Cairo, coffee, headphones and a conversation with Nur
Courtesy: Nada Elissa

Less than two years ago Nour Emam (the singer/songwriter) was producing works in the most classical and accessible form (possible) that embraced her voice and the instruments she worked with.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas,” said John Cage, author of Silence. “I’m frightened of the old ones.” An apt quote to introduce the third of our in-depth interviews with musicians, in which Kamila Metwaly talks to Nur/Nour Emam.

Less than a year ago, Nur released a sound-based EP titled Sounds from a Distance, drifting away from what (the other) Nour Emam had to say, transforming Nour into Nur: the sound maker, sound artist, musician and performer. It is — to say the least — a transformation that is hard to imagine happening in such a short matter of time. A transformation that requires a person to abandon — to some extent — the comfortable, the expected, the old and the known.

Nur enrolled at Goldsmiths University in London to pursue postgraduate education in sonic arts in September 2015. Her interest for electroacoustic composition, however, goes back to 2014, when she produced her first electroacoustic work, The Journey of a Worshipper, as an assignment for a sound course she took at the German University in Cairo. Even though Nur did not pursue producing sound-based pieces right after, her curiosity for sound did not stop.

Today, she collects sounds from her sonic surroundings to create music. She is not frightened of stepping onto new terrain and exploring new and unfamiliar sounds. With her recent release, she is paving her path toward what she doesn’t know too well.

Meet Nur, a 24-year-old on a quest for the new.

KM: You’ve been away for over a year, learning all you can about sound and sound art. Have your studies in London influenced your work?

N: When I moved to London, I was completely lost. All my colleagues studying with me were either graduates of sound arts or established sound artists. In our first class, our professor was randomly showing us portraits of the most prominent electroacoustic composers through time, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer, and I didn’t know a single one. I felt very bad and behind, so I went to my professor and told him to give me stuff to read on the side. I told him I couldn’t feel that I’m not up to the standard, and he told me he knew my work, had seen my portfolio and knew I’d be capable of grasping it all. He gave me a list and, on the same day, I ordered a pile of books that I had to then read.

What was also very cool is that I was dealing with people that are like-minded, especially in the sonic arts department. I had a lot of room to develop all the projects I wanted to on my own terms. I like academia and I love research. My undergraduate project was also based on sound art. I was working on a project in which I tried to find ways to represent the Islamic God in a sonic way, through interpreting the 99 names of God in Islam.

KM: What other projects did you work on in London?

N: In one course, I was researching how the introduction of an electronic musician within the Sufi ritual can enhance participants’ experience. I talk a lot about how some schools in Islam think music is forbidden or certain types of instruments are forbidden. Twenty-first century music is not what it was over a thousand years ago, and I’m interested to see what type of music, sound, texture or mood I can use in a situation like that, to help people enter a certain state more easily.

The second part was the implementation of my paper, and I did that with a very small group this past August in Cairo. I was able to take part in a hadra [1], but this time as the sonic artist. I have been researching this specific group, their specific ways, rituals, the structure of their dhikr [2], et cetera for some time now — also being a part of it. They don’t use music. Al-Rifayyia [3] use breathing techniques and turn them into percussive sounds. They also tap on their bodies to create resonant structures or to indicate a change of tempo.

The classroom had a Christian teacher and an Islamic one, and we were taught religion and themes that are similar in both the Bible and the Quran. It was a very enriching experience.

KM: How did you implement your paper?

N: The event took place at my parents’ home — they hold a regular dhikr ritual with people they know. Not too many people came this time. I think there were two women and four or five men. I had a four-channel speaker set-up and directed toward the walls, so there was no directionality in the room’s sound. Then, I used Ableton Live for my set. Before, I developed sounds such as drones, recorded people of different ages saying the words “wo” or “howa,” which mean “He,” “the creator,” and stretched those recordings and played around with them to create a desired sound. At the event, I played with those recordings to create texture, filtering the sound according to the progression of the remembrance ritual and the participants’ interactions, such as pauses or tempo changes. I’d react by increasing intensity when they increased theirs.

This would have never been possible if I hadn’t been observing and been close to this group for years. Such rituals are very personal experiences, and this is what I’m mainly focusing on in my write-up. I think researchers need to be  careful and give research proper observation time prior to their experiments. If I hadn’t spent enough time with this group to know how they sound, how they interact and how I could take part in their experience as a sonic artist, I don’t think this would have worked.

KM: Did the participants feel a difference?

