Dance & Electronica
Often seen lurking in the darkness at Cairo Jazz Club and
perennial moving-party, Nacelle, Negmo is arguably the driving force behind local
Oriental-house band, Soopar Lox. As the drummer, Negmo provides the foundations
on which the Soopar Lox machine is built on.
2012 saw the group’s stock increase tenfold and Negmo has
topped a successful year with eponymous debut solo album, NEGMO. The
independent release has provided fans a deeper insight into the electronic music
producer’s own musical foundations.
Available online, Negmo has infused an eclectic range of
influences – everything from house to rock – to produce eleven tracks that
display a firm grasp and awareness of music in its most principle forms. Although
essentially built on synths and house beats, the Egyptian artist’s time in the
US studying Jazz and World Music does occasionally shine through.
The album opens with ‘Monkey Bizness’. As one of the highlights
of NEGMO, the track builds with layers of basic note patterns and synth lines that create a disco-inspired drama. The vocals, delivered by the man himself,
pull you out of the tone, though; “There’s a monkey in you/There’s a monkey in
me/What we should do is let that monkey be free.”
Despite being another notch
on the belt of what is an interesting musical point of view, much of Negmo’s
vocals overshadow the tracks. ’Praying Mantis’ bucks that trend; Negmo’s vocals
appear as part of the background and scenery that he creates and so the other strings
that he threads into the song are given space to glimmer and glow.
Said scenery will take you to several places; ‘Somewhere on
the Beach’ will have you yearning for sand between your toes and a sudden urge to
put your Ray Bans on, while other tracks such as ‘Two’ will take you on a chilly,
solitary, late-night drive.
The only outside contribution that appears on NEGMO
comes in ‘Crazy Question’, in which Derek Brooker’s stadium-rock guitar solo adds
a much needed element to what is an otherwise inconspicuous track.
Even casual house or dance fans will find something to like
on this album, but many of the songs build towards a punch line that never
comes and end up plateauing too early. If you are to dance to NEGMO, it’s more
likely to incite casual jitters than the ecstasy of an all-out thrash. But even
if that provocation is by design – the album comes with recommendations to ‘Enjoy
on road trips, or at gatherings with friends’ – it will almost certainly, and
unfortunately, work against the album’s impact.
Egypt’s cultural industries,
regardless of affected cultural predilections of individuals, are fickle and
Negmo’s approach of pulling his brand of house music away from the chaos of
Cairo dance floors makes it even more difficult to find this album’s place on
the local musical landscape. But this, of course, is more of a reflection of
the narrowness of Cairo’s collective musical conscience than that of Negmo – an
artist who, in the span of months, has achieved more than he will be given
This could and should be a landmark for local, contemporary music
in Egypt. But it’s hard not to admit