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Mahraganat: Egypt’s Musical Revolution

A look inside the country’s underground electro-rap uprising

Electro-shaabi in Cairo

Mosa'ab Elshamy

On the genesis of hip-hop, Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons saw the genre as "from the underground, ideas from the underbelly, from people who have mostly been locked out, who have not been recognized." Mahraganat, informally known as electro chaabi, is an Egyptian socially-minded, electro-rap mash-up that echoes these hip-hop ideals, created by and for an uncertain youth in the wake of a tumultuous, post-Mubarak Egypt. Mirroring hip-hop's rise, in its home country mahraganat is still largely considered working-class, profane music, barred from the pop-centric radio, but the high energy and candid messages of politics, sex, and day-to-day life found in the music reflect an open channel for discussion unheard of elsewhere in Egyptian music today. Slowly but surely becoming a crossover success, mahraganat's popularity is only growing at home and abroad.

Photographer Mosa'ab Elshamy was on hand in Cairo and its surrounding cities to document mahraganet's rise, from the wedding halls that house its most popular shows to the humble cities that birthed its stars.

Electro-shaabi in Cairo

Mosa'ab Elshamy

Big Break

Sadat, seated, and Figo, behind the glass, re-record one of their tracks for a commercial in a professional music house, a first for the young duo and an even bigger first for mahraganat music. Taking note of the expensive equipment around them, usually reserved for the bigger pop stars of Egyptian music, the two are one step closer to mainstream stardom.

Electro-shaabi in Cairo

Mosa'ab Elshamy

A Warm Reception

At Sadat's wedding in Salam City, a massive crowd storms the dance floor to celebrate. After using Facebook to publicly invite fans both near and far, Sadat, like a true mahraganat artist, ended up providing the entertainment for his own wedding party.

Electro-shaabi in Cairo

Mosa'ab Elshamy

Man of the People

Fans gleefully help a crowd-surfing Sadat to the stage — it was the only way he could get through the enormous audience.

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