N: Definitely. Most of the participants are aged 50 or over, and mostly not very open-minded people per se. This worried me. I was very interested to find out what they thought of it. One participant told me how much he was engaged with the sound and how he wanted me to stop at times for him to pause and breathe, then return to his routine of the ritual. The feedback was really great. I didn’t expect it to be that way at all.

That’s just a little part of my studies. I’ve also been working with interactive and generative music with sensors, with Max MSP for instance. In the beginning, I was against an approach to music that was so “science-y” or technical — the idea to me was extremely tedious and nothing to do with being creative. I just wanted to use my synth and create the sound I wanted, manipulate it and work with it, without needing to work on programming the sound. Surprisingly, it resulted in a very interesting project and I enjoyed myself very much.

KM: What was the project?

N: I created an instrument by filling a bowl with water and attaching hydrophones to it, having a small hand gesture sensor that read the movements of the player’s hands. With one hand you could play with the water and with the other hand you’d do gestures controlling a filter that changed the pitch of what you were playing.

An excerpt from last night’s performance of “Poetry in Water”

Posted by nur on Saturday, May 7, 2016


KM: Sounds like a water version of the theremin.

N: Something like that, exactly! But it was more artsy-poetic, you know? The project was called Poetry in Water. You could speak into the water, tap on it and do all kinds of things to create sound — that was really cool. We had a demonstration of the project at the university, which was open to the public. People walked in and seemed quite interested to try it out because the setup was very simple. It looked like you’d be in a kitchen where you’d need to put a towel over your arm to clean your wet hands and things like that. I think what people liked is that I used an element that was familiar to them, unlike interactive and generative works that are very high-tech and less accessible. With this instrument, you could do really anything — sonically speaking — without being any sort of an expert of generative art. People figured it out very quickly — it took them a few times and they would produce the strangest spectrums of sound.


KM: In a CairoScene interview you once said that if you weren’t a musician, you’d have probably gotten into “an academic profession, contributing in the field of inter-religious dialogue” — as you’ve had an interest in religion since high school. Can you tell me more about this fascination and explain what you mean by “Islamic ethnomusicological” research when referring to your music making?

N: My introduction to comparative religious studies was in high school. I graduated from DEO [the Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule] in Cairo, and, at the end of our studies, we took a course called cooperative religious studies where Muslim and Christian students are put into one classroom. The classroom had a Christian teacher and an Islamic one, and we were taught religion and themes that are similar in both the Bible and the Quran. It was a very enriching experience for many of us. It was one of the most important courses I took during school. It was the first time, for me, to read parts of the Bible. After I graduated, I wanted to continue my education in anthropology, but I didn’t know what could I possibly do after studying that. So I chose design and media arts, but cooperative religious studies were always in the back of my head.

At university, I really wanted to talk about visual representations of God, prophets and Islamic figures, and whether or not they help us to be closer to faith. I was trying to think how sound plays an important role in Islam, as this religion depends highly on sound — during reciting, worship and through many other aspects. I was wondering if I could interpret certain names of God sonically.

KM: Is Islamic ethnomusicology in your family background?

N: My parents are practicing Sufis and I used to be one. I think I’m always seeking to reach a point where I feel spiritual. And since I am unable to reach that state through praying and fasting, I thought maybe I could reach that state through music, or that I could touch or inspire someone with my music spiritually. I haven’t heard of many 21st-century electronic musicians who discuss religion to that extent in their music, except for philosophies such as Zen, yoga or meditation, which are individual practices, disconnected from music and sound art.

KM: How do you think Egyptians and Muslim communities are going to react to your proposition?

That’s the tricky bit, because I think in the West this is a very interesting topic to audiences. There are many categories that make it appealing — I am a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim electronic music producer trying to discuss Islam in my music.

The problem is that, with such projects, I never know what will happen to them after I’m done working on them. So far, I am satisfied with the works I’ve finished, but they’re all on my unreleased hard drives.

I am asking to introduce change in a religion that has not been updated for over 1,200 years

I’m thinking of how to present something like introducing the electronic music aspect within the Sufi ritual. I can imagine talking about it in an academic context, in a conference or a cultural event, but I don’t know how can I push for a concept like that to be accepted and implemented within the circles of Sufi practitioners. It’s because I am asking to introduce change in a religion that has not been updated for over 1200 years. I’m dealing with a very outdated religion. Its science, philosophy and practices are all dusty, and people hold on to that.

