Institute of African American Affairs
Department of Cinema Studies
“Women Filmmakers in the African Diasporic World”
Series of films by African and African diaspora women
exploring new approaches to film, gender and society.
Electro Chaabi – A musical revolution
on the banks of the Nile
Directed by Hind Meddeb (77 minutes / 2013 / Egypt/France)
Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Kimmel Center – NYU, 60 Washington Square South,
Room 802-Shorin, New York, NY 10012
Discussion with director Hind Meddeb
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Documentary filmmaker Hind Meddeb hasn’t stopped moving between France, North Africa and the Middle East. A citizen of both sides of the Mediterranean, Hind’s duality frees her opinions of typecasts and common judgements. She shot her films in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon showing the complexity of a situation usually beyond any stereotypes. In her first film “Casablanca. One way ticket to Paradise,” she followed the destiny of the 14 Moroccan suicide bombers in Casablanca in May 2003. Released in the London Film Festival in 2013, her film “electro chaabi” made the world discover a new musical scene born in the slums of Cairo. She writes of that experience:
“Born of an Algerian/Moroccan mother and a Tunisian father, in my childhood, even before learning French, I speak Tunisian and the Moroccan ‘darija’ dialectal. I grew up in France but I stayed more than two months a year at my respective grandmothers in Rabat and in Tunis, maintaining a tenuous link with my two country of origin. It is thus a Tunisian and Moroccan settled young woman in France who lands in this man’s world, camera in hand, addressing them in Arabic with an unusual freedom of speech and which places me as an observer of an artistic movement, with the simple idea that it is necessary to give them the opportunity to express themselves.”
ABOUT THE FILM
Electro Chaabi is the heir of chaabi music: a genre that has broken the rigid musical boundaries imposed by oriental pop music in the 70's. This music was created in the makeshift neighborhoods of Cairo. The Egyptian megalopolis of 20 million inhabitants comprises 79 illegal neighborhoods. Started in the 70's, these uncontrolled housing projects were built without any legal authorization on agricultural land or state property where the poorest segment of the population squatted, most of which came with rural exodus. Threatened by demolition, these neighborhoods were at last unofficially recognized by the state in the 90's. Destroying and relocating would have been much more expensive for the government. Of the 20 million inhabitants that make up Greater Cairo's population, more than 60% live in these makeshift neighborhoods. In Egyptian media, illegal neighborhoods are portrayed as being uncivilized and violent, they are considered lawless zones, marginal and unsafe places beyond the state's reach.
In the slums of Cairo, the youth dance to the sounds of “electro chaabi,” a new kind of music that combines pop, electronic music and freestyles chanted in a quasi-rap style. The idea: to combine the sounds and the styles into a frenzy with only one aim: to blow the roof off! Victims of corruption and social segregation, the youth of the poorer neighborhoods exorcize their strife by partying. Emancipation of the body and unspoken words, the transgression of religious taboos. Much more than a simple musical phenomenon, electro chaabi is a salutary discharge for a youth haunted by the shackles that the Egyptian society imposes. Under tents, lit up multi-colored balls hang as decoration, dozens of dancers carry out spectacular performances in a setting worthy of a Bollywood film. The lyrics, sung back by the crowd would shock anyone stuck in the thought that Egypt is a strict conservative, religious country; “I took the road to damnation by damnation,” or: “You made me drink till I was drunk! I was completely wasted when you brought me back to my father. You found it funny but I got the biggest smack of my life!”
From the district of Imbaba to the district of Matariya, each ghetto has its star. Islam Chipsy, the Jimmy Hendrix of the synthesizer reinvents psychedelic trance, revolutionizing the very concept of oriental music. Youngest in a large family, he has played since he was eleven years old, with a package of chips always at hand, winning him the nickname of chipsy. An orphan since the age of 17, Chipsy financially supports his entire family, having had to grow up fast, at 24, he already has the responsibility of a patriarch.
DJ Wezza is a pioneer in his field, and has put together an incredible musical team around him. Today, his group incarnates the voice of celebrations with light and funny songs. At his side, are the rappers Oka and Ortega, seductive handsome young men, often harassed by hundreds of groupies on their Facebook accounts and mobile phones. They go from one lovers rendezvous to a spicy phone conversation and can’t be stopped.
MC Sadate and Amr Haha personify the political conscience of a disinherited youth. They preceded the Revolution with their revolutionary anthems. For several years now, they have used their music to denounce political and social injustices, police corruption and discrimination.