Press

Egyptian label strives to build cachet for experimental music
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 10, 2007

The upcoming experimental music scene in Cairo has itsown label: 100 copies. Its mastermind Mahmoud Refat talks about itscontent and strategies.
"I think an idea like this has to be handled alone," says sound artistand musician Mahmoud Refat. "Otherwise it will look like a kind ofcultural activity [that has become] a fashion in the past few years,these kinds of collective group things. I'm not against this, but Ididn't want 100Copies to look like that."

100Copies is an independent record label that started out in Cairoalmost exactly a year ago. Refat, who runs the label alone but inconstant consultation with friends and fellow musicians, pegs April 28,2006, as day one. With six releases now racked up in the 100Copiesarchive, he celebrated a year in existence by hosting an electronicmusic festival - 100Live - at an open-air Cairene garden late lastmonth. Five artists, including Sherif El-Azma and Nermine El-Ansari,provided live visuals to accompany performances by Hassan Khan, AdhamHafez, Omar Kamel, the group Bikya and others.

"It is important that people should see this live," says Refat, who wasborn in Cairo in 1974 and began his musical career by playing in localfunk, acid jazz and experimental rock bands in the 1990s, beforegravitating toward more complex compositions, film and performancesoundtracks and a sound characterized by nimble, ambient electronicsand moody, mysterious progressions. "The musicians of 100Copies use alot of acoustic instruments, not only computers and samplers. I know itis important for people to see the musicians producing this kind ofmusic live."

From the beginning, the idea behind 100Copies has been to create aplatform and a network for experimental musicians - primarily thoseliving and working in Cairo but also their counterparts in otherregional and international cities. (Though his loyalty to musicians andlabel mates like Khan, Hafez, Bikya, Zimoun and Ramsi Lehner is clear,Refat is also fostering a relationship with a new group from Tunis, andplans to bolster his efforts elsewhere in the coming years.

"It seemed like a simple idea and I was surprised nobody had done itbefore," he says in an interview conducted via email between Beirut andCairo.

The label's first release was his own CD, "Miramar," named for thestreet where his grandmother lived and where he grew up. With a mesh ofjazzy inflections colored by spare beats and electronic washes,"Mirimar," and specifically the lusciously enigmatic 10-minute titletrack, set the tone for what 100Copies would become.

Each CD on the label is released in a limited edition - thus the name -with additional copies produced for distribution outside of Egypt. Thisis one of several instances in which Refat has borrowed strategies moreattuned to the contemporary art world than the music business. The artspace, after all, is nothing if not open to innovation andcollaboration across different disciplines and media. This is as trueof the independent art scene in Cairo as it is of its notably smallersibling in Beirut.

The art crowd in Beirut may remember Refat from his eloquentperformance of "Berlin: The Symphony of a Big City" at the thirdedition of Ashkal Alwan's Home Works Forum in 2005. In the style ofDetroit DJ Jeff Mills crafting a soundtrack to Fritz Lang's"Metropolis," Refat created a live electronic score for WalterRuttman's 1927 film, part of Refat's ongoing research on urbandocumentaries from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Three years earlier, Hassan Khan performed his masterful "Tabla Dubb"for the first time at the inaugural edition of Home Works. With shadesof similarity to the music of Muslimgauze (aka the late musician BrynJones), "Tabla Dubb" incorporates a wealth of sound sources into thebasic patterns of popular Egyptian music. Khan establishes rhythm,structure and repetition only to break them open, tear them down andrebuild them anew. The result is no mere background lounge listeningbut rather a visceral sonic experience in making a radical thoughtprocess manifest and material. As a performance, the piece is pairedwith images projected on a screen. As a series of 14 tracks, "TablaDubb" is the fourth release in 100Copies' back catalogue, put out inMarch with the promise of making Khan's work more available to thosewho may have missed his performances.

Refat and Khan have been collaborating for years, and without ego Refatnotes that until recently all anyone knew of Cairo's experimental musicscene was their work. It was a niche. The label is a concerted effortto expand and diversify it by recruiting new talent.

"There was a scene with an audience and musicians," says Refat. "Themusicians were pushing to play more and find more venues. Gallerieswere the easiest choice but we did not stop there. We tried to involveother venues like the Cinema Palace or the American University [inCairo] or the Sawy Center.

"I am looking for an alternative way of making music," he explains."There has to be a step taken in the music that I am looking for interms of ideas and approaches - even if it is classical or traditionalmusic done with traditional instruments."

The music on the label, then, may grow and change. But the logic ofworking alone is likely to remain the same“, says Refat: "I can directthings the way I want without compromising anything."