KM: Your piece The Journey of a Worshipper feels like the closest to that interest. It feels influenced by Halim al-Dabh’s early works, including the Wire Recorder Piece from the Expression of Zaar (1944). He also worked with a group of zar practitioners, recorded them and manipulated the recordings. Do you draw connections to early electronic experimental music?

N: Back then, I really didn’t know who he was, and maybe I [still] have not made this association for myself. I think he’s underrated and it’s sad that Halim al-Dabh is not so highly spoken of in the Western [sound art] community as much as many of his peers.

The Journey of a Worshipper, I wrote in 2013 during my undergrad studies at the German University in Cairo. It was the first experimental composition I produced. I took a sound design course and my professor was trying to teach us about concepts such as musique concrète, but, of course, many of the students were uninterested in sound design, so whatever was being said was hardly paid attention to. One time, he asked us to make compositions following a certain theme using only field recordings. Back then, being this emotional, spiritual person, I thought to compose something that would reflect the struggles of people who believe in God, and how, at times, we get closer to our belief and, at other times, we lose that belief along the way. I used a recording I did in Turkey of a lead daraweesh [4] singer — I used my phone for that. I really wanted to choose sounds that gave me some sort of a loving emotion [and create something] to resemble a lullaby-like song. I had no idea what he was saying, but I thought it was probably something about God and I just wanted to use those recordings.

Nur working at home. - Courtesy: Nada Elissa

KM: You create aural montage out of recorded sounds in your songs, including earlier works such as Heavy Hearts. I’m interested in your approach to composition in relation to musique concrète.

N: I can see myself reference musique concrète in a track like Sound Bodies, in which I tried to use the old-school musique concrète methods of composition, which limit the composer to a very small number of sound manipulation [techniques] — you record a sound, listen to it, cut it, and then you only have the option of either reversing it or transposing it. It’s because these were the only things you could do with tape at that time. For example, if I wanted to reverse a sound, I’d have needed to either use a reverb present in a room or play it back from a reverberant space and record that. In Sound Bodies, I challenged myself by limiting the options I had as a producer. I didn’t want to slam a lot of effects over my production but focus on the actual content of my recordings. In that piece, I recorded dancers in a studio. It was a very big space which was super reverberant. So the way they sounded when stomping over the floors was very full naturally. I chopped the recording using various approaches and tried to work with the idea of harmony, cacophony and noise. That work was important to me because I understood what it’s like to record well. If you have a shitty recording, then you get shitty material to work with and far more restrictions on how you can work with it. Good recordings make a very big difference. You really don’t need anything else but a good recording.

I might have used musique concrète as a label because I wasn’t able to pinpoint what the EP exactly is. There’s this layer in the EP which goes beyond the definition of electroacoustic — forget about the lyrics and singing for now — because I worked with a lot of field recordings, cutting them up and creating rhythms and patterns from them. I recorded situations, such as a woman walking in high heels on the street, and only transposed that specific recording for the purpose I had in mind. It draws a lot from the old take on things, and is not strictly digital. I like to use real-world sounds much more than computer sounds.

KM: Do you plan what you will do with sounds while recording them? Or do you just collect random recordings and then start working with them?

N: Sometimes when I’m home or walking on the street and I hear a sound that grasps my attention, I automatically hear it as a loop or a transformed sound. That happens spontaneously. When I hear the spectrum or dynamic of that sound, I record it knowing how I’ll use it. This is how my brain works now. It kind of sucks because I always listen to my surroundings and have less and less peace of mind.

KM: It seems that out of all the classical new music approaches and theories, musique concrète is the only one that has proven to be inspirational to electronic musicians nowadays. If you agree with this bold observation, why do you think that is? Or how would you counter such a remark?

N: I think there’s something about musique concrète — just thinking out loud — that feels more accessible for an everyday producer to follow this working aesthetic. Following the theories proposed by Karlheinz Stockhausen of Elektronische Musik and the like, which involves a mathematical approach to control score writing and how one defines sound, is I think much more complicated and inaccessible to many musicians.

Musique concrète is the closest to our lives, what we hear and how we listen to our surroundings and consequently how we process those sounds in our works. I also think that, at times, we use the term musique concrète wrongly — once an artist has any recorded material and uses it to compose a song, then he/she could automatically call it a musique concrète piece, which really isn’t the only point raised by that genre of musicians and theorists. You’re supposed to treat the sounds taken from an object as an object itself, meaning you shouldn’t be able to tell what the original source of the sound is or what its object is.

