According to Wikipedia “‘Mahraganat is a combination of popular chaabi music played at weddings and electronic dance music. DJ Filo made the genre more well-known’”. Chaabi music is an Arabic form of traditional music which has more buzz in countries like Algeria and Egypt. Apparently, the Mahraganat genre was a rebellious counterpart to the Egyptian government at the time and was a product of the Egyptian Revolution, that’s actually not the case.
In fact, this music was made by young creatives within the Egyptian youth culture that bared their interest in electronic music within Egypt that deejayed and found an interesting way to innovate what they already know (chaabi music). This grew into a micro subculture as DJs shared their music via Mp3 files and phones that were casually being playing in taxis, tuk-tuks and in local clubs and parties.
The music grew in popularity as the internet grew, and its surfacing online propelled the genre to reach bigger audiences. There is one voice within the Mahraganat genre who aims to take the genre to an international standpoint, his name is DJ Phil Battiekh.
All the way from Switzerland the idea of deejaying came to him through his interest in the Mahraganat sound with his initial interaction with it when he went to Egypt. “I first went there to study the language in 2012 and was also a music journalist at the time. The editorials I did (there) led to further projects and I became the European tour organiser and tour manager for Egyptian artists like ZULI, Rozzma, $$$TAG$$$, Ismael and Bosaina. A dynamic developed where I was moving back and forth between Egypt and Switzerland and a lot of my personal life relocated to Egypt. During this time, I was exposed to Mahraganat which is very present on the public space. After spending some time approaching the genre I started the Phil Battiekh DJ project in December 2013 and was able to form alliances with many very relevant people from the scene that I hold as dear friends. I wasn’t a DJ before Phil Battiekh.”
His responsibility for the sound dictates his direction as a DJ as he only plays Mahraganat inside and outside of Europe. His intelligent and open-minded self-inclusive approach towards the genre equips him with vast possibilities and the confidence to transport the sound to its rightful position being inspired by Onyx Ashanti’s interpretations of music and seeing the widespread success of the culture and ethnocentric genres like dancehall and reggae as he believes Mahraganat can get that big.
DJ Phil Battiekh has recently released his debut compilation ‘Cairo Concepts’ which aims to amalgamate a duality that shows us on the one hand how artists outside the genre who have been inspired by it to formulate their connection to the genre through their own experiments and on the other side we have pioneers and staples of the actual genre who implement their progression of the genre today.
The articulation of the vocal utterances of the songs bear some relatable insight further reinstating the universal capacity the music has for it to be amongst the big exports like dancehall, gqom, afrobeat and many more. On the record “Ana Ho”, Alaa Fifty exhibits his erasure of depression as he describes the state he is in as a jovial one to be in and how that eradicates his inner turmoil and sadness. The Arabic mysticism kicks in when Belya El Karnak tells a story about how he was under a genie’s spell and managed to break the spell on the song “Mahragan Mzawla”.
What you will find within the beats is an eclectic array of alternative electronic bangers that will get you on your feet and maintain that hyper-energetic motion of thumping to the beat the whole night through, making for a fun and exciting experience. When I ask DJ Phil Battiekh where he plans on taking the genre next, he tells me “There are plans to play live as a performing artist with some crews, release new material, produce some music of my own and work on some visual concepts with graphic artists from Cairo.”