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تجارب صوتية من الأردن ومصر وبريطانيا ... الموسيقى الالكترونية تنزل الى شوارع عمان
عمّان – ربى صقر الحياة - 26/05/08//

قد تكون الموسيقى الالكترونية في الأردن رائجة، وأسطواناتها المسجّلة موجودة في بيوت مواطنين كثر. لكنها حظيت هذا العام باهتمام أوسع من بعض منظمي المهرجانات والمناسبات الثقافية. فقد نجحت مؤسسة «أورنج رد» الأردنية بالتعاون مع مؤسسة «مكان» الأردنية وشركة «مئة نسخة» للموسيقى الإلكترونية المصرية، في إنزال هذه الموسيقى الى الشارع من خلال مهرجان «100 live»، لتسمعها كل أذن تهواها أو تتوق الى سماعها.
وتحول أحد أقدم أحياء جبل اللويبدة في عمّان أخيراً، من مكان هادئ إلى محفل صاخب لدى احتضانه مهرجان الموسيقى الالكترونية الأول «100 live» الذي جمع فيه بين موسيقيين إلكترونيين ومخرجين للعروض البصرية المتعددة الوسائط من مدن تفاوتت فيها التجارب الصوتية الإلكترونية، واختلفت فيها الاتجاهات والتوجهات الفنية في هذا المجال وهي القاهرة وعمان ولندن. ستة مشاريع موسيقية من مصر شاركت في المهرجان، هي مشروع محمد رفعت وفرقة بكيا ومشروع حسن خان وملك حلمي ونرمين الأنصاري. وكان هناك أيضاً مشروع مشترك من بريطانيا لبن وايت وإيلين سيمبسون، إضافة إلى مشروعين موسيقيين مستقلين من عمان هما «الدوار التاسع» و «رعاة البقر من الأردن».
وظهرت الفروق في التوجهات الصوتية بين الفنانين من القارات الثلاث، في عرض استمر من الخامسة بعد الظهر إلى الثانية عشرة ليلاً، إذ اعتمد الأردنيون على الجمل اللحنية الواضحة التي تطرب لها الآذان وتميزها بوضوح. بينما مالت التجربتان المصرية والإنكليزية إلى التجريد الصوتي الذي أثار ردود أفعال مختلفة لدى الحاضرين من الشباب.
وتميزت موسيقى فرقة «الدوار التاسع» الأردنية (حمزة أرناؤوط على الغيتار الموصول بأجهزة التحوير الإلكتروني، وأحمد بركات على العود، إضافة إلى «إي بي» على الكي بورد الإلكتروني وأحمد صباغ في الفن البصري)، بالهدوء والشفافية الروحية. فالموسيقى التي قدموها تشعر المتلقي بسكينة ورغبة في التأمل، متأتية من مرافقة الإيقاع الذي يعتمد على الرتابة مع نفحات موسيقية متقطعة ولمسات تأملية من العود والغيتار. أما خلفية المسرح البصرية فاعتمدت على فكرة رتابة الصور المتحركة وتكرارها وتشابهها، ما يبعث على شعور خفي أشبه ما يكون بالتنويم المغناطيسي.
أما العرض الأردني الثاني فكان لفرقة «رعاة البقر من الأردن» بقيادة المؤلف والموسيقي يوسف قعوار وبصحبة ظافر السعدي على الغيتار الكهربائي، بمرافقة سيرين الأحمد في الأداء الصوتي.
وتميز العرض بالخلط ما بين موسيقى الروك والروك الصاخب مع نواح من الموسيقى الإلكترونية وتمويجات صوتية غريبة على الأذن. ففي المقطوعة الأولى تعمدت الأحمد لفظ كلمات باللغة العربية بلكنة أميركية، فأخفت «حرف الراء» وكوّرت أحرف العلّة، لتخلق جواً صوتياً تهكمياً في تعليق ساخر على قطاع شبابي من المتغربين عن عراقتهم العربية والمتبجحين بلكناتهم الغربية.
وفي المقطوعة الثانية كان الفيلم التصويري على الشاشة (من تصميم يوسف قعوار) هو المحور الأساس في العمل مع مرافقة صوتيـــة إلكترونية توحي بفكرة قلة النوم (insomnia) نرى فيها الأحمد وهـــي تتقلب بين النظر في المرآة ومحـــاولات متكررة وفاشلة للنوم من خلال تعبير متعدد الوسائط عن فكرة القلق بتعبيرها المجرد.
أما العروض المصرية فاختلفت في طرحها الموسيقي، فمالت في معظمها إلى التجريد الصوتي واستخدام تعابير صوتية تميل أحياناً إلى الموسيقى الالكترونية الصناعية. فاستخدمت فكرة الضجيج وأصواتاً نشأت بعد الثورة الصناعية في الغرب، لرسم لوحة سمعية بمرافقة عرض متعدد الوسائط على الشاشة التي نُصبت في خلفية المسرح. وتخللت العرض إعادة تشكيل لمجموعات صوتية إيقاعية في شكل أخرجها عن مضمونها الأصلي وأدخلها في خندق الموسيقى الإلكترونية لتتحول إلى مادة سمعية جديدة الملامح كانت كثيراً ما تسبب حالاً من التأهب لدى المستمعين.
فكرة تحرير الموسيقى من قيود عالم المال والأعمال، كانت هاجس العرض البريطاني الذي اعتمد على إعادة صوغ الكترونية لمقطوعات موسيقية كلاسيكية التوجه، وعروض لمقاطع تصويرية من أفلام غربية غابرة خرجت عن سيطرة حقوق التأليف في بريطانيا، وأصبحت مشاعاً يمكن استخدامه من قبل أي موسيقي من أي جنسية كونها تعدت فترة الخمسين إلى سبعين سنة اللازمة لخروج أي مقطوعة موسيقية أو عمل تصويري من دائرة حقوق التسجيل.
ويأتي هذا التوجه من قبل الفنانين الإنكليزيين وايت وسيمبسون وهما من سكان لندن ويرأسان منظمة مناهضة للرأسمالية الموسيقية أُنشِئت منذ فترة قريبة تحت عنوان «أرشيف الموسيقى المفتوح» (Open Music Archive). تحارب هذه المنظمة فكرة حصر الفنون ضمن قوانين حقوق المؤلف القاسية والتي في رأي القيمين عليها، لا تفيد إلا شركات الإنتاج الغربية الكبيرة التي تحقق الأرباح على حساب الفنانين أصحاب النسب الضئيلة من حقوق التوزيع والنشر.
وعلى رغم أن هذه المعلومات لم تكن متاحة إلا للباحث عنها على شبكة الانترنت، كانت ردود الفعل متعددة النكهات في جمهور الحاضرين بين استغراب ورضا وتأمل وفرح. فهنالك من اعتبر أن معظم الموسيقى الإلكترونية هي ضجيج سهل التصنيع يمكن لأي شخص القيام بإنتاجه، وهناك من اعتبره فناً معقداً صعب الفهم لا يقدّره إلا الخاصة من أصحاب الذائقة السمعية العالية. أما معظم الحضور فبدا مستمتعاً بحفلة كسرت الرتابة الحاصلة في الفترة الأخيرة في عمان.