The idea of using everyday sounds to create new instruments and sounds makes it very easy to use the term as a tag to describe what you do. It sounds fancy when you use an academic tag to describe your work and I’m obviously also a person that does that at times. But I do feel influenced by musique concrète specifically, more than other music movements such as Elektronische Musik or Fluxus.

KM: Tell me about your new self-released EP Sounds from a Distance.

N: My discovery of electronic music and electroacoustic music has been very recent — I think I’ve been doing that properly only for a year. Previously I released a few pop-folk songs that I sang and wrote on the guitar. However, once I arrived to London, I felt I had so much to write about but didn’t really know how to write lyrics and still keep the electronic elements in there without producing an electropop EP. It was very different for me there. Having been in a very new relationship with Ismail Hosny and then having to be apart for so long, right after we kicked off, had a strong physiological and emotional influence on me. I didn’t know how to express myself in the beginning, either lyrically or directly in words to him. I felt that whatever I said wouldn’t express what this separation meant to me.

KM: So this work is dedicated to your relationship?

N: Definitely. I think all the songs are inspired by certain situations that took place between us, maybe a fight, maybe the long-distance dynamics of a relationship. Calling You is the first song with lyrics on the EP, I wrote it on the plane going to London for the first time in September 2015. I didn’t have any idea how it would progress and didn’t even think about it. During the first month in London, I didn’t have any gear on me. It was only me and my laptop and I wanted to write something. In two days, the song was there with the lyrics I wrote on the plane. Ismail used to tell me that the lyrics are too low in volume but I’d tell him I like it this way. I like that they are not frontal but more ambient vocals.

After, I was determined to release an EP. I wanted to compose and produce around five or six tracks for my first release with my new artist name: Nur. Ismail came up with that name — I have another Soundcloud account for my pop-folk project under the name Nour Emam, which is very different. I started with the new artist page to release a few tracks and test the waters, then I felt that the rest just happened randomly. For instance, SK/N was actually a project I was working on with students from MA Filming at Goldsmiths; the director had an idea for a video clip she needed music for. I was more than happy to write something for her, but, while I was writing it, I felt it was also very relevant to me, so I kept it for the EP too.

KM: Tell me about other songs and the process of writing them. Does the album’s story also resonate with your studies and life in the last year in the UK?

N: Lay Me Down is the song I most struggled with, because I hated it. I wanted to write something that wasn’t just about love and Ismail but also about my experience in London, feeling very isolated in a city and all. I had a few bumps during my stay in London. There was a period which was hard for me. I came back to Cairo in December 2015 for our engagement party for the first time since I left. It kind of made me feel that I want to be home and I don’t want to be in London anymore. After I went back in January and met with Ismail in Berlin [KIK [5], of which Ismail is a part, were touring Europe] in mid-January, I felt that it was very difficult for me to go back to London after spending all this time with him. On top of that, two days after my return to London, my flat got robbed. I called the police, and a friend of mine came and helped me, but I still felt very isolated and lonely. I wanted to leave. Afterward, my father came and stayed with me for a while, and that helped, because I didn’t feel safe in the apartment or the city anymore.

Two days after my return to London my flat got robbed.

Right after he left, I started working on Lay Me Down. It’s basically about that: that I don’t know anyone there and the people that don’t know me. I was really struggling with the song’s structure because I wanted it to be a little bit punchier and not as balanced as the others. Ismail helped me in the process. I always used to tell him that I didn’t feel that I am capable of writing a proper song, or a proper structure like verse, chorus, bridge, et cetera anymore.

KM: Why?

N: I don’t know. With this project I started writing sentences and completing them with music, not necessarily with words. Lay Me Down really took me a long time to finish. I finished it two days before the release of the EP.

KM: How long did that process take?

N: Around two and a half months. I was completely stuck, even though all the other tracks were ready for release. 3 A.M, on the other hand, came out very easily. It was one of those lonely nights. Everything just came to me spontaneously and on the spot. You know what I mean?

KM: That’s all the tracks?

N: Actually no, I’m missing one: Without You. I always forget it. Without You was in two parts first. Part one, which isn’t released, was sort of “á la” My Funny Valentine. In the beginning, it was only pianos and strong vocals. I felt that, so far on the EP, I wasn’t using the full potential of my vocal and I wasn’t very happy with that. With this song, I was trying to confirm to myself that I’m still there as a vocalist. Without You part one didn’t really fit into the EP, so I took the lyrics from what I had composed, played out the sub sound that you can hear in the beginning, and free-styled the words over it. It was just one take, and I wasn’t intending to change much after that.

