Afropop Worldwide’s 5-part Hip Deep in Egypt Series is now complete! Find links to all the programs and podcasts below. You can stream the 1-hour programs, and download the shorter podcasts. To link to the various features (interviews, videos, photos, blogposts and more) click on the program titles. The series was produced by Banning Eyre, with help from a stellar array of artists, scholars and other collaborators. Dig in! Special thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New York Council for the Humanities for making our series possible. Thanks also to PRI (Public Radio International) for their support and distribution.
Egypt 1: Cairo Soundscape – Hip Deep’s Egypt series kicks off with a sonic tour of Cairo–the chatter of car horns on jam-packed streets, the persistent call to prayer broadcast from mosques city wide, koranic recitation, radio sounds, nightclubs, Ramadan concerts, Coptic hymns sung in ancient churches, bustling markets, and the lulling waters of the Nile. We will introduce the themes and central characters for this unique Afropop program series, which takes the pulse of an ancient civilization in the midst of upheaval and historic change.
Egypt 2: Cairo: Hollywood of the Middle East – By the mid 20th century, Cairo had become the unrivaled center for music and film production in the Middle East. Producers, writers, composers, actors, musicians, star singers, and creators of every stripe flocked here to take part in the city’s fervent, international, progressive artistic milieu. This was the heyday of the diva Umm Kulthum, and the beloved singer and composer Abdel Halim Hafez. But events of the 50s and 60s signaled an inward turn for Egypt and Cairo. The 70s saw the rise of a rougher, more street-wise music–sha’bi–and films began to lose their edge. This program looks back at the rise and decline of a media capital, and points to possible futures in an era of reinvention and change. Music by Farid el Atrache, Umm Kulthum, Ahmed Adeweya, Hakim, and much more!
Egypt 3: Cairo Underground – Egypt’s revolution has brought much to light, including a lot of music that’s been percolating in hidden corners there, largely ignored by nearly all broadcast and print media. It turns out a musical revolution has been going on in Egypt well before the political uprisings of 2011. On this program, we hear music that either was or still is “underground.” We meet Cairo rock musicians from the band Wust Al Balad, and also from widely stigmatized heavy metal musicians who appeal to a small, passionate, and surprisingly wholesome audience. We also hear experimental music by composers out to break the orthodoxy of the Egyptian past, and sample new forms of sha’bi pop and Sufi music, bubbling up from poor urban neighborhoods where street weddings may offer a glimpse of Egyptian pop music to come.
Egypt 4: Living Traditions – As Egyptians struggle to forge a new, post-revolution identity, some will look to traditions. The country is rich in indigenous culture from the amorous odes of desert Bedouins to the keening boom and blare of a Zeffa wedding procession. New Cairo venues now present Nubian music, ancient sounds from the Delta and Suez regions, and even the music of the zar healing ritual—elevating these forms above touristic fare found on Nile Cruises and in old Cairo. This Hip Deep edition, rich with recordings made in the field, offers a sonic map of Egypt’s traditional life, culminating in the ecstasy of a Sufi saint celebration—a mouled.
Egypt 5: Revolution Songs – Afropop’s “Hip Deep in Egypt” series concludes with a survey of the music created during the first 15 months of the ongoing revolution. We meet Tahrir Square troubadour Ramy Essam, top rapper Karim Rush, Egyptian music legend Mohamed Mounir among others. Most observers agree that Egypt’s popular music industry has grown out of touch and moribund—a bit like the former government. But what comes next? Scholars and artists weigh in on the significance of music in preparing the way for revolution, and the consequences of revolution on the future of Egyptian music.
A Summer Walk Through Tahrir Square – Afropop producer Banning Eyre took a walk through the square to interview and talk to some of the people who were still occupying the space. Eyre met a series of people and musicians who told him about the music they played during the occupation of the square and what inspired them to stand up against the government.
Cairo’s Evolving Classical Music Scene – Producer Banning Eyre takes the pulse of classical music in Cairo today. He visits oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma, and speaks with ethnomusicologist Scott Marcus. We hear an amazing live performance by violin maestro Abdou Dagher.
The Electronic Underground of Cairo – Producer Banning Eyre delves into the small but vibrant world of Cairo’s electronic music scene. We meet Mahmoud Refat, founder of the independent record label 100 Copies Music, and sample work by his artists. We also meet and hear work by Refat’s ally and collaborator, composer Hassan Khan.
The Ecstasy of Sufi Moulid – Banning Eyre delves into the world of sufis. Join us as Afropop visits a sufi moulid celebration in Upper Egypt and delves into the history of sufi celebration and culture in Egypt.
What’s Next for Egyptian Music? The Rise of Rap & Electro-Sha’bi – This podcast focuses on the roots of Egyptian rap, and its surging popularity after the revolution. The future of music in Egypt may be the fusion of rap and another surging, young genre, electro-sha’bi.