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Mahmoud Refat - Mort Aux Vaches

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by: Vital Review

Mahmoud Refat is from Egypt, who previously released on Leerraum. He's not a player of traditional instruments, but is a 'normal' (??) artist with sound installations, field recordings - following a career in funk/acid jazz/experimental music. I must say I had no expectations whatsoever. I can't say I'm disappointed. The whole notion that it should be ethnic (inspired) is of course bull shit. It proofs that whatever we call microsound (for the lack of any better term) is much more a global thing that we knew. Refat plays laptop music, using sounds of whatever field nearby or far away, but he adds low humming beats - think Ikeda or Noto but on a much more subdued level - which work well as a creepy undercurrent for the music. The rhythmical notion he puts on makes this perhaps more clicks 'n cuts (for the lack of any better term) than plain microsound, but the addition of field recordings is certainly a refreshing look on the subject matter. Meelkop meets Noto, Chartier meet Pan Sonic - if you catch my fantasy running wild on the subject. For me an entirely new artist, but certainly someone to watch for the future. (FdW)

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Mahmoud Refat - Mort Aux Vaches

by: Aurelio Cianciotta
neural.it

Mort Aux Vaches series artworks are more and more sophisticated. This artwork has been commissioned to Piotr Mordel, graphic designer founder of the atypical "The Club of Polish Losers" in Berlin, Dialog magazine contributor, and skillful here in associating elaborate drawings to a "precious" lettering, decorated with a sort of glitter. It's an exoticism that seems to be suggested by the same sound nature. The Egyptian Mahmoud Refat recorded his tracks at the VPRO Dwars Festival in Amsterdam, in 2006. Sounds are dense with entangled juxtapositions, glitched sequences and clicks'n'cuts, painstakingly combined by in patterns. There's a hollow mood, ethnic feelings with hums composing skeletal rhythmical scores. The author's past funk and jazz experiences are well hidden, and there's a real experimental character in the aural continuum that for functional reasons has been divided into seven tracks, all "untitled". It's a measured and neutral quality, perfectly fitting the standard of such productions, even if evidencing a non-linear, twisted and hypnotic approach that sports an even more mystic quality with the various added field recordings. It's a continuos crackling of suspended and dreaming sounds.

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انطلاق فعاليات الدورة الثانية من مهرجان الموسيقى الالكترونية الحية في حديقة المتحف الوطني اليوم