KM: I wanted to ask about this. It feels that you shied away from your raw voice to some extent — some of your vocals lines are suppressed and sublime. Is it hard for you to find the right balance between your strong raw voice as a resource and the music/sounds that you want to produce?

N: This is one of the biggest challenges I’m now facing as a producer and a singer. My mother said the same to me — I was very excited with my new work and I made my mom listen to it, and she was like, “Yeah, but where are you? Where’s your voice? Why don’t you sing?” She’s my harshest critic, even though she’s the main reason why I’m doing my masters. She encouraged me so much — she’s wonderful. So it’s true. I wasn’t giving my voice its full potential, but this is also because I was very focused on things such as composition and production aesthetics. I was learning so much about electronic compositions to the extent that I felt I could put my voice aside for a bit. I’ve been doing my voice for so many years now — it was good to focus on creating more sound-based compositions without overdoing my voice. I also felt I could have worked with my voice more, but I can’t imagine having done these tracks in any other way, especially because when I tried to sing with my deeper and more powerful voice, it felt foreign to me, so I dropped it.

It’s hard for me to work with my voice sometimes because it’s kind of powerful. It’s very easy for my voice to be too much, even though I do have subtler ranges. Now I’m also very interested in raw voice as a subject matter of its own. I’m very interested in human communication and voices. I can imagine trying to use my voice in different ways, not necessarily only to sing songs with it.

It’s hard for me to work with my voice sometimes because it’s kind of powerful.

KM: Did you perform the EP in London?

N: Not at all. For me, this EP was completely independent from my academic studies and other projects I did. I would use the process of working on the EP to take time off from what I did at the university. I produced it for my own pleasure. That’s also a problem — staying only for one year in London and being super busy with studies didn’t give me enough opportunities to push for my own performances. The studies consumed most of my time and I didn’t have a chance for anything else.

KM: How do you consider your recent EP different from your other works?

N: I’m very happy that I changed the direction of what I do to that extent, and that I’m still able to sing and not completely disregard my voice. The main difference is also the fact that I am my own producer now. Before, I wasn’t producing at all. Someone else was producing for me — or recording what I composed for me. Having the knowledge and skills to actually make any kind of track that I like, by myself, is really great. I also feel that I have matured a lot with this release, though I wouldn’t do this EP again or something similar to it.

KM: Mediterranean feels very connected with Ismail Hosny — the layers of recordings, pianos, glitches somehow embrace your relationship with him. Can you tell me more about how he has influenced you, and the relationship between and

N: I wrote Mediterranean  last summer in the North Coast, and before that I went on a Europe trip with two of my best friends. I was walking around with my field recorder all the time and got some great recordings that I wanted to work with as soon as possible. So, when I was in the North Coast and Ismail was in Cairo, I was sitting one day and really wanted to produce something, but I didn’t have any gear on me except for the recordings from my Europe trip and my laptop. My younger cousin had a small Casio keyboard and I started playing with it. It sounded really cool, but, of course, when I recorded it on the laptop, all other sounds [in the vicinity] would record as well. Most of the recordings used in that track came from the Mediterranean — Barcelona, the North Coast, Egypt, and other recordings I picked up on that trip. I was very nervous to show this track to Ismail, but, when he came to the North Coast, he listened to it and really loved it.

Honestly, I didn’t make the link before, but I can hear the connection. During the first phase of our relationship, I was listening to Ismail’s music non-stop because I was very new to that kind of music, production and sound, and wanted to learn. One time a friend of mine — who really doesn’t listen to experimental electronic music — told me that he feels that I sound like Ismail and that my whole sound sounds like his, but I disagree. I am definitely influenced — I also really like what Ismail does — but I know that my music sounds like me and he still sounds like him.

I was desperate to find a new artist name, especially because I wanted people not to connect this release with my previous works, so Ismail proposed we spell my name “Nur” instead of “Nour.” I liked the idea a lot, especially because that’s how they used to spell my name in the German school.

KM: What other influences have impacted your current working aesthetics?

N: I’m also listening to a lot of dance music, such as Machine Woman and Beach House. I’m listening to anything and everything that affects me. I’m also definitely very much into micro sounds and the works of Ryoji Ikeda, Machinefabriek and the like.

It’s very interesting how one can use whatever recording or synthesis on hand and create a full-scale composition by cutting the recording into the tiniest sound fragments until this sound becomes a tiny pop. In one composition I worked on called Breath, I made a group of women that I know in London record their breathing patterns in certain instances (when they were nervous, scared or happy, for instance) and granulated those recordings into little tiny granules, moved them around the space and played with those tiny glitches and sound objects to create a track.

