magazines were revered and passed around like artifacts), these bands were sacred ambassadors. During the 60s, from Father Agamy’s home and with instruments from Nando and Batriq was born two important bands: The Black
Coats (founded by Ismail Hakim) and very influenced by Santana and Jimi Hendrix; and Les Petits Chats, which was the cover band of the era. These two bands not only produced great musicians like Omar Khayrat (drummer at the time), Omar Khorchid (guitarist), Ismail Hakim (guitarist), Hany Shenouda (keyboard), Sheriff Zaza (drummer), Pino Fares (guitarist), and Ezzat Abou Ouf (organ). These bands, according to Moody, where very much a replica of the West, but were unique because they were the cultural bridges who brought all this new music to Egypt. It is because of them that subsequent generations were born. By the 1970s, Egypt saw the rise of the second generation of rockers, but, also, ones that decided to create their own sound, independent of western standards. For many, the 1970s represented a great time in Egypt. Rock music was on its second wind and hope was in the air. By 1973, the godfather bands began to leave the stage; the transformation in the nightclub scene, especially, left no room for bands like Les Petits Chats and The Black Coats. Some of the younger bands started to think about working beyond live shows and making their music more widely accessible to Egyptians. In 1974, Hussein and Moody El Emam formed Tiba band, along with the nownotorious Ahmed Ezz. Having just returned from the US, the Emam brothers began thinking about making records. At the time, the only available recording studios were those owned by the government and controlled by a censorship machine that killed creativity. Convincing their friend, Tarek El Kashef, who at the time owned the only multi-track recorder and mixer in Egypt, to open up a production studio in the basement of his mother-in-law’s villa, Tiba began recording its first album. The birth of private studios helped rejuvenate the scene and give an alternative ‘venue’ to young performers. The Kashef studio produced the first albums for not only independent bands, but as well for the likes of Mounir, Ali El Haggar, Mohamed El Helw, Mohamed Tharwat and El Masriyeeen. For Tiba and El Masriyeen, especially, these were ‘successful years’. Around the same time Sheriff Nour formed his first band, Sunshine. As he describes: “this was a great time in Egypt, we didn’t have the extreme conservativeness we see now, and we still hadn’t been completely affected by the Gulf as what would happen by the end of the 70s towards the 80s. People were good, art was open, and we lived by cultural rules formed through respect. We were at the beginning of really becoming something. Finding instruments remained elusive though. During this period, it was probably Moody El Emam and I who actually owned keyboards. Friends would come over to the house just to try out my keyboard (he says laughingly). But, it was also a time when we developed greatly as artists. Because we didn’t have the tools to record music, we would wait for programs like At Your Request, which played Western music every Friday, to listen to a song we’d requested and try to learn it quickly. In 1977, I formed Sunshine when I was in high school and spent most of my summers in Marsa Matrouh playing at the
discord : feature story Cirocco nightclub. It was a time when we played at very few venues and so the elites of society would come and seek us out. I remember being paid 2.50 LE per day. We started getting famous and by the end of the 1970s, we began experimenting with hard rock. We ourselves were doing covers, but those who were doing originals were doing it in Arabic like Tiba, El Masriyeen and The Gits. However, at the start of the 1980s, rock as we knew it began to die off.” A GLORIOUS MARCH TO A QUIET END…. By the late 70s, the last war with Israel had ended and Sadat’s liberalization policies brought a sense of rebirth and growth back to Egypt. But by then the scene had changed. Many of the bands had risen to fame in the night club scene. During the rise of the first and second-generation rockers, venues were famous hotspots for those seeking good music. Much like New York’s Mercury Lounge and Fillmore East, these spots not only housed these bands, but became part of the subculture. Most famous amongst them were Merryland Park, Salt and Pepper and the Auberge. For 2.50 LE, a person could get a bottle of beer and a dinner plate, while enjoying a two hour set of pure rock music at any of the night clubs. Sporting clubs (El Gezirah club), theater stages (Masrah el Zamalek and Masrah el Ballon) and universities also became key performing spots for many of the bands. And, apparently, not just in Cairo. As Hesham Nour tells me, one of his first performances at 16 years old with El Hob wel Salam took place in 1982 in the small town of Zaqaziq to a crowd of 38,000 at the University of Zaqaziq—more than the combined total of attendees in a year of performances for most rock/indie bands today! But by the turn of the 70s , people couldn’t afford going to nightclubs as much as they used to. At the same time, the Arab invasion from neighboring countries had shifted market trends, and preferences. Where venues were concerned about keeping a certain level of clientele, making sure that people were well dressed in suits and ties, during the 60s and early 70s, by the mid 70s they began to cater to the tacky desires of wealthy Arabs, often from the Gulf, who who sought cheap music and even cheaper belly dancers. The clientele had started preferring shoddy thrills to good music. Many bands were asked to ‘soften’ their music for this new paying clientele by nightclub owners who wanted to capitalize on the ‘Gulfie’ invasion. At the same time, technology had begun to make it possible through distortions of sound, for any two-bit ‘singer’ to pose as an artist, many of whom asked for lower wages than bands and were willing to work more hours. By the mid 1980s, the greats had already moved on: Hussein El Emam and Ezzat Abou Ouf turned to acting; Omar Khayrat became a classical music legend, leaving his drums behind to take up the piano; Moody El Emam and Hesham Nour focused on composing and producing music for films, television serials and cartoons; Sheriff Nour, still composes music, but continued
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his dream of live performance with Mounir; Hany Shenouda remained with Al Masriyeen till today, playing small shows to an even smaller audience; Ahmed Ezz (who was a great drummer by all accounts) turned towards business and eventually politics, currently residing in Torah prison; and Omar Khorchid, Ismail al Hakim, and Talaat Zein passed away, leaving us with only their legendary music. By the 1990s, most of the bands formed in the 60s and 70s had broken up. So what really happened to that great 60s and 70s scene, that very few today remember? I’m not sure there is a single reason. For Moody El Emam and Sheriff Nour, the corporatization of the music production industry, especially with Gulf money at the helm, seemed to have killed access to much needed studios. Monopolization was no longer carried out by the government, but by a nouveau riche class intent on producing art for money, and in the process killing real creativity and cheapening the product. Billionaires like Atif Montasser and big music companies were more interested in manipulating the industry for money rather than for promoting good music. The rise of the ‘video clip’, accompanied by skanky dancers and dreadful music, dominated the market and influenced people’s tastes. Politics, as always, also seems to have played a role. With Sadat’s death in 1981, the country was thrown again into a state of instability which bred uncertainty and killed culture as people become preoccupied with their daily needs, without having the time for finding good music. Also, the lives of the rockers began to change—many who become preoccupied with other life necessities. By the mid 1980s, Egyptian society, influenced by Gulf trends, was transformed into a mass consumerist society, rather than a producing one. People began to approach art, as Sheriff Nour explains, as if they were buying discounted goods in mass quantities. So how do you end a piece that is only the beginning of an untold story? These original rockers did more than just create rock music in Egypt; they set the stage for the independent scene, whatever glimmers of it, to take place in Egypt today. Looking through their faded pictures of this great era, it’s hard to imagine that it could have ended so quietly. At this point, its seems almost expected to sign off this piece on a major note, but, the problem is I’ve tried and can’t find it! How do I summarize that it’s not just their music; or the nostalgia for that era ‘when times were tough, but life was good’; or the history that they helped write that makes them so unbelievably great, but, rather, it is the simplicity of their selves and the love of their art that is so enchanting. They are our unsung heroes…
DO-RE-MIFA-SO-LEYA! THE RHYTHM OF A NATION discord : opinion
/// Allegra O’Donoghue Arabic nerd and aspiring tabla player
remember cringing when my mom used to sing with gusto, hitting some notes, and joyously approximating others. “Music is for everybody, not just musicians. When I was young, people used to walk down the street and sing. Now we’re supposed to shut up and watch other people do it,” she told me, to which I rolled my awkward pre-teen eyes. Since then however, I have discovered that I inherited her musical passion and approximation, and I too advocate the universal human right to sing despite my lack of natural musical inclination.