نشر: 17/5/2008 الساعة .GMT+3 ) 23:30 p.m )
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عمان- الغد- تنطلق في الرابعة من بعد ظهر اليوم في حديقة المتحف الوطني في جبل اللويبدة فعاليات الدورة الثانية من مهرجان الموسيقى الإلكترونية الحية
100LIVE ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL
ويتواصل المهرجان المنظم من قبل 100COPIES بالتعاون مع "مكان" و"أورانج رد" وبدعم من المركز الثقافي الفرنسي في عمان لمدة ست ساعات مفتوحة للعموم ولمحبي هذا اللون الموسيقي بدعم من معهد غوته والمورد الثقافي وشركة الإتصالات أورانج، كانفاس، ترايتك، PlayFM، الناي وفندق القصر متروبول.
وتتضمن فعاليات مهرجان الموسيقى الإلكترونية الحية، رسم ميداني إلكتروني حي على شاشة الحاسوب وكذلك عروض فيديو ميكس MIX تقدم بشكل حي ومباشر وهو ما يعد حدثا غير مسبوق في هذا الإطار محليا.
انطلقت الدورة الأولى لمهرجان الموسيقى الإلكترونية الحية في 27 نيسان (إبريل) من العام الماضي في القاهرة وتحديدا في حديقة معهد جوتة الألماني في الدقي، وقدم من خلاله عدد من الموسيقيين المحليبين "المصريين" سبعة مشاهد موسيقية مرافقة مع الرسم الحي؛ الرسم في أثناء العزف ومزج ذلك مع عروض لفيديوهات لعدد من فناني الفنون المرئية واستمرت لعشر ساعات 16:00 – 2:00 من صباح اليوم التالي.
ويعد الموسيقي والفنان الصوتي المصري محمود رفعت مؤسس "100 نسخة موسيقية". ولد عام 1974، يعيش ويعمل في القاهرة حيث يصدر ألبوماته ويشارك بالعروض الموسيقية في الفضاءات المتاحة. أول إصدار "Shift" كان موسيقى الكترونية تجريبية وبإصدار من شركة "ليراوم" السويسرية، أتبعت بجولة لإطلاق الألبوم في سويسرا. وفي الألبوم الثاني " Construction Sonor- أصوات البناء"، عام 2003 قام بالعمل على الأصوات المسجلة من ورشة بناء نفق ومعالجتها مع موسيقى سجلت خصيصا. وإطلق العمل مع أعمال موسيقية أخرى عملوا في نفس الفترة وضمن نفس المشروع.
وأصدرالألبومين التاليين "The Physical Volume" و"Miramar" وكان الثاني من إنتاج "100 نسخة" ربيع 2006. ومن الإنتاج الأول "Round Trip"، عام 2003، والذي عمل فيه على الأصوات والضجيج من مدينة القاهرة ودمجها مع موسيقى وأصوات مؤلفة أتبعت بتجربة تعاونية مع الموسيقي ومصمم الصوت الألماني أوليفر دويريل للعمل على أصوات وضجيج القاهرة وبرلين.
في مطلع تسعينات القرن الماضي عمل رفعت مع فرق Funk- Acid والجاز- روك. ومنذ 2000 ابتدأ التأليف الخاص به ووضع موسيقى لأعمال مسرحية راقصة، وكتب عددا من الأعمال الموسيقية للأفلام، ومؤخرا تعاون وبنجاح مع حسن خان والذي مازال يعمل معه ويقدمان عروضهم حول العالم.
ويعمل الفنان حسن خان زميله في 100 نسخة موسيقى حية، مع الصورة والصوت، النص والموسيقى والفكرة. مقيم في القاهرة ويعمل فيها.
وتتكون الفرقة التي ستقدم العروض الموسيقية الإلكترونية في احتفالية اليوم من: محمود رفعت – إليكترونيات، موريس لوقا – جيتار، كيبورد وسامبلر ومحمد والي – درامز.
وتأسست الفرقة عام 2005 من عازفي آلات اليكتريك وصوتية "Acouistic"، وبخلفياتهم الموسيقية المتنوعة خلق الموسيقيون؛ محمود رفعت وموريس لوقا ومحمد والي رؤية جديدة من منطلقات جيلهم ونظرتهم للموسيقى.
ومن المشاركين في فعاليات المهرجان من موسيقى ورسم وفيديو آرت: المصريين رامسي لينر ونرمين الأنصاري وملك حلمي والأردني يوسف قعوار وغيرهم.
يعمل رامسي لينر في مجال الموسيقى الإلكترونية منذ العام 1999 وكان موسيقيا مع العديد من الفرق الموسيقية سابقا. يعمل حاليا في "نادي القاهرة للجاز" ويقدم عروضا مع مشروع فرقة الموسيقى الإليكترونية. أنتج مقطوعة من ضمن ألبوم احمد العطار "اليكترو ايجبت" الذي اختير من قبل شركة "فيتال سونج" في باريس لإعادة إصداره. وعلى المسرح صمم الصوت لمسرحية وليير "دون جوان" التي عرضت في مكتبة الاسكندرية ضمن مشروع "الجو جميل" لندى ثابت.
له عدد من المؤلفات لأفلام ومسرحيات وهو مخرج لأعمال مسرحية وممثل وناشط مسرحي وموسيقي ومصمم صوتي وله إصدار (ألبوم) بعنوان "Defenition".
ولدت نرمين الأنصاري في العام 1975 وتعمل في مجال الفنون المرئية - الفيديو في القاهرة حيث تعيش أيضا. حصلت على الدبلوم في الفنون الجميلة عام 1998 من معهد فيرساي في فرنسا وتخصصت بالرسم. وعام 2002 تخرجت من "المدرسة الوطنية للفنون الجميلة" في باريس وبتخصص MultiMedia وحصلت على منحة من "المعهد العالي للفنون" في جمهورية كوبا – هافانا، العام 2001.
شاركت الأنصاري بالعديد من ورشات العمل في ساحل العاج، لبنان، الصين الوطنية والمانيا ولها عدد من المعارض.
تعمل الفنانة ملك حلمي المولودة في الإسكندرية عام 1982 وتعيش في القاهرة، وهي فنانة متعددة التوجهات الفنية. شاركت في العديد من المعارض في القاهرة وكوبا وبنغلادش. أخرجت وأدارت عروضا سمعية بصرية لاكتشاف التاريخ والحضارة وعلاقتهما مع فن العمارة من خلال مشروع "مشربية" عام 2007. وحلمي حاصلة على الشهادة الأولى من الجامعة الأميركية في القاهرة بتخصص بالفنون المرئية والفن والعمارة الإسلامية.
وما بين نيويورك وعمان اختبر يوسف قعوار 12 عاما من التأليف الموسيقي وتصميم الصوت، وهو عازف جيتار يتجول في أمزجة مختلفة. يدرس للماستر في أكاديمية بيركلي – نيويورك. موسيقاه من الروك الإلكتروني مؤمن بعمله لدرجة التمكن من أوتار جيتاره لجعلها تبكي أو تضحك وتتحرك وتحرك المستمعين.
ويعمل آلين سمبسون وبن وايت عادة خارج الجاليري ويفضلان الأماكن العامة؛ من خلال شبكة الإنترنت، النوادي، المجلات، أمكن البيع والسينمات. مؤخرا أسسوا أرشيفا مفتوحا للموسيقى www.openmusicarchive.org كمبادرة مشتركة للأرشفة الإلكترونية والنشر بدون قيود.