It’s very sad that, in Egypt, we know very little about multi-channel set-ups.

It’s very sad that, in Egypt, we know very little about multi-channel set-ups, and only a few artists can experiment with such layouts. Breath was prepared for such a layout, so, if you listen to the song on an eight-channel set-up, you hear tons of tiny fragments jumping from one speaker to the other, which is a very different listening experience. Most spaces in Cairo will not allow me to perform this piece that way, which means the listener is losing most of the details present in this work’s sound and fun.

KM: Tell me about your recent performance with Masafat [in London]. Why didn’t you perform Sounds from a Distance, and how did you feel about it and your cooperation with Nurah Farahat?

N: It was probably the first performance where I was truly happy with my work. I’ve been wanting to dive into the “outsider-dance” genre for a while but never felt I had what it took. I’d been experimenting with dance tracks right after I finished my EP, but never had the courage to release anything. I’d been piling sketches upon sketches on Ableton and only have Ismail listen to them. So when I got booked for Masafat, I found out I was in the same lineup as C31s39 and Lee Gamble. I really wanted to step my game up and not be the girl who got on stage and sang love songs. It might have also been something about me being the only female in the line-up. I wanted to be as powerful and punchy as any guy playing techno or dance. So I wrapped up my sketches and put them in a live set, and was ready to go.

I was approached by Nurah Faharat, who was keen on collaborating with me (THANKFULLY!), seeing as that night was an A/V night. She asked me to tell her a bit about the set. I emailed her some of the sketches and she started sending me some drafts. I think her visuals took the live set to a whole new level. I’m so glad we collaborated. The feedback we got for the performance was really good. I’m proud of it.

KM: Who would you like to work with next? Who are you interested in from the Egyptian scene?

N: I’m particularly interested in Zuli’s and Bosaina’s music. They’re talented musicians. Bosaina is actually the first person that I heard as a local artist playing electronic music, something like two years ago. When I heard her the first time, I was like: Who is this person that makes this really weird shit! Back then, she had just released her EP that she worked on when she stayed in New York.

But there are so many great musicians in Egypt nowadays. Mostafa Onsy for example. He is really underrated and he’s brilliant. Karim El Ghazoly, who released an amazing EP recently: very impressive work. There is a new wave of people who are very interested and really loosened up about the idea of experimenting with sound and with what they do. This is great, because it makes me feel hopeful, that maybe, if we stick around for a couple of more years, things are going to pick up somehow and there’s going to be an interesting community to work with and work among.

KM: And what about you? What’s next for you?

N: I am currently very keen on focusing on developing a certain project with Ismail, just to see what the working dynamics when doing music together will be. It would be great to know, as of now, if we can actually work together or not, because, if we can’t, then we can just drop it altogether and get over the idea of making collective music or sound art.

I’m very interested in developing a teaching career, especially here in Egypt.

I’m very interested in developing a teaching career, especially here in Egypt.  I have so much passion for the subject and want to let people know about music sound art, because people know little about it over here. I can see myself as a teacher and I’d love to see if that would work for me. I’m considering starting my own workshops teaching theory and sound art — from the artistic aspect of it, more than production.

KM: Finally, who would you recommend Mada Masr interviews from the scene?

N: Mostafa Onsy.

[1] Hadra, or the “presence,” is a remembrance prayer practiced by Sufi communities. During hadra, participants often recite prayers, spiritual songs in solemnity of the Prophet Mohamed.

[2] Dhikr, meaning the “remembrance,” is a part of the Sufi hadra ritual in which participants repeat the names of God in accordance to the tariqa (school or order of Sufism) they follow. They also say aloud prayers and parts of the Quran.

[3] Al-Rifayyia is a branch of Sufi practices and beliefs, or a school founded by Ahmed al-Rifai.

[4] Darweesh is a Persian word for a religious beggar, deriving from the word dar (door). The derwish often leads a religious swirling dance routine with participants that — in intensity — leads to trance.

[5] KIK (“Kairo is Koming”) is a collective of six electronic musicians, producers and artists — $$$Tag$$$, Bosaina, Hussein Sherbini, Zuli, Naa and Ismael — based in Cairo. It aims to redefine the structure, concept and perception of Cairo’s electronic music scene. Its members are also founders of projects such as VENT, a progressive Cairo club, and EPIC 101 STUDIOS, a music studio which offers recording, mastering and mixing services, as well as courses such as music production and 3D-projection mapping.


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