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.