 

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Egyptian label strives to build cachet for experimental music
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 10, 2007

The upcoming experimental music scene in Cairo has its own label: 100 copies. Its mastermind Mahmoud Refat talks about its content and strategies.
"I think an idea like this has to be handled alone," says sound artist and musician Mahmoud Refat. "Otherwise it will look like a kind of cultural activity [that has become] a fashion in the past few years, these kinds of collective group things. I'm not against this, but I didn't want 100Copies to look like that."

100Copies is an independent record label that started out in Cairo almost exactly a year ago. Refat, who runs the label alone but in constant consultation with friends and fellow musicians, pegs April 28, 2006, as day one. With six releases now racked up in the 100Copies archive, he celebrated a year in existence by hosting an electronic music festival - 100Live - at an open-air Cairene garden late last month. Five artists, including Sherif El-Azma and Nermine El-Ansari, provided live visuals to accompany performances by Hassan Khan, Adham Hafez, Omar Kamel, the group Bikya and others.

"It is important that people should see this live," says Refat, who was born in Cairo in 1974 and began his musical career by playing in local funk, acid jazz and experimental rock bands in the 1990s, before gravitating toward more complex compositions, film and performance soundtracks and a sound characterized by nimble, ambient electronics and moody, mysterious progressions. "The musicians of 100Copies use a lot of acoustic instruments, not only computers and samplers. I know it is important for people to see the musicians producing this kind of music live."

From the beginning, the idea behind 100Copies has been to create a platform and a network for experimental musicians - primarily those living and working in Cairo but also their counterparts in other regional and international cities. (Though his loyalty to musicians and label mates like Khan, Hafez, Bikya, Zimoun and Ramsi Lehner is clear, Refat is also fostering a relationship with a new group from Tunis, and plans to bolster his efforts elsewhere in the coming years.

"It seemed like a simple idea and I was surprised nobody had done it before," he says in an interview conducted via email between Beirut and Cairo.

The label's first release was his own CD, "Miramar," named for the street where his grandmother lived and where he grew up. With a mesh of jazzy inflections colored by spare beats and electronic washes, "Mirimar," and specifically the lusciously enigmatic 10-minute title track, set the tone for what 100Copies would become.

Each CD on the label is released in a limited edition - thus the name - with additional copies produced for distribution outside of Egypt. This is one of several instances in which Refat has borrowed strategies more attuned to the contemporary art world than the music business. The art space, after all, is nothing if not open to innovation and collaboration across different disciplines and media. This is as true of the independent art scene in Cairo as it is of its notably smaller sibling in Beirut.

The art crowd in Beirut may remember Refat from his eloquent performance of "Berlin: The Symphony of a Big City" at the third edition of Ashkal Alwan's Home Works Forum in 2005. In the style of Detroit DJ Jeff Mills crafting a soundtrack to Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," Refat created a live electronic score for Walter Ruttman's 1927 film, part of Refat's ongoing research on urban documentaries from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Three years earlier, Hassan Khan performed his masterful "Tabla Dubb" for the first time at the inaugural edition of Home Works. With shades of similarity to the music of Muslimgauze (aka the late musician Bryn Jones), "Tabla Dubb" incorporates a wealth of sound sources into the basic patterns of popular Egyptian music. Khan establishes rhythm, structure and repetition only to break them open, tear them down and rebuild them anew. The result is no mere background lounge listening but rather a visceral sonic experience in making a radical thought process manifest and material. As a performance, the piece is paired with images projected on a screen. As a series of 14 tracks, "Tabla Dubb" is the fourth release in 100Copies' back catalogue, put out in March with the promise of making Khan's work more available to those who may have missed his performances.

