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Shaabi music, meaning “music of the people,” came out of Cairo in the 1970’s. Artists that sang Shaabi were often the first of their families to live in the city. They brought with them their knowledge of Beledi music and added a more contemporary feel with lyrics that expressed their political frustrations, sexuality and social commentary.

For context, Shaabi came out at the same time as Rai in Algeria, Punk in the U.S. and Reggae in Jamaica. It also followed the passing of very influential classical musicians like Oum Kalthoum. It was the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one in Egypt and around the world. It was a time of revolution and music was a way to vocalize the feelings of the youth.

Shaabi was mainly distributed by CD and Cassette  – bootleg style. This way it was easy to self produce and promote and censorship by the Egyptian government could be avoided.

Some of the most famous Shaabi singers were Ahmed Adaweya, also known as the Godfather of Shaabi, Hakim, and Saad Al Soghayar. Ahmed was known for his emotional mawal, or vocal improv, at the beginning of his songs.

Read more about Shaabi here.

BUY “YALLA” – CLASSIC SHAABI CD!

LISTEN TO THE BELLY BEATS PLAYLIST:

Popular Rai artists (L to R): Cheb Hasni, Cheikha Rimitti, Khaled

 

This past weekend I went to Anahid Sofian’s Saturday class (www.anahidsofianstudio.com). Anahid is the best because she exposes us to all different forms of Middle Eastern and North African dance and music, like Rai. In the past I  have danced to Rai, and Saturday she brought it back – woop!

SO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH RAI????

Rai is cool because of it’s content and it’s beat. Rai literally means “opinion,” it’s full of passion and expression. It’s rebel music, sung by the youth for the youth about poverty, police harassment, survival, alcohol, sex and love.  In a way, in terms of message, it can be compared to hip-hop in the early 90’s – Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Public Enemy… that kind of thing.

Anahid explained to us that Rai rhythms are mostly 2/4 and 4/4 with the heavy beats on the 2 + 4 like Western music instead of the 1+ 3 like Middle Eastern music.  When dancing to Rai you use your whole body to express yourself, it’s very loose and free with African tribal influences when appropriate.

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