ment in American folk music, where with the exception of spoons and the washboard or ‘frottoir’ found in Cajun music, rhythm is usually kept by the stringed instruments. The drum-kit is not exactly user friendly nor portable like the Arab tabla, frame drum, or finger symbols, all of which are relatively affordable and easy to pick up. In addition, these percussive instruments play an important role in social gatherings like moulids, zar healing rituals, and weddings where all members of society are exposed to, if not participating in, playing rhythms without any musical training.
Fortunate to attend a school that taught music starting in Kindergarten, I was handed a recorder in fourth grade after memorizing “Elephants – Go – Break – Dancing - Fridays”, (a mnemonic device for memorizing the staff of the treble clef ), and expected almost instantly to sight read “Hot Cross Buns”! I failed miserably and surrendered to my fate as a mere appreciator of music.
A cab ride through Cairo is enough to witness that Egyptians are constantly partaking in music/noise-making. I’m often subjected to a chorus of honking amid the call to prayer, as my cab driver instantly shuts off the radio which had just been blasting a delightfully synthesized pop song, before driving by a crowd of women ululating for a bride and groom, entering their decorated newlywed car, which then inspires another boisterous round of honking in unison, in which even my cab driver participates.
I tried again years later in college, replacing the elephants and their dancing with “dums” and “teks.” Thrilled to be uninhibited by notes and bars, I studied tabla for two years before coming to Egypt only to be schooled by an adorable five-year-old with major chops. Egyptian hearts must beat “maqsum” because this 4/4 rhythm is so pervasive in Arab music that every Egyptian can grab a duff and keep time, or thump it out on a table top. Back home, with the exception of gospel choirs, most of us struggle to clap on the down beat while singing, let alone play an entire recognized rhythm. Perhaps this distance between Americans and rhythm is due to the lack of an easily accessible, hand-held percussive instru37 Discord // music magazine
Digesting this layered and often-headache-provoking sonar landscape can provide clues to many cultural traditions and attitudes prevelant in Egypt today. The sheer importance of marriage as a social establishment is evident when half of the city celebrates with every couple by honking the same infectious rhythm. To debunk my own hypothetical situation, Egyptian weddings never start early enough to collide with ‘Esha, the last adan of the day, perhaps partly because of the attitude that music should not be played over the call to prayer, or perhaps simply because Egyptian Standard Time does not allow otherwise. Either way, whether blasting out of
discord : opinion
maxed-out mosque speakers, or wafting unnoticed through the ears of passive listeners, the adan is not sung, rather “called,” in the ‘maqamat’ or Arab melodic modes. While not considered a musical art-form, this projection shares the same modal system as Arab music. (If only Maria and the Von Trapp children were broadcasted five times a day in America, then at least I’d be able to sing “Hot Cross Buns.”) The constant, often sub-conscious, contact with musical notes in a what is perceived as a non-musical context could somehow deepen the way Egyptians hear their music. After all, the cobbler, the farmer, the taxi driver, and the doctor all revel in singing along with Oum Kolthom, Abdel Halim Hafiz, and Mohamed Abdel Wahab, to name a few of the singers and composers who make up the core of ‘tarab,’ and whose lyrics range from odes of love to religious pieces, sung in colloquial Egyptian dialect to the highest register of Modern Standard Arabic. This means that even the semi-literate Egyptian memorizes and sings in a variety of Arabic that even the most educated Egyptian does not normally speak. Television, the internet, and other forms of passive entertainment have invaded both American and Egyptian cultures filling up the time that people used to spend playing music together informally, whether singing in the parlor around the piano, or fireside reciting poetry accompanied by the ‘rabab.’ However to a large extent, Egyptians, regardless of gender, age, and social status, have retained their roles as participants in the music they value so much EVERYDAY, not just on Karaoke night.
traditions, which form a large part of Egyptian identity and national consciousness, is powerful in its ability to give agency to a people retaking their country. If Egyptians continue to fight for their rights with the confidence and fervor that they sing and shimmy then my only concern will be applauding.
The shared sense of pride and collective ownership of musical traditions, which form a large part of Egyptian identity and national consciousness, is powerful in its ability to give agency to a people retaking their country.
The shared sense of pride and collective ownership of musical Discord // music magazine 38
showroom : interview
A CONVERSATION WITH MIKE REISS:
ONE OF THE SIMPSONS’ ORIGINAL WRITERS SITS DOWN WITH DISCORD /// James J.M.
Walking into a crowded lecture hall, at the podium stood a dark-haired, kind-looking Mike Reiss—a writer, producer, and former show-runner of the celebrated longest running animated series, The Simpsons. Patiently waiting for the excited audience to simmer down, as Reiss began to speak, the scene couldn’t help but remind me of the opening credits of the show, wherein the clouds clear to an angelic harmony whispering their name, quickly thrusting the audience into the quirky, fascinating world of Springfield, USA. Now, as we all sat patiently waiting to hear a rare glimpse at the behind-the-scenes moments of one of television’s most iconic shows, the clouds seem to clear as Reiss began to offer a truly special glimpse into the world of The Simpsons, and the minds and efforts of its creators, whose wit and passion have made this show into one of the most globally influential and culturally significant feats ever created.
