It’s all over the internet now, but for a time the music now known as Mahragan or Electro-Chaabi existed only on certain Yahoo user groups and a website run by a young man with the monikor ‘Mahmoud Matb33a’. Matb33a, a spin off from the Arabic word “Matba’a” means printing press, but the name was given to a website which became – and remains – a comprehensive archive of this type of music.
Mahragan (Festival) music, an off-shoot of Electro-Shaabi, is part of a genre of music specific to Egypt that has emerged in recent years from the shadow of its forbear, the ubiquitous and energetic music known as Shaabi, the Arabic word for popular.
It all began, Mahmoud tells 3/4, in 2009 when the first proponents of the genre such as DJ Figo had started to experiment with traditional Shaabi music, for example adding the pronounced auto-tune effect being made popular in Western music at the time to the genre, as well as more rap-like staccato vocals to create a sub-genre that would later be known as Electro-Shaabi and then, in it’s live guise, the Mahragan.
Mahmoud liked the music, but he was not a musician, but at his father’s printing shop (hence his nickname) there was a computer, and these artists would record their music and send it to him. He would then create a design for the relevant artist and upload the music online.
Initially he uploaded the music to Yahoo user groups that were popular at the time, before creating a website on a free online template. Later, he would set up a website at a cost of LE150 a year for the domain and admin fees, which would become Matb33a.com.
“We started with Figo, Sadat and Alaa Fifty (the latter are MC’s who work with producer Amr 7a7a),” Mahmoud said, “We then started an online radio on the website, and before too long I was being sent hundreds of songs from would be Shaabi producers (to put up).”
After handling music for other artists, Mahmoud decided to set up his own “team” from his neighbourhood of Faida Kamel in the Cairo district of Al-Basateen. Thus Team Matb33a was born, which includes vocalists and producers all hailing from that area.
The band is contributing tracks to a new compilation album being produced and released by the 100Copies Record Label and will include contributions from many of the artists of the Mahragan scene.
“The secret of the success of Mahragan music is its spontaneity and the randomness of the song structure, there are no rules,” Mahmoud says.