Refat and Khan have been collaborating for years, and without ego Refat notes that until recently all anyone knew of Cairo's experimental music scene was their work. It was a niche. The label is a concerted effort to expand and diversify it by recruiting new talent.

"There was a scene with an audience and musicians," says Refat. "The musicians were pushing to play more and find more venues. Galleries were the easiest choice but we did not stop there. We tried to involve other venues like the Cinema Palace or the American University [in Cairo] or the Sawy Center.

"I am looking for an alternative way of making music," he explains. "There has to be a step taken in the music that I am looking for in terms of ideas and approaches - even if it is classical or traditional music done with traditional instruments."

The music on the label, then, may grow and change. But the logic of working alone is likely to remain the same“, says Refat: "I can direct things the way I want without compromising anything."

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Bikya blends a wide range of styles and influences on self-titled debut album
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Striking a balance between acoustic and electronic experimentation
The industrial chug of a factory floor, a low whine like an air raid siren, a layer of lackadaisical drums and bass and then a luscious, ponderous melody slides through all the aforementioned noise. "Betrayal," the first track on the band Bikya's self-titled debut album, builds in texture and complexity for just over six minutes. Gorgeous, spacey, challenging, it exemplifies the strengths of Bikya's sound, blending acoustic instrumentation with electronic experimentation.
Bikya began in 2005, when three musicians from varied backgrounds forged a singular idea of where they thought electronic music should be in their time and then set out to create it. The band features Mahmoud Waly on bass and electronics, Mahmoud Refat on drums and electronics and Maurice Louca on guitar, keyboard and sampler.

One can detect a wide range of styles and influences in the mix - the patterns of rapid-fire drum 'n' bass, the kind of ghostlike sounds that lurk in the background of old school techno, bass lines straight out of classic funk, a tinge of California surf guitar, rich and occasionally mournful abstractions reminiscent of bands like Fridge or Air or Boards of Canada and, interestingly in terms of production value, the precision and depth of trip hop circa Massive Attack.
Bikya's debut is the latest release from the fiercely independent record label 100Copies in Cairo, which was established a year ago by Refat as a platform for experimental music in Egypt and beyond. The trick with 100Copies is that, true to the title, every release comes in a limited edition of 100 copies. Addition copies are made for circulation outside of Egypt, and since he started, Refat has picked up distribution in Beirut (CD-Theque) and Berlin (the Staalplaat store) and Bern (Ha Haa Music).
The name Bikya might refer to a common colloquialism in Egypt, "rubabikya," originally derived from an Italian expression and used to mean "old things" or "junk." Street vendors in Cairo shout out "bikya" as a plea for people to donate or sell them things that they can repair and resell. Then again it might refer to one of world's most obscure languages, spoken on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria by a dwindling population of one. Either explanation could fit the music, which is intensely cinematic and begs to be used in soundtracks for the kind of films that fill art-house screens.
Biyka's sound is entirely devoid of vocals and orchestration. It doesn't adhere remotely to the conventions of Arabic pop. Only the occasional and faint patter of percussion recalls classical Arabic rhythms. If one wants to hear a conventional, and probably cliched, expression of Cairo's aural culture, he or she would be better off sticking to mainstream Egyptian music, urban congestion or the imagined clinking of coffee cups in a Naguib Mahfouz novel. This is not to say Bikya doesn't make audible a certain reality, just that that reality is complex and its contradictions are expressed rather conceptually in, say, the sounds of an industrial shredder on the track "Hack It," and then interspersed with the light and nimble keyboards of a pseudo-lullaby.
Bikya revels in jarring noises, and it's not for nothing that two tracks are titled "Error #1" and "Error #2." The former grates with harsh sounds while the latter comes across like a beautiful piano piece that's been buried under water.
Certainly Bikya's music falls into an isolated niche - call it electronica, intelligent dance music, ambient electro, folktronica, call it what you will. It takes a patient listen or 10, but it pays off. The brilliance lies in the balance between sounds and in the depth of the compositions. On a track such as "Sherif," featuring Valentin Coenen somewhere, somehow on saxophone, the most beautiful bits of the song, a languid guitar, are constantly buried and retrieved. Bikya flirts with accessible song structures without compromising on innovation or on making music that sounds resolutely new.
Bikya's self-titled debut is out now from 100Copies. For more information, please check out www.100copies.com

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EXPERIMENTS ELECTRONICA
By Phoebe Sloane
daily star cairo
First Published: May 3, 2007