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showroom : interview
rowing up, the Simpsons was a staple in my daily life. Before dinner every night, my brothers and I delighted in the offbeat, clever antics of Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and the hundreds of lovable minor characters whose roles, although seemingly unimportant, are fundamental in shaping the timelessness of the show. As the years went by, the comedy of the show became so intertwined in my own sense of humor that at times, my brothers and I could carry an entire conversation wholly composed of the outrageous dialogue of which the show has created so well. This dysfunctional family, in essence, became part of my own. Yet this sense of connection with the show is not isolated just to me, as 23 years, a feature-length film and nearly 500 episodes from its inception, the Simpsons’ cultural importance, marketability, and undeniable humor only continue to grow.
about the show. In the episode, “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” the closing scene depicts the four members of Homer’s quartet projecting a number loudly on the roof of their favorite bar, Moe’s Tavern. Alluding to the Beatles’ 1969 performance atop the Apple Corps building, as they sing, George Harrison drives by, rolls his window and proclaims, “It’s been done!” These are men writing one of the most popular shows of all time, but still they find time to make fun of themselves. With this, the writers seem to poke fun at their own place as a legend of pop culture – true modesty even in success. I was able to speak with Mr. Reiss after his lecture, making sure to ask him many of the questions myself like other the Simpsons’ fans have been wondering all these years.
The show, broadcasted in over a dozen languages, contains comedy, plot, and character growth that is universally loved and appreciated. Although the show’s producers now enjoy the benefits of a show that has netted over three billion dollars (US) in profits, they are still humble in their approach and their continued detail to storyline. The satirical wit, brilliant plotlines and continued detail in developing their characters are unwavering, as even after nearly a quarter of a century, the writers, producers, and animators of this series truly care Discord // music magazine 40
showroom : interview YOU SAID IN AN INTERVIEW, IN I THINK 91, THAT THIS SHOW WAS A GRENADE THAT SENT SHRAPNEL IN ALL DIRECTIONS. YOU HAD SUCH A PASSION ABOUT IT AT THAT TIME WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WRITING, THAT I JUST WANTED TO KNOW, WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET IN THE EARLIEST SEASONS, WORKING WITH THESE GUYS LIKE AL JEAN, DOING THIS STUFF FOR THE FIRST TIME? WHAT DID YOU WANT OUT OF THE SHOW? When we started the show, we thought that it was going to last 6 weeks. We thought--6 weeks--nobody would watch it. It was just a summer job for me. And I think that shaped the show. We said, “let’s just entertain ourselves because no one is going to watch this.” You have to remember, there hadn’t been an animation in primetime for 30 years, not since The Flintstones. And this was maybe the second or third year of the fox network, no one knew if the network itself would be there from year to year. So we were really just having fun. Especially since we had a bunch of different friends who were doing tv shows, and whenever anyone tried something a little quirky, a little off beat, it was gone in 6 weeks. So that was it—that was our motivation; that was our mentality. WITH ALL THE WRITERS, IS IT EVIDENT WHEN YOU WATCH AN EPISODE WHO WROTE WHAT JOKE, OR WHAT SCENE? No it is not. REALLY? No, you can’t tell. The only weird thing, if you listen to DVD commentaries, if you work on the show, I mean, I ran the show for a couple of years... SEASONS 3 AND 4 RIGHT? Exactly! And I’ll watch those shows, and I can stop it and say, “That joke was written at 11 at night. And that one was written at 1 in the morning, and that joke, nobody liked it but me, I had to fight to get that in.” You know, when you’re running the show, it becomes very intensive, but just to watch it you really have no idea who did anything. And especially now, with 23 writers, there’s no way to tell. Nobody has a trademark or anything like that. 23 WRITERS! IS THERE ANYONE BROUGHT IN JUST SPECIFICALLY SO THAT YOU DON’T OVERLAP WITH WHAT YOU’VE DONE IN PAST SEASONS? No! What’s funny is that there’s this one guy, I always call him ‘the young guy’ the young guy on the show, who keeps us honest and the young guy who grew up watching the show...well the young guy’s 32 now, he’s not young at all! I was running this show when I was 28! But, no. There’s nobody. What helps is that [current show-runner and original writer] Al Jean is just this brilliant genius. He was my writing partner for years, and he just has this steel-trap memory, and we’ll do a joke and he’ll say, “Wait. This sounds like something that we did 19 years ago.” and he’ll say to the typist, “Can you pull up episode 7F12?” and we’ll pull it up, and he’ll say go to page 14, and—he really does this!—and we’ll go ‘”Oh there’s the same joke.” That’s why he’s so great for running this show, with this fantastic memory. 41 Discord // music magazine
THAT’S AWESOME. YOU CAN TELL IN THE EPISODE WHERE BART GETS AN ELEPHANT, THERE WAS ANOTHER ONE YEARS LATER WHERE THE ELEPHANT COMES BACK AT APU’S WEDDING I THINK, AND SOMEONE SAYS “WAIT DIDN’T WE ALREADY HAVE AN ELEPHANT?” AND THERE WERE TWO EPISODES WHERE THERE WAS A HORSE INVOLVED, AND YOU CAUGHT ON TO THE [REOCCURRENCE] REALLY WELL. Yeah! THERE’S HUNDREDS OF CHARACTERS. I THINK THERE ARE 200 RECURRING CHARACTERS ON THIS SHOW. Yeah, that’s the number I go to... THERE’S PROBABLY MORE THAN THAT! WHEN WRITING AN EPISODE, HOW DO YOU FORM THESE CHARACTERS? THERE ARE SOME REALLY GREAT CHARACTERS THAT HAVE COME OUT OF ONE EPISODE AND THEY WILL HAVE SUCH AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE THAT PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER WHO THEY ARE TEN YEARS LATER. Very often, when we think of a character, it’s often just a minor character from a movie. We’ll just take a character. A good example is Gil. GIL GUNDERSON! Gil Gunderson is just Jack Lemmon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s an obscure enough steal that we just made him our own. And Fat Tony has these two henchmen who we just lifted right out of Goodfellas. We do that a lot. The other way characters come out is that we’ll just have a vague notion for some guy, and we’ll say, “here’s the character” and we’ll hand it to one of our actors and they’ll throw a voice at it that we didn’t see coming. He’ll just say, “here’s the voice that should go with this dialogue” and then the animators will get it next and say “well here’s what that guy should look like.’” And it really grows. The characters become so much fuller fledged than when we write them. A perfect example is Comic Book Guy. He just had like 2 lines, and then Hank Azaria did that weird voice that I think is [based off ] his old college roommate. It was such a minor part. Then the animators just drew the millions of guys they knew that were like that and then all of a sudden it’s like hey here’s this beautiful, kind of fully realized character. IS THERE ANY CHARACTER THAT YOU WOULD SAY YOU SPECIFICALLY FORMED AND SHAPED TO YOUR LIKING? Well a great example of this is a, well...I’ll tell you a longer story if you don’t mind. We used to do Ralph on the show, right? And Ralph was there and he would say these weird sorts of aphorisms and non-sequiturs and we hated it! We started hating Ralph and we said, “oh it’s too easy to write, it’s too stupid,” and we cut him. There were two or three years where there was no Ralph on the show. And then I started doing public speaking and I went to colleges and everyone just wanted to know about Ralph, and everyone’s favorite lines were Ralph lines! So I went back The Simpsons and I said, “People love Ralph! We gotta start putting him back!” And after that he’s
showroom : interview been in every single episode. And I finally said to Al [Jean}, “Who created Ralph anyway?” and he said “You did!” I had no memory of it but we created him in this episode, but he was supposed to be a mini-Homer. We called him Ralph after Ralph Kramden, after Jackie Gleason The Honeymooners. He was supposed to be this tough stupid guy, but somehow he just developed in to this braindamaged Buddha character. SO, FINAL QUESTION, BACK TO THE SIMPSONS, I ALWAYS WANTED TO ASK, WHY DID BART’S ‘BAD BOY’ PERSONA CHANGE AS SEASONS WENT ON? We almost ran out of ideas for Bart. We just couldn’t relate to him. We were all more like Lisa in those days. Then we grew up, and all of a sudden we were Homer.
