ARTIST: VARIOUS ARTISTS
ALBUM: YALLA - HITLIST EGYPT
LABEL (YEAR): MANGO RECORDS (1990)
FOR FANS OF: HABIBI FUNK, OMAR SOULEYMAN
Words by Lexy Morvaridi
Released in 1990, Yalla – Hitlist Egypt is a compilation of modern music coming out of Egypt at that time. Split onto two sides ‘Al Jeel (the generation)’ and ‘Shaabi (peoples), this record focuses on two demographics producing contemporary music within Egypt. ‘Al Jeel’ is the modernised youth who fuse Bedouin, Nubian and Egyptian rhythms with folklore themes and electronic beats. The result is the Arabic synth-pop that would have been the sound of Cairo’s nightlife in the late 80s. ‘Shaabi’ is the older generation’s traditional folk of the working class that originates from the country. On this record, the songs are given a contemporary twist, a product of urbanization. The music became politicized as traditionalists rejected it from the start – forcing the music underground into the clubs of Cairo. The different feel to each side opens up an interesting dialogue between the contemporary and the traditional.
Opening track, ‘Ei Yaani’, is textured with drums and hand claps, layered with synth lines and decorated with Amr Diab’s soaring Arabic melodies. Later, Mohammed Moneer’s ‘Sif Safaa’ opens with a fresh jazz funk bass and guitar riff opening up a whole new realm of much needed pelvic ostentations. There is an interesting mix of Bedouin percussion, brass samples, synth lines, electronic beats and traditional instrumentation throughout this side that combine to create a beat-driven collection of pop songs that will get you on your feet as they once did with Cairo’s youth.
Side two takes a strange yet interesting turn with opening track ‘Elli Shatr Enhaa Tgannen’, by Sami Ali & Sahar Hamdy, sounding like a twisted acid-house folk song. Trust me – you have to hear it. You will either love its madness or be stumped by its ludicracy. Either way, I guarantee you will be satisfied. Throughout this side you can hear the calling of the elder generation in the vocals themselves, as the urban sound of the city is combined with the folk instrumentation and storytelling of country life. A fusion that binds two generations.
The record is an eclectic arrangement of songs that portray a vibrant idea of the colourful nightlife of Cairo in the 80s. The liner notes give us an idea of the rich importance this music had for a whole generation of Egyptians (not to mention its full of Arabic floorfillers):
“The music that came from this new spirit was a faster more optimistic sound, with rhythm, beat and drive that better fitted city life. And it is a new spirit, not surprisingly, the old guardians of culture resist and reject; after all it’s their power and authority that is vested in keeping things as they were. For them it is a threat. They won’t play any of it on the radio, and discuss it with contempt in the press. It is a beat they say that can never touch the inner rhythm of Egyptian spirit. But like it or not, the youth, the children of the 60s baby boom, have other ideas, and have been taking matters into their own hands…”