Last Friday night the Goethe Institute and 100Copies Records invited music lovers to sample the best of Cairo’s electronic and experimental music scene. The heavy beats and unnatural sounds of this music were somewhat out of place in the Institute’s quiet Dokki garden, set back from the insanity of city traffic. But attendees seemed to enjoy the music and the setting as they sipped Stellas and lounged on the floor pillows and the grass.
“We want to find the limit between what we can bring to the public and what will bring an audience,” said Friedrich Dalhaus, the Goethe Institute’s Director of Cultural Programs and one of the event’s main organizers. This concert is just one piece of the Institute’s project to promote young Egyptian artists working in all types of media. “We brought together a mixture of really experimental music and a DJ. The focus is on self expression by music.”
The Goethe Institute’s partner in creating this event was 100Copies, an electronic music label founded last year by Mahmoud Refat. He was using this event to launch two new CDs, by the DJ Ramsi Lehner, and the band Bikya, while also trying to attract new musicians to the label.
Refat has been involved in electronic music since 1993, and started his label as a way to bring together electronic musicians in Cairo in more experimental projects. He thinks that his label has been well received, both by the electronic music community, and by people who liked the idea of pushing the boundaries of music, but weren’t necessarily fans of this style. All of 100Copies’ music is electronic, said Refat, “But inside it I can try to define styles and experiment.”
Refat encourages musicians signed to his label to develop new styles. “The nice thing about what’s going on here is that it’s experimental, it’s a bit off, it’s not commercial. The dance scene gets a bit boring,” said Ramsi Lehner, whose first solo album was celebrated at this festival. Lehner has been a DJ on the Cairo scene for years, spinning at such hotspots as the Cairo Jazz Club. He wanted to do something different and met Refat when both worked on sound for a play last year in Cairo.
Lehner first discovered the electronic scene when living in California as a teenager, and has loved it for years. However, much of electronic music all over the world is eclectic and underground, so it can be hard to find ways to produce and enjoy it. “I’m happy about this [event]. There’s never been an appropriate platform like this in Cairo,” he said. “The fact that [this music] is in Egypt when it’s still underground everywhere else is great.”
In addition to Bikya and Ramsi Lehner, other artists at the event included Adham Hafez, Hassan Khan, Omar Kamel, 2C, Valentin Coenen and Refat himself. The Goethe Institute even attempted to make it a mixed media show, with some artists adding visuals to their music that played on a huge screen at one side of the garden. Visuals and light were done by Nermine El Ansari, Malak Helmi, Islam El Azzazi and Sherif El Azzma.
The crowd was sparse around 6 pm when it was still light out, but later on in the evening more people showed up, which suggests that Refat and Lehner may be on their way to making electronic music more mainstream and less underground here in Cairo.

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Drawn to music
Sarah Carr
ahram weekly/cairo
First Published: May 3, 2007

annoys the neighbours

Listening to incredibly loud music outdoors in a residential area is always intensely pleasurable, not only because music seems to sound better in the open but because of the staying-up-on-a-school-night naughtiness of being allowed to deafen the neighbours for half a mile all round.
Dokki's Goethe Institute was the stage for such splendid anti-social behaviour on Friday night, when it played host to the 100 Live electronic music festival which showcased artists signed to the Egyptian- based electronic music label, 100 Copies (so named because only one hundred copies of each release are available abroad). Live performances by individuals and groups such as Ramsi Lehner, Omar Kamel and Bikya were accompanied by visuals beamed onto three giant screens. The music, the visuals and copious amounts of alcohol were consumed by the festival's punters as they reclined on the grass (grass! in Cairo!) in the Goethe's gorgeous palm tree-filled garden.
I arrived after dark just before Bikya's set, and in the interim the audience were entertained with visuals including jerky overhead images of taxis roaming the streets of Alexandria... close-ups on women's posteriors as they walked forwards and then backwards, then forwards again... a man sitting on a bench, pondering... a duck's brisket, and so on. Aesthetically these images were mildly engaging in rather the same way that it is sometimes interesting to watch the scenery change from a train window: in both cases it is pointless to ask what the meaning of anything is; better to bathe your eyes in it all.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the lawn, another giant screen had been set up in front of an overhead projector and members of the audience invited to let their imaginations elope with a pen - with predictably erratic results. Watching them, I was reminded of a 1980s British television show called Rolf Harris' Cartoon Time. Rolf, an Australian cartoonist, would draw a picture while we, the mesmerised kids at home, watched Daffy Duck or Tom or Jerry materialise before our eyes. Rolf's catchphrase was "Can you see what it is yet..?" Mostly at the Goethe, alas, I could not. At one point someone replaced doodling with a series of earnest questions such as, "what is an experience?...If 'this' is an experience, does it matter? This maybe [sic] experimental art, a bridge between two points. Artists and experiences. Do you care" Indeed.
Ducks and doodling gave way to the no-nonsense excellence of Bikya, a three-piece ensemble composed of 100 Copies owner Mahmoud Refat on drums and electronics, Mahmoud Waly on bass and Maurice Louca on guitar, keyboard and a sampler reminiscent of an air raid siren. It is difficult to find a superlative adequate to describe the excellence of this group, who harness the intensity of electronic sound and combine it with soulful, melodious guitar to create really beautiful music -- even the aforementioned air raid siren device was utilised to stunningly plaintive effect on their opening song "Betrayal". There is arguably a certain emotional inaccessibility about electronic music of this kind - at least for the uninitiated - which Bikya successfully avoid, and then some: their compositions are both fresh and haunting.
Bikya gave way to a brief interlude featuring Ramzy Lehner, which is when I began to see the point of the visuals: the critical flaw in live electronic music is that there is almost zero audience interest in watching a man sitting behind his laptop nodding his head slightly. Turning back to the overhead projector, the audience were offered a picture of a ship with 'Titanic' written above it before the pen was appropriated by a small child who spent the rest of the night drawing Superman. The idea of audience participation is commendable but unfortunately did not on this occasion draw (boom boom) many interesting results.
Omar Kamel, the evening's final performer, played electronic with an oriental slant complete with qanoun and violin. The music was upbeat and the group gave a tight performance, but the material did not add anything to the beats-Arabic music formula so common elsewhere in the city -- although the group of dancers in the audience who went from voguing to body popping to dabke during his performance clearly enjoyed it immensely. He was in any case forced to conclude his set early because the powers that be decided that it was past everyone's bedtime. The group finished with a song of frenetic energy over which Kamel read aloud something vaguely political. He stated before starting that this was the first occasion on which he had tried this idea, and the general consensus within my immediate circle was that it would be best if it was the last.
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THE ELECTRIC SOUND OF BIKYA