SO IT’S BEEN 23 SEASONS, AND AFTER ALL THIS TIME, THE RELEVANCE AND THE WIT AND THE STORYLINES HAVEN’T GOTTEN OLD. WHAT HAS ATTRIBUTED TO THAT, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IT’S BEEN 23 YEARS AND YOU CAN STILL DO THAT? I’m super impressed by it! I’m with everyone else--there were times I thought we were really running out of steam. But the two things that helped are that for one, our writing staff exploded. We did the show for years with six writers, then eight writers, and now we’ve got 23. Somebody told me it’s actually 27. And that’s just the giant help to spread the work around. When there’s so many writers, everybody gets their own episode and you go, ‘well gee, this one’s gotta be good, this is the only shot I have this year.’ And the other thing that helps the show is we draw on what’s going on in the world. 10 years ago, with 9/11 and George Bush and the world wide economic collapse, the world went completely nuts. The world completely fell apart, and that’s been good for The Simpsons. That really revitalized the show. So the worse the world goes to hell, the better the show’s gonna be. DO YOU THINK YOU’VE DRIFTED INTO MORE POLITICAL EPISODES BECAUSE OF THAT? OR, EPISODES WITH A MEANING, SOMETHING YOU WANT TO PROVE? Yeah, I think there are a bunch of issues that really offend us in the news. They seem so ludicrous to us that we like to jump on them. But I always say, this show isn’t topical. We can’t do anything about Herman Cain because by the time it airs, no one will remember Herman Cain. But there’s bigger issues that really just nag and won’t go away, so we know we can make fun of them. YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF OTHER THINGS TOO. YOU’VE WRITTEN FOR MOVIES AS WELL. WHICH MOVIES DID YOU WRITE FOR? I’ve contributed to a lot of movies. Sometimes I get credit, sometimes I don’t. All the Ice Age movies, Despicable Me, and this thing Rio that just came out. Thanksgiving night I wrote the Ice Age Christmas special. And it’s a fun job where I don’t write the scripts, but I rewrite them. Wherever I’m traveling in the world, like Dubai, they’ll just email me scenes and go, “Can you make this funnier? This isn’t playing with an audience.’” So it’s a fun way where I know I’m not being that original but I know I’m helping. SO, FINAL QUESTION, BACK TO THE SIMPSONS, I ALWAYS WANTED TO ASK, WHY DID BART’S ‘BAD BOY’ PERSONA CHANGE AS SEASONS WENT ON? We almost ran out of ideas for Bart. We just couldn’t relate to him. We were all more like Lisa in those days. Then we grew up, and all of a sudden we were Homer.
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discord : band review
SALALEM JUST ONE STEP /// Chitra Kalyani Poet in pyjamas: I sleep, I wake, I write.
’m particularly happy about this article’s title; not only because it’s about Mohammed Ali of the band Salalem - named after the stairs where the band practiced at university - but also because Mo Ali (aka Walkman) was my first step into the band’s inner workings. Walkman is a few heads taller than yours truly, but because he bends his tall and lanky frame as he smiles, he does not appear to tower above. He is all humility and modesty. Like the band’s name, his own moniker comes from his university days. “I used to listen to music through my walkman. My colleagues started to call me Mohammed Walkman, and that’s it! Very cliché!” It was only in 2005 when the band was to perform in El Sawy Culture Wheel, that they had to think of a name. “Since we were jamming on the stairs of the faculty’s building, we decided that we will name it Salalem, which means stairs in Arabic.” Even when they had no stairs to name them, the group had jammed together singing covers of Gypsy Kings. In 2005 as a bunch of university colleagues, they coalesced on the faculty stairs, with Mo Ali (guitars, vocals) joining Amr Geuoishy (guitars) and Osama Saad (guitars, vocals) making for a very guitar-centric affair. Later lead vocalist Mohamed Jamal, bassist Ezz Shahwan and drummer Sherif Nabil joined the group, and the rest as they say, is music. (You weren’t expecting that twist, were you?) 43 Discord // music magazine
The musical powers that be in university were not very inclined towards Salalem. “[They] were only interested in Classical Arabic music, the type of music we couldn’t produce on that time because we only had guitars!” says Mo Al, and with his characteristic honesty adds, “We wanted to do our own music. Classical Arabic music…was boring for us.” The title track of their debut album released in 2011 is also about a man bored out of his mind. Kelma Abee7a (A Nasty Word) is “about an individual stuck in his daily living, bored of the daily routine.”It sounds like he may be giving up and is wondering what to do to the extent he is about to say a nasty word... in a funny way,” says Ali, who has composed the lyrics for this and most songs for Salalem. He keeps his lyrics light, but with a slight hint of sarcasm. “Most of the songs are about social criticism. We sing for the individual and we criticize whatever is going wrong with a sense of sarcasm. We really do believe that we as Egyptians can make jokes, so why don’t we make people smile while listening to us, even if we are tackling a problem within the song! We should laugh!” In fact, the Hakuna Matata is not just a put-on, it goes into a deeper philosophy. “I really do believe that we should be positive,” says the singer-songwriter. “We never know what will happen in the future, we only have the present and the plans of the future are never guaranteed.”
