During the past few months only football triggered the alarm of a huge sense of “identity crisis” infected Egyptian youth. Without placing any misjudgments against modern day music; how many head nods would we get if we said Egyptians have drifted away from their roots? We’d probably get million and more likely arguments about generations who are clueless about our musical heritage.
Modern day music is indeed a reflection of the Egyptians identity status. If you are aware of music on mainstream media, it may look like most music producers in business conspired against identity to limit creativity and art to “habiby” and a few cheesy belly dancing moves. At this point in time there is a thriving art movement in the capital. Emerging artists with ample ambition strive to harness creativity and authenticity of the Egyptian art.
Hybrid Records stands out as an ardent lover of Egyptian folk music. Two fine young Egyptian men ventured out to establish a unique groundbreaking Record Label with head offices in Cairo (the heart land of Africa and Middle East) and San Francisco (USA). They are; Ahmed Azzam Founder and music producer (San Francisco) & Mohamed Ghorab Co-founder, Advertising and managing Director (Cairo).
They started the business four years ago, three of them spent in researching local, western and eastern musicians to create their organic varicolored musical farrago. Because they believe music reflects the image of culture, their musicians are handpicked, representing different genres and cultures. On a local level throughout their research they have been excavating for authentic, unheard of talents covering Egypt: border to border, tribe to tribe. Through regions such as Nubia, Upper Egypt (Sa’idi), and Rural (Falahi) poverty stricken areas. They’ve searched different cities; Port Said and Buheira; desert towns from Siwa to Arish; and they realize that Egypt has got incredible musical talents, from vocalists to all kinds of culturally historic musicians.
When the legendary Mohamed Munir happens to be the only connection to Nubia second to the geographic nature; only a sincere artist would be keen to expand the platform and show people the truth and introduce them the core of the Egyptian identity. Nubia as well as other areas as mentioned above may be alienated from our day-to-day concerns; however, music should unite us all.
Hybrid strongly believes in diversity by overcoming cultural differences – amidst the world unrest they seek to bridge the gaps and create musical bonds across the universe to ease the mounting tension on one hand and on the other hand make both the Egyptian youth community and the world aware of what it is to be Egyptian, African, and Arab.
On the other side of the coin; Hybrid cares to bring local musicians out of a chronic gauche to a puissant take off. This is to honor these musicians, for they resemble the core of the Egyptian culture and deserve to be awarded for reserving the authenticity of Egyptian cultural heritage. This underscores a crucial key point in music production which is producing music in Egypt is difficult because people don’t buy music. Unlike many other places around the globe like Canada, Europe, N. America where music sells, in Egypt internet piracy rules.
“Most artists in the region make money off concerts, events and ring tones” says Ghorab. Also to sell, a mighty records label has to have an auspicious funding to provide proper campaigning for artists. Money talk could only be directed to big time spenders, but the latter prefer to spend on big names, and for example, refuse to take the risk and nurture a rising folkloric revolution, forgetting about one essential factor which is connecting people to their roots.
As Ghorab laments “Due to too many factors starting with no proper education, frustration, and so forth, the people are victims of the system.”
Ghorab’s comment unfortunately rhymes, yet since Hybrid targets youth in the region to educate them about their culture and connects them with it, and helps them explore it, a quick support led by pioneers of art and music production have to expand the horizons for a new persnicketic wave of authentic aesthetics to rise.
If music can be the food of love, it can also fuel enhancing dialogue between people in the east and west, and uniting nations. From the western part, so far the Embassy of the USA in Cairo endorsed Hybrid Records to bring musical group Zenouba to Cairo November 2008. Plus, Azzam and Ghorab’s efforts to make our heritage heard and seen across the globe. Nasir Shamma the most prominent Iraqi musician is currently on Hybrid Records and is big in Japan.
Therefore, “people with big brands have to open their minds, take the risk, improve the quality of art and include diversity to lead the youth to the truth. Think out of the box,” and perhaps, all it takes is thinking inside the box.
Sound quality & recent activities
Hybrid studio is full of various Apple products. Hybrid Records use Apple Logic software, Mac Book Pro, Mac Pro, Mac Book and iphones. iphone acts like a mobile studio. Mostly used to showcase their art wherever they are and with whomever. Ghorab says “Mac Apple products are heavy duty machines, they need constant maintenance and we can’t afford to lose money. Dot apple is a phone call away. They are passionate about what they do.”
And because the sound quality is great Hybrid Records currently have 15 albums available on Sony’s digital distributing partner IODA, post signing. Having Hybrid’s complete catalogue available on more than 400 online music outlets. Albums are diverse; they are a fusion between Indian and Arabic, Nubian and sufi, 60’s belly dancing. These albums sell in Japan, USA, UK, Denmark and randomly in Spain, France, and Germany. Albums are found on music shop list on Hybrid’s link.
“Yama Dagit” Album produced by Azzam featuring the haunting vocals Aaref Shawky, a blind musician from the heartland of southern Egypt.
And finally, Zenouba project a smashing mix of old Egyptian folk music flavored with house music to create a nice sweet-sour taste to listeners.
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Yama Dagit by Azzam
The Moon Fades by the miraculous Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma ♥