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HUSSEIN SHERBINI: NOT TOO CHABI

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Hussein Sherbini, KIK collective member and one third of Wetrobots<3 Bosaina , has been a busy man as of late. His new album ELECTRO CHAABI, due out 9 Mayis a not so electro chaabi mix of techno, ambient, grime, bass music and Sherbini’s own touch. We caught up with the man to speak about Cairo, his new misnamed record and the emerging hip-hop scene that he’s gassed on.

You can download the full album HERE

AK: Tell us a bit about the Cairo scene. In what direction is it moving and what’s it like to be a producer/dj on the ground?

Hussein Sherbini: At the moment it’s not very clear where the scene is headed, but the important thing to observe is that it’s growing. There are a lot of musicians, producers and bands who are finally starting to push the envelope. This is exactly what we need from the artists side. We need new sounds, we need competition and most importantly we need an actual scene that includes an active audience. This is the hardest part. We need an audience that is ready to experience something new and different. If you have have the audience then you have the promoters and venue owners trust. Venue owners and promoters play a major role in this, however, they’re just not ready to take risks. Everyone’s gotta pay rent at the end of the day and in the nightlife industry, no one’s ready to push the bar higher in terms of fresh bookings or offering an alternative new sound if it means that you might make less money on a specific night. Vent is probably the only club doing this and it’s not easy. But then again, what is? I’m not trying to be philosophical here, but we already have a mainstream scene. Granted it’s horrible, but who cares about the mainstream anyway, it’s not going anywhere innovative. It will just always be a copy of something that happened somewhere abroad 5 years ago. I personally don’t wanna be part of that.

You’re a member of Kairo Is Koming (KIK). Can you tell us a bit about the collective and Vent. What’s it about? What do you guys want to achieve?

Kairo Is Koming is an Egyptian electronic music collective of artists/producers including ISMAEL, Bosaina, $$$TAG$$$, ZULI, N//A\\A and Hussein Sherbini. We’re a group of artists from Cairo who found themselves sharing similar artistic visions and tastes. The collective has toured Europe twice in the past 2 years, one of our major highlights was playing at the Sisyphos, Berlin. Vent is a club in downtown Cairo owned by 2 of the KIK members, Ahmed El Ghazoly (ZULI) and Asem Tag ($$$TAG$$$). In my opinion, Vent is the only venue offering an alternative to the mainstream nightlife in Cairo. Vent is a platform through which local and international fresh talent is constantly showcased. Not to mention the accessibility, Vent is probably the only venue/bar in Cairo that does not impose a dress code policy. We need this kind of movement in our music scene, a venue that’s strictly about the music and nothing else. Like I mentioned before, we still don’t have a proper music scene, and a scene can only exist if there’s a crowd. The Egyptian crowd needs to be exposed to what’s new locally and internationally.

You’re new album is called Electro Chaabi, but bares little resemblance to the tumultuous, autotuned sound coming out of Salam City. What does the genre mean to you and why did you choose it as the name of your album?

The album has nothing to do with the genre “Electro Chaabi”, in fact there’s a specific reason behind this move and it is stated more than once in the lyrics. I’m a huge supporter of the electro chaabi movement and I consider it one of the most organic art forms to come out of Cairo in the past 40 years. However, I think that it’s unfair to not consider the alternative electronic scene in Cairo to be as organic if not more progressive. If I label my work as “industrial” “bass” “techno” granted I won’t be interesting to the west because I’d be put in the same category as DJs, producers and bands from the Middle East influenced by western music rather than their organic surroundings. But not just to the west, even to the Egyptian crowd, if I don’t have basic oriental elements in my music it’s not accessible to the public. The only western influence in my music is the fact that I use foreign gear, but so does everyone. This is a message directed at the alternative and commercial scene in Cairo first and the western orientalist enthusiasts second.

Tell us a bit about your process. How was recording this album different than the work you’ve done in the past. Do you think you achieved the sound you set out to capture?

I started on this album 2 years ago. There’s one track on this album that was written in 2013 before my last EP “Fairchile”. I think this album is definitely unique to me because of the way it came together. Initially I had a completely different plan a year ago. There are about 8 tracks that got replaced by 8 new ones. I’ve been wanting to include arabic vocals for a while but couldn’t find the right context. I generally don’t like repeating my self ever, if I can of course. Sonically, I always have an idea of what I want things to sound like, but then what usually happens is that I discover a new sound while doing so and end up sticking to it. I like exploring new sonic fields because if it’s new to me, then it’s definitely unlike anything I’ve heard.

You told Vice in 2013 that “In Cairo, some people just don’t get our music so they stand there puzzled. International crowds respond way better to our sound.” Has that changed in the last few years?

A little, but then again I feel like the international crowd nowadays expects generic oriental elements like what you’d find in Omar Suleiman’s music. On the other hand, with the local crowd we get a bit more attention now because we’ve had more press reviews and gigs abroad in the past 2 years. To be fairly honest though, I don’t know weather people get the music or not anymore and to be very frank, It’s no longer a concern. I put a lot of effort in what I do and there will always be those who like it because they can connect to it and those who like it because it might be trending or even those who hate it. Either way, it will not stop me from doing what I want to do. I like creating something fresh that might inspire someone to create something even fresher. I don’t want to be another part of this boring cycle where I have to create something that falls under “what the people want” based on what the west has labeled our regional sound.

Outside of KIK who would you put us onto in the Cairo scene. What’s the next big thing to come out?

I’ve recently discovered that there’s a gigantic rap scene in Cairo. Granted there has always been rap groups in Egypt like Arabian Knights and Arab League who strive to mimic Tupac and Biggie. I’m talking about a different scene though. There are mainly two areas in Cairo, Haram and Shobra, where at least 200 teenage rappers have emerged from in the past four years. These kids are crazy. This scene is much more developed than any other scene in the region. They’re so unique and self driven. They have thousands of followers on Youtube and Soundcloud. Mostawa features one of my favourite and in my opinion the best rapper in Egypt, Abyusif. Abyusif doesn’t belong to any of these specific camps, however, he is considered a major game changer in the regional rap scene. It is because he keeps setting the bar high that these kids develop so fast. I personally never liked the idea of arabic rap until I heard Abyusif do it. This is again what we need, people pushing the envelope to inspire others to push it more.

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