discord : band review
“Change is the key, and I wrote - along with Mohammed Fayez - a song about that called, “El Donya Ooda” (Life is a Room), which goes: if life is a room, just change its decoration, you will feel positive”. The song is to be released in Salalem’s second album next summer. His pen has turned not only towards lyrics but also to poetry, and Ali has already finished writing his first book. The collection of poems called Ana Sa’eed (I’m Happy) which includes most of Salalem’s songs and a few more, and is slated to be published soon.
cian and that my band is my priority.” But books do come as a close second. “I do love books, and I can’t deny that working at the bookshop put me in contact with the cultural life in town. It helped me understand what people are looking for, what they’re interested in and what they read. At a certain point, I could understand someone’s personality through the book he/she is asking for.” Just for kicks, I’ll be at the bookstore soon, asking for a new release, “Ana Sa’eed”.
“I don’t see myself as a poet,” says an ever-modest Ali. “I am just a songwriter who is trying to deliver some choruses and bridges in Salalem’s tunes.” And in line with his humility, he does not have a grand message to deliver through his work. “It is just a product of what I have experienced in my life and how I see things as an individual. I just want to keep it simple, when you listen to my lyrics, you can create your own philosophy about them.” But we will wrangle one secret out of him yet. When not playing with the band, you will often find Mo Ali lurking in Al Kotob Khan in the shape of a bookworm. “Of course, it’s hard always to make a living out of music only , that’s why i wanted to have another source of income . By coincidence it was the bookshop! It was the only place where I could go and work. My boss was always aware of the fact that Discord // music magazine 44
showroom : interview
THE ART OF INDEPENDENCE
AN INTERVIEW WITH AHMAD ABDALLA /// Ines Khedira Aspiring filmmaker, shy but opinionated
Highly original independent productions, both Heliopolis (2009) and Microphone (2011) contributed to the subtle change that the Egyptian film industry is now undergoing. In his honest and down-to-earth manner, their director, Ahmad Abdalla, readily agreed to tell us more about his experience as an independent and innovative self-made director as well as share his views on Egyptian cinema and its evolution. DO YOU THINK THAT THE FACT THAT YOU DIDN’T START OFF AS A DIRECTOR, THAT YOU STUDIED SOMETHING OTHER THAN FILMMAKING, HELPED YOU, OR GAVE YOU A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE?
HELIOPOLIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT A MAINSTREAM FILM. WERE YOU TRYING TO PROVOKE YOUR AUDIENCE OR WAS THIS JUST A STYLE YOU WANTED TO EXPLORE?
I cannot say that, but what I know is that most of the people who work in the art field usually come from different backgrounds. Independent musicians and filmmakers often have something fresher to offer than people with an academic background. Of course, I cannot generalize this opinion about everyone, but I personally tend to work with people who never studied their field, especially in filmmaking.
I actually never thought I’d have an audience! It was a very small project with almost no budget. The cast worked for free, and the crew were working for the bare minimum. We wanted to prove to ourselves and to the film field that we could make a film with almost no money. That was the spirit. It was not about showing the film in theatres, or anything like that. It was the story. I was somehow surrounded by this grief and sorrow, when I was leaving the neighborhood, I just felt like the whole place was changing, not only my life. So I never felt that there was any space or any element that could be entertaining for anyone. I thought that people would find the film interesting because the film was as sincere as possible. I totally agree that it’s not entertaining, but they [the audience] can just believe the characters and believe the story lines.
FIRST TIME DIRECTORS ARE USUALLY NOT SURE WHAT THEY SHOULD MAKE THEIR FILM ABOUT, SO WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE HELIOPOLIS? I based Heliopolis on a personal experience: I lived in Heliopolis for five years and I was also involved in a serious love story there, so it was like I was saying goodbye to the life I used to know in this neighborhood. At the same time, I found that my story somehow reflected the changes that were happening there by the end of 2009. Although we have five different characters with five different story lines, they are all based on my personal experience. 45 Discord // music magazine
DON’T YOU THINK IT WAS A BIT RISKY TO START YOUR CAREER WITH SUCH AN ‘EXPERIMENTAL’ FILM? Yes, of course! This is not a local problem, though. Anywhere
showroom : interview in the world, if you want to make an ‘out of the box’ movie, it becomes a very risky business, and, most of the time, you cannot find the right audience nor the right venues to screen your films. YOUR SECOND FILM, MICROPHONE (2011), IS OBVIOUSLY NOT OUR TYPICAL COMMERCIAL EGYPTIAN FILM, BUT I HAD THE FEELING THAT THE AUDIENCE MIGHT FIND IT ‘EASIER’ TO WATCH THAN HELIOPOLIS. DO YOU AGREE? I totally disagree. In my opinion, Microphone is ten times more difficult to watch than Heliopolis. I mean, Microphone does not have a single minute without dialog. The biggest duration of silence never exceeds 15 seconds while in Heliopolis, you have time for yourself, you have time to breath, and you have time to judge everything… BUT DON’T YOU THINK THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE LIKE, HERE? A LOT OF TALKING? I would never pretend to know what people do and don’t like to. I don’t want to get into this debate... We kept thinking that people wouldn’t like Microphone, but they loved it. I thought people would like Heliopolis, because it was an easy film. It’s not an intellectual film, it doesn’t require any kind of specific audience to watch it, it’s any easy film about normal people, a normal life, but still, people didn’t like it as much as Microphone.
when it’s only you, him, and five other people. But if you have a big crew, it really affects the people in front of the camera. This is why you feel that most Hollywood films and the majority of our commercial films are very fake. There is no deeper layer. Whether you like Ibrahim Battout’s films or not, you cannot debate their honesty: you can just believe the people in front of the camera. Now, directors like Yousry Nasrallah, for example, started working with the same concept! Mohamed Khan, has a new film, and he’s trying to work with only 20 people. So I think it is growing bigger and bigger and people are trying to gain the advantages of this style. ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON ANY PROJECTS? We’re working on this new project for which I’ve changed most of my cast, because of the story, not because of anything else. We are now working with Asser Yassin. I don’t want to talk much about the film, but you probably followed the story on how the Ministry of Aw`af decided to suspend filming because they now believe that filming inside mosques is “against the Shari’a.” We’ve had to suspend the shooting until we solved this problem! CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS? I never had future plans; I never know what my next project will be. I just prefer to wait until I find something that really speaks to me to the extent that I feel connected to this subject, and that I want to make a film about it.
