Monday, October 31, 2011

Autotuned Egyptronica Sha'abi

I have no idea if that name is really appropriate. And I don't quite know what to make of these vids, and the music, that I've been running across, coming out of Egypt.

Check out this one.

The author of this piece is known as DJ Vigo. The title also indicates that this is a video from a wedding celebration. It certainly looks like farah, a wedding party, in a popular quarter of Cairo or some other Egyptian urban center. And it is the kind of dancing that you might see at a wedding party in a popular quarter (mantiqa sha'biya), with young women dancing together. What is a bit disconcerting is that the camera is fetishizing the body and movement of a young woman belly dancing, in a way that is perfectly appropriate in all-women company, but rather provocative when it is filmed and taken out of that context. As for the way the young woman is dressed, in higab (head-covering), t-shirt and rather tight jeans -- I've seen such outfits over a period of twenty years in Egypt. Even the t-shirt, which says "Let's Bring It On," is not completely surprising. I don't have time or the chops, really, to work through the lyrics right now, but there are references to smoking and hashish...The music (vocals and beats and instrumentation) are rather rudimentary, but they allow the singer to declaim whatever he wants. (Just as the much more famous Sha'bola does.) You will find a number of videos in this vein from DJ Vigo فىجو, some with as many as 20,000+ views.

Then there is this:

Advertised as a song from the Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir School for Girls, it features girls singing, lots of autotune, the occasional interjection of a mail voice, hot beats, and a video that consists entirely of teenaged girls (who seem to be both Egyptian and non-Egyptian). As of this writing, the song has over 270,000 hits, which is quite substantial. The comments, as far as I can tell, are entirely in Arabic. The music is much more interesting than the first, but more or less in the same vein. Other youtube subscribers have taken the same song (provenance: unknown to me as of now) and put other images of young girls to the music. This one has over 666,000 views to day; this one (with bawdier photos), over 182,000 hits.

Clearly this is a mass phenomenon, very sha'abi, in the sense that it no doubt is the object of scorn from the part of the educated and the mandarins, and very popular, with young people, especially in the popular quarters, the homes of the working classes, the lower middle classes, and the workers and entrepreneurs in the informal sector. This is, of course, just an educated guess. I hope this serves as a provocation to someone to find out more and tell us.

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