By Rania Khalil
First Published: July 7, 2008


One balmy night last week, a crowd of about 60 people shuffled into Azhar Park’s Geneina Theater to see a musical performance by Bikya, a Cairo-based electronic rock fusion ensemble.
The varied audience comprised of teens, families and people who wandered in from a night walk in the greenery.
The nearly bare and black stage was juxtaposed with the natural beauty of the surroundings. The audience entered the small open-air stadium under a moonlit sky and stars blinking over rows of stone tiers sharply carved into the hillside — the quietude and muted colors suggested not only a place distant from Cairo, but an ancient past.
And so the electronic music about to blast from the  speakers might have seemed like a jarring contrast. But what arrived were smooth harmonies that blended pleasantly with the calm setting.
Bikya’s members, Maurice Louca (guitar, keyboard and electronics), Mahmoud Refaat (drums and electronics) and Mahmoud Waly (bass and electronics) took the stage in what appeared to be a classical rock arrangement — two Marshal amps, electric and bass guitars framing an acoustic drum set. As the show progressed, it became obvious that the trio’s sound was enhanced by the use of laptops, a keyboard and mixers.
I found myself relaxing and dreaming. I met with band members Louca and Refaat a few nights later to discuss my enjoyable “visceral experience.”
“We believe what sounds good is good,” Louca said. “That’s why you felt the visceral element, because we’re not trying to create conceptual music in the sense that there’s a text beside it... We try to talk about melodies and structures and beats, because that’s basically what it comes down to.”
“There’s a communication” Refaat added. “[The music] has to satisfy the members of the group... This kind of engagement tells us that we can do this or not do this.”
According to Louca and Refaat, this communication is vital for the group, next to improving their craft.
I was interested in the idea that the bands’ sound did not immediately situate them in Cairo. Listening to the work, I imagined I could have been anywhere from Berlin to Tokyo. “We’re not interested in linking borders”
Refaat replied.
Louca elaborated, “We don’t think about borders or the differences,” insead, a straight exploration of the music is more significant.
“But the audience is different” Refaat notes. “If Maurice is doing a solo or going crazy on my beats then they would scream in Berlin or scream in Egypt for different reasons.”
“It’s always based on exposure and reference, but also on personal states — what you are now, what you want now,” he added.
The two believe in the possibility of universality in music. “There are a lot of preconceptions,” Louca says.
To that, Refaat added, “I don’t think we’re so far out that people can’t get us. I think in general we’re an accessible band if we do it right and deliver that emotion properly.”
The success of Bikya lies precisely in this combination of art and accessibility. I was struck by this quality — the music simultaneously harkened 70s rock and sophisticated sound art.
“It’s not avant-garde or commercial or pop — it’s something in between,” as Refaat said.
Though the two were not interested in discussing their influences per se, Refaat did talk about Cairo’s music scene in the 90s and how different it is from today.
“It was bigger and much more focused,” he said, commenting on a time when there were more arrayed and casual venues hosting live music. “You wouldn’t think of this place,” he said, gesturing to the small bar we were sitting in “as a place for a live band. But it might have been.”
We spoke of the difference, following strict governmental interference, wherein now live music in Cairo has to travel through much more legal channels to be heard.
“In Zamalek you’d have places like Versailles or El Patio or Romantica. And now none of these places have music. They all have shisha or sushi.”
All in all, however, Refaat seemed optimistic about the music scene in Cairo, even if it is a bit more subdued these days. He credits these times, and even earlier heydays, for Egyptian rock groups like Mask, Steel Age, or Stone Fish as laying a foundation for the Cairo music scene today.
When I asked the two directly about who influenced them, Louca and Refaat asked jokingly. “You had to ask that didn’t you?”
“We can’t tell you as Bikya, because [as individuals] we’re interested in different things,” Louca said. “I think we’re not even aware of it,” said Refaat, “because it’s an accumulation of 25 years of music.”