WHAT WAS THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN THE MAKING OF YOUR SECOND FILM, MICROPHONE? WAS IT EASIER, THE SECOND TIME AROUND? No, because it depends on the project. Microphone was a difficult film because I had to deal with over 85 people. I hardly knew most of them, and that was very hard for me. Plus, I’m not from Alexandria, and anyone from Alexandria knows how hard it is for an outsider to get inside the community, deal with the people and try to get them to tell their own story… So, yeah, for me Microphone was a little difficult. IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, THE EGYPTIAN MARKET HAS STARTED TO TAKE NOTICE OF DIFFERENT FILMS INCLUDING INDEPENDENT ONES. DO YOU THINK THIS WILL CONTINUE? HOW IMPORTANT ARE THEY TO THE FILM MARKET AND DO YOU THINK IT WILL OPEN UP THE AUDIENCE’S MINDS? Definetly! We started the whole concept of making a film with friends, with a very small crew of eight people. The readers might not know that in any average Egyptian film, you have at least 100 to 150 people on set. In our films, we started to adapt this new concept, and this is not only for financial reasons. For me, it isn’t. For our new project, for example, we had some money to work with a bigger crew and I actually did that for specific shoots, but I usually like to have a very small crew because we are able to communicate better. If there’s something wrong on the shot, or in the scene, you can just tell it by looking at your friends, and even if you want to communicate with the person in front of the camera, it’s very easy to do so Discord // music magazine 46
showroom : film review
DIRECTED BY AHMAD ABDALLA COUNTRY: EGYPT STARRING: KHALED ABOL NAGA, HANY ADEL AND HANAN MOTAWEH RATED: 4/5
Heliopolis courageously abandons traditional plot-based story telling to offer us a look into a day in the life of different Egyptians, whose paths briefly cross even if they are rarely aware of it. Each character is struggling to achieve a specific goal, or just simply to get by. However, by sunset, they realize that they have wasted yet another day, and they are left hoping that tomorrow will be more fruitful. Heliopolis’ uniqueness does not only come from the final product the first-time director, presented to us, but in the manner that this minimalist jewel has come to see the light: Ahmad Abdalla enlisted the help of just a few people, who all volunteered to make this film for no profit, including its star actor, Khaled Abol Naga. In the end, the film is a work of art that stemmed from the passion and dedication of a group of young cinephiles who had an idea in mind, and who were going to accomplish it at any cost. The film depicts a skilfully crafted story about human beings and their relationships, their goals, dreams and who they aspire to be, all against a backdrop of diversity that is so characteristic of Cairo. This miscellany is not merely mentioned, but rather shown in depth through different characters, most notably Madame Vira, an old Jewish lady confined to her home, who acquaints us with Cairo’s golden age. We may not get to know too much about the characters, yet we’re left feeling like we can identify with how real they are. With minimal dialogue, I found it refreshing to watch a movie that lacks the incessant chattering of today’s screenplays. Mohamed Brequa’s breathtaking performance as a soldier who never utters a word, whose quiet desperation is alleviated by his friendship with the street dog, speaks volumes about Ab47 Discord // music magazine
dalla’s capacity to portray such powerful emotions in such a simple manner. The brilliance of the story, however, emanates from the portrayal of issues that are growing in relevance and importance everyday, particularly pertaining to the role of women in soci ety and the overwhelming desire to leave Egypt and escape such problems as minority issues, tolerance and cohabitation. Despite it’s minute budget, the film certainly stands tall when compared to many Egyptian films. Heliopolis doesn’t point up a typical look into our society. It never justifies, never explains; it simply presents. The characters’ frustrations with life –and with themselves- is portrayed in such a humble and honest yet multi-layered manner, that it resonates with each and every one of us.
Reviewed by: Ines Khedira
“...people would like to think that there’s somebody up there who knows what he’s doing. Since we don’t participate, we don’t control and we don’t even think about questions of vital importance. We hope somebody is paying attention who has some competence. Let’s hope the ship has a captain, in other words, since we’re not taking part in what’s going on... it is an important feature of the ideological system to impose on people the feeling that they really are incompetent to deal with these complex and important issues: they’d better leave it to the captain. One device is to develop a star system, an array of figures who are often media creations or creations of the academic propaganda establishment, whose deep insights we are supposed to admire and whom we must happily and confidently assign the right to control our lives and control international affairs...” Noam Chomsky; The Chomsky Reader
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discord : journal
3 DAYS OF FESTIVITIES AT
BIKYACHELLA HIGHLIGHTS & INTERVIEWS /// Kareem Hosem Enjoys writing. Music is an integral part of his life survival kit.
Bikya Book Café is a coffee shop situated in a quiet area of Nasr City, where the first weekend of March had us celebrating their one-year anniversary. “Three Days of Festivities,” or “Bikyachella” as it was later called in imitation of California’s more famous music festival, Coachella. DAY I
Malak Makar’s brilliant vocals, Kareem Gamroor’s exquisite guitar playing and Shahir Eskander’s talent on percussion kick-started the night’s festivities. The band, Grey Grass, had the crowd completely mesmerized with their fusions of Led Zeppelin’s lyrics and AC/DC’s music, amongst other blends. Gamroor told me he’d been playing guitar and piano since he was 8 or 9, and that Malak was a trained opera singer, while Shahir “can pretty much play any percussion instrument”; something very evident from their performance.
The second debut solo performance, this time by Ahmed Safi El Din, more commonly known as Safi, showed a completely different side to the High On Body Fat man. He serenaded the audience with beautifully composed, easy on the ear originals with profound lyrics he sung in Arabic. He said it “never felt natural to write in Arabic” and that his original, “Laqad Sam’aat” (“I Heard” in English) just happened after reading what he’d written during a trip to Brazil. He hopes to record two albums in the next five years, in both English and Arabic.
The man with the harmoniously angelic voice, Hany Mustafa, was also ready to woo the crowd, with his eloquently moving lyrics. He is definitely amongst the driving forces behind the change in Cairo’s music scene, and who believes that “it’s on the rise.” I got the vibe that he’s a simple man with simple desires, telling me he sees himself in 5 years “as a musician; hopefully one that’s more developed, with a few people who know the words to his music, and owns a motorcycle.”
