3Phaz is a mysterious Cairo based musician obsessed with bass, distortion, and the deconstruction of the Shaabi aesthetic. His work is focused on amplifying the raw energy of Shaabi music and taking it a step further, the kind of raw energy you are bombarded with on the streets of Cairo as motorbikes and rickshaws fly by, blasting Shaabi through their busted speakers.
One of the most exciting figures in Cairo’s music scene focuses on anonymity as he believes music is what matters the most. 3Phaz, the Egyptian DJ known for his unique approach to music, which mixes electronic beats with Cairo’s traditional sounds, has been working on his new project for a couple of years now. And luckily, it’s finally ready to be released! Be ready to listen to Three Phase (published by 100Copies) on March 27.
And what is it about? We can expect a solo, nine-track record that explores the melodies and beats that inspired the artist throughout his career. Even though dark, hard-hitting sound is definitely a signature pattern in his music, the new album offers much more than that and creates a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. A few days before his new release, we sit down with him to discuss Cairo’s club scene, playing live, anonymity, and his sound.
You work under the name 3Phaz. Are you using anonymity to bring more focus on the music or is it a method to avoid judgment and personal attention?
It is actually both. The primary reason is definitely to make the focus mainly on the music regardless of who is making it. I believe that who I am or any information about me is completely irrelevant to the music and should not affect the listeners’ perception of it. The secondary reason for anonymity is not to link this project to other projects I have worked on in the past through my identity. I wanted it to be a completely isolated project with no links to the past.
Your music is very unique and unconventional. How did you find your own sound and discovered the approach you take on the production?
I’ve been developing this project for a few years now – I think since summer 2015 –, and it took a few years of experimenting with different sounds and formats to reach something I was happy with. I definitely did not have my current sound in mind when I first started; I had a much more vague concept, but over time, I started realizing more clearly what I wanted to sound like and just kept chasing this sound I had in my mind until I reached a point where I felt it was close enough.
You play around with different electronic genres and incorporate elements of Mahraganat and Shaabi. How do you find the right balance between those styles?
Honestly, this is not something I am consciously doing. It just has to feel right to me. I do not have any fixed criteria or methods to reach the ‘right balance’ other than my gut feeling. I have discarded so many track ideas because it sounded off to me or it sounded too much like fusion music. If the track feels honest and not trying too hard, I go with it, otherwise it goes to the trash.
The self-titled debut album is coming out on March 27th. Is it a material you were gathering for a while, or did you create these tracks especially for a record release?
It is material I’ve been working on for a few years. Indirectly, I’ve been working towards this record since I started the project, but I wouldn’t say I’ve written those specific tracks for this record per se. I just worked on a bunch of tracks and then chose the ones I felt would work best on a record.
Is there anything in Egyptian culture apart from music that inspires you creatively?
I can’t point out specific elements of the Egyptian culture that inspired me directly other than the music, but it would also be unreasonable to say that I wasn’t affected by the culture or location to a certain degree. Egypt, and especially Cairo, is very loud and crowded, and being engulfed in the constant cacophony of the city must have had an effect on my music in some way. I can definitely hear Cairo in Mahraganat music, so I’m sure it has found its way into my music as well.
What are your thoughts on Cairo’s club music scene? Are there any artists that you feel can bring something new and exciting?
Cairo’s club scene is very small, unfortunately, and that’s not due to a lack of musicians or talent, but rather due to the lack of venues and platforms. The club scene currently is solely limited to safe bookings that cater to a specific segment of club-goers that are not necessarily willing to be a bit open to different sounds – or rather the bookers and promoters are playing it very safe and assuming the crowd is not open to new and more adventurous sounds.
That being said, there have been some very interesting establishments in Cairo’s club scene such as Vent, which operated as a venue for two years only, but has had a huge impact on the city’s alternative club music scene. It offered a space for artists to freely and safely experiment with their sounds and it offered a space for both the audience and the artists to experiment with their identity and that, I believe, is a very important aspect of club culture. There are also other platforms such as mapping possibilities (which is not necessarily in the club scene, but closely affiliated), Hizz, Jelly Zone that are offering this platform for more alternative club sounds. Platforms and venues aside, there are actually a lot of extremely talented musicians currently in the Cairo scene such as 1127, Zuli, $$$TAG$$$, Abadir, Onsy, Rozzma, Latefall, and many more.
Do you thrive more by performing live or creating records in the studio?
I think it’s a combination of both. When I’m working in the studio, I’m always excited to be performing whatever I’m working on live, and when I’m performing live, I’m usually inspired to get back in the studio. I guess it is a cycle where both situations feed each other. That being said, I don’t think anything beats the feeling of playing a new track live and getting a good reaction from the crowd. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. Write more music and play more gigs. Hopefully, I would like to play more in Egypt!