This new episode of our Destinations podcast travels to Cairo, Egypt. Tune in for an hour-long party-starter mixtape comprising a selection of addictive mahraganat (electro chaabi).
Mahraganat (also known as chaabi or electro chaabi) is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in El Dekheila, a neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt. The genre is a combination of popular chaabi music played at weddings and electronic dance music. Mahraganat (which means "festivals" in Arabic) first emerged from poor neighbourhoods of the city in the years leading up to the country's 2011 revolution. In the past seven years, mahraganat has become one of the most popular street music styles in Egypt and, since its emergence, has become rooted in urban Egyptian culture.
It all started in 2006-2007, when several wedding DJs began combining chaabi music and electronic dance music with influences from reggaeton, grime and rap. Along with the rise of the Egyptian revolution of 2011 (also known as the January 25 Revolution), the genre reflected the political mayhem.
Following a very similar cultural path to the one of Romanian manele music , the genre was considered vulgar by some older and more conservative Egyptians. Initially, mahragan received no airplay on radio or television and spread online by means of such sites as YouTube and SoundCloud. This is because of the social status of the performers and fans, the controversial topics and style of lyrics.
Mahragan street performances inspire wild, sometimes acrobatic dancing, combining hip-hop moves with raqs baladi (Egyptian folk dancing). The music itself bring a contagious overall vibe, mashing up Arabic classic rhythms with Autotune raps, regularly infested with a prominent and powerful synth.
This mixtape comprises a selection of electro chaabi songs from the likes of Praed, Maurice Louca, EEK, Islam Chipsy, as well as other contemporary chaabi artists released by the Cairo record label 100Copies (operated by Mahmoud Refat, one of the key figures behind mahraganat).