After Safi, the wonderfully cheerful and all-smiles band Abou Mariam were up, consisting of Mohamed Khaled (Abou) and Mariam Ali. Their music is a blend of smooth, chilled -and sometimes fast paced- guitar riffs with Arabic lyrics, mostly inspired by the revolution.
The final act of the night saw new-on-the-scene Adam Awad performing his debut solo set, and giving the crowd a great note to end the night on. He played two of his originals and blew the crowd away by impressively covering Fleet Foxes and hitting every note spot on. I believe he’s one of the next things to watch out for in the music scene. 49 Discord // music magazine
After a short break, the comedy rock/metal ZeKhodz stepped up and had the crowd singing along to their eccentrically funny lyrics. They said their music was inspired by “a Zimbabwean poet and rebel, starter of the Earthbound Brain Youth.” Personally I’m a little skeptical, but the band’s performance was loads of fun to watch and listen to.
discord : journal DAY III High On Body Fat, a duo that sees Ahmed Safi and Marwan Imam putting their comic genius to great use by composing mostly Arabic lyrics to put to popular English songs. They even added a twist to ZeKhodz’s “Neswangy” to make it even more humorous. After leaving the crowd in stitches and gasping for air, it would be fair to say that their performance, which quite literally took the audience’s breathe away, was among the best the 3 days had to offer. Shady Ahmed, one of the most anticipated acts, was up next to perform, and perform he did. Supported by Tarek AbdelKawi, they had the audience singing along to hits such as The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. They were followed by a one-song act, from Aya Mustafa, who graced the crowd with her rather exquisite voice. And finally, bringing the three days of festivities to an end was Salalem. The band used their instrumental dexterity to create a brilliant fusion of sounds to accompany their very cleverly worded Arabic lyrical compositions. The audience asked for an encore and the band did not disappoint. Aya Mostafa
I could easily say that the festivities, held to commemorate Bikya’s first birthday, was a brilliant success, and everything one could ask for. By the end of the final night I found myself singing along to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the performers and Bikya’s owners. Kareem Gamroor later tweeted saying, “3 dayS @BikyaBookCafe and I have no idea how the hell I’m gonna go back to normal life.” A true statement indeed.
Hany Must and Adam Awad
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THE SILENT BALLET WEBSITE: http: //www.thesilentballet.com COVERS: Almost every kind of experimental music under the sun (mainly, but not exclusively, instrumental) Formed in 2006, The Silent Ballet (TSB) has risen in stature from being a website that covers the most obscure ambient and post-rock acts to one of those websites whose review can make or break an album or band. The reviews are insightful and the level of writers on board is bettered by less than a handful of websites on the interweb. Without TSB, I personally would’ve been completely musically ignorant; they have provided me with most of the albums that I have to come to hold dear in the past couple of years. Also features two excellent podcasts, those being Post-Rock Paper Scissors and Now Like Photographs.
PROG ARCHIVES WEBSITE: http://www.progarchives.com COVERS: Progressive Rock and all related genres and subgenres Contrary to popular belief, not all progressive rock songs speak of hobbits and/or aliens (alien hobbits!!) and a quick look through the massive amount of albums featured on Prog Archives will make sure to convince you of that. Here you’ll stumble upon all sorts of bands playing prog rock, metal, Rock in Opposition, Canterbury Scene bands, the whole shebang! Nifty features include the ability to stream some of the artists’ songs while reading and they offer multiple reviews of albums so the reader and prospective listener can get different views on each album.
One of the questions that’s sprung my way the most is “where do you find these bands?” If I don’t think you’re worth the time and effort I’d tell you “the internet”, but because you seem like a nice enough bunch, I’ll help you out. These are some websites and blogs that I find myself going to over and over again whenever I’m in need of a good musical fix.
/// Mohammed Ashraf
OF GO-TO WEBSITES FOR THOSE WILLING TO UNEARTH THEIR OWN GEMS
DELVE INTO THE UNDERGROUND—A SELECTION discord : music hint
RESIDENT ADVISOR WEBSITE: http://www.residentadvisor.net/ COVERS: Electronica, dance, house, dubstep, techno…anything with a beat basically Being a person that has started getting into electronic musically fairly recently, Resident Advisor’s reviews and charts have helped me immensely in discovering a huge number of awesome artists. The website is always up to date with all sorts of beat driven electronic music and they have artist curated playlists every week or two which are pretty good on the most part. Subscribe to their newsletter and you’ll be sure to be constantly on top of all the happenings in the world of bips, booms and clicks.
FLUID RADIO WEBSITE: : http://www.fluid-radio.co.uk COVERS: Experimental music with a focus on ambient and modern/contemporary classical Fluid Radio has been around for a while with its radio stations (both equally good) but it wasn’t until two years ago when I started really following this website. Although it shares a lot of common ground with the aforementioned TSB, it is more focused and thus often has some stuff that TSB misses. Also, editor in chief Daniel Crossley is a brilliant photographer and features a lot of his sets on the website which adds to the aesthetic quite well.
OTHERS Aquarius Records – For all your sludgy, metallic wants and needs Headphone Commute – Full of interviews and artist curated mixes and podcasts The Liminal – Specializes in all forms of experimental music Seattle Show Girl – These guys truly love music in all forms and shapes, very complete coverage, could very well be a much needed substitute for Pitchfork sometime soon. Industrial Music For Industrial People – One man’s attempt at educating the world about Industrial music and it’s a damn fine attempt thus far. Rate Your Music – The ultimate all round website, their charts are customizable and always come in handy Textura – Another great website for experimental music
LAST FM WEBSITE: http://www.last.fm COVERS: Almost every artist/band on the planet, from Fairuz to Fuck Buttons, Om Kolthoom to Opeth! This is not much a review site as it is an online radio (yup the “fm” part does give it away), however, its true beauty doesn’t lie in streaming songs and stuff (especially because you have to pay after the 30th song). To uncover the true potential of Last.fm create an account and sync it with your iPod, iTunes, winamp, grooveshark or what have you and it will recommend music based on your taste, and the more you listen the more accurate these recommendations get. A last.fm account is an absolute essential to anyone wishing to escape the clutches of mainstream music.
METAL STORM WEBSITE: : http://www.metalstorm.net/ COVERS: : Metal in all its forms and shapes Metal and all its subgenres are duly represented on the World Wide Web, but the problem with most website more often than not lies in their over the top “metal” design; reviews written in blood against a background of dusty crypts makes it impossible to take them seriously. Metal Storm avoids all that and goes for a clean look with awesome content to boot. All subgenres of the genre are on show and the reviewers seem to know exactly what they’re talking about. A must for those inclined towards the heavier things in life.
AND FINALLY… PITCHFORK *SIGH* WEBSITE: http://www.pitchfork.com/ COVERS: Indie rock and anything hip(ster) Pitchfork’s existence is, to me, a necessary evil, their reviews of anything that doesn’t sound hipster enough are too pretentious for anyone’s sake and sometimes ridiculously misinformed. That said, they are pretty damn good when it comes to indie rock, synth pop and all that good stuff and are a good place to look when it comes to finding out release dates and to stream unreleased singles.
discord : music hint
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discord plus : illustration
ILLUSTRATION Illustration from Hot Rods to hand-finished Bowling Pins, Nate Trapnell’s work seems to get more detailed every show. The latest work exhibited for the Front Magazine Favorite Artist Exhibition at The Black Heart in London features a series of bizarre characters surrounding one red headed babe.
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Lost At E Minor is an online publication of inspiring art, design, music, photography and pop culture. “We take our low brow sensibilities and mash them up with the grittier elements of high brow culture to shine a discerning light on the exciting expressions of creativity that our team of writers discover”, founders Zolton and Zac Zavos.
discord plus : illustration
Silvia Pavarini is an Italian illustrator whose artwork typically portrays young girls with big eyes.
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discord plus : art
ART ROAâ€™s street art can be found all over the world and it is undeniably recognizable. Most of ROAâ€™s murals are done in black and white, mostly consisting of dead and dying animals, which are well thought out in terms of layout. ROA creatively utilizes everything a building has to offer: doors and windows often serve a purpose in the work.
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discord plus : photography
PHOTOGRAPHY I love this school of photography. It references the old masters while simultaneously being completely modern. Ever since art students were introduced to Joel Peter Witkin, it became fashionable to at least play with this vein. However, most never give their work the personal touches to make it their own like Fredrik Odman does. Nor do they have the attention to detail or flawless craft to bring it to this level.
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THE MARKET BAND ADS
Want to form a rock band and short on members? Looking for that bassist/synth player to complete the lineup for your ambient jazz project? Here’s your outlet to call out musicians with similar musical taste and vision. Whether you just want to jam, explore musical directions with different players, or find a dedicated full time musician for your upcoming tour, this is the place to put your ad. We are all about promoting the local scene and will gladly help you in any way we can to make your dreams of music making come true.
Do you have any instruments or equipment, used or new, that you’d like to sell or looking for some to buy?
Send your ads to firstname.lastname@example.org Spread the music! And the love of course :)
CLASSIFIEDS DISCORD BUSINESS FREELANCING COMMUNITY IS NOW HIRING This offer is open to all creative freelancers, which include: Writers, Photographers, Illustrators and Graphic Designers Apply now simply by submitting a sample of your work to: email@example.com And Join the Biggest Freelancers Community in Egypt
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll gladly place your ad on our site. Please include a detailed description of your gear, condition and date of purchase, a picture and of course the asking price. Also, if you’ve got a beat down drum set or any old instrument in bad condition that you’d like to give away for charity then we’ll gladly help out with that as well.
GEAR REVIEW /// SOUNDCHECK
discord : gear review
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discord : gear review
Finding that “right” sound can be tricky and picking up the right piece of gear can be critical in achieving it. In this new section, Ahmed Abd El Aziz will help you navigate through the plethora of equipment on offer; from guitars & pedals to keyboards & synthesizers, from home recording equipment to live setups, all shall be covered and hopefully help you land that tone you’ve been gunning for.
Amplifier > Cable > Wah Pedal > Cable > Guitar
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05 / 12
discord : gear review
GEAR REVIEW— WAH PEDALS
/// Ahmed Abdel Aziz Part-time producer, full-time dreamer
SOUND Used by guitarists, bassists and lap steel guitarists alike, the WAH pedal is, in my point of view, a must-have in any string-plucking rocker’s set up. Many of you may already be familiar with the WAH pedal and its sound, if that’s not the case, then if you’ve ever heard a Kirk Hammet (Metallica) solo, you have heard a WAH pedal in action. Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘White Room’ are perfect examples of how a WAH pedal can completely transform the sound of your guitar to add more aggression or simply to give it that funky flavor some of us so eagerly look for. I personally use it sometimes for background noise and ambience; it is that versatile. Whether you’re into rock, blues, funk, jazz or into metal and its many subgenres, you’ll find a use for a good WAH in your songs. WORKINGS The pedal was created by Brad Plunkett at Warwick Electronics Inc. in the 1960’s, is basically a filter. The peak response frequency of this filter is swept up and down as the guitarist moves the pedal up and down respectively with their foot, creating the spectral glide in sound that mimics a human mouthing the word WAH. The WAH pedal normally comes first in your effects chain and is most commonly used as a lead guitar booster. You can also use it in your rhythm with chords.
PURCHASE There is quite a selection of WAH pedals in the Egyptian market, visit the nearest music store and try out Dunlop’s famous Cry Baby, Vox’s selection of WAH pedals, or even go to the Roland store in Heliopolis and try out Boss’s pedal. I personally own a Vox V845 classic WAH-WAH pedal; sounds perfect in my setup and it was very well priced which at the end of the day matters to most of us. I cannot tell you what to choose, my advice would be to go out and try whatever gear you plan to buy yourself. Don’t order online based on reviews, just because someone loved a certain product doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. I say go out and enjoy the experience of buying new musical equipment. Good luck and until next time. Discord // music magazine 60
discord : soundcheck
KURT COBAINâ€” SOUNDCHECK
AMPS For Bleach, Kurt used a Randall head powering amp. He switched to a Sunn Beta-Lead head driving Peavy 4x12 cabs when they started playing larger venues. For In Utero, Kurt used his trusty Fender Twin Reverb. He also used the Twin Reverb on Unplugged. EFFECTS
1. Boss DS-1 Distortion 2. Electro-Harmonix BigMuff 3. ProCo Rat 4. Boss DS-2. Kurt switched to a DS-2 after Never- mind 5. Electro-Harmonix Small Clone chorus 6. Electro-Harmonix Polychorus 7. Electro-Harmonix Echoflanger 8. Tech 21 Sansamp - Classic model - Amp/cab simulator 9. DOD Grunge pedal
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ARE YOU A MUSICIAN? THEN GIVE US A LISTEN. Send us your sample at DISCORD the regionâ€™s only music magazine We are looking for homebred musicians to cover and feature within our magazine and events. email@example.com
Third Issue is Out..A little late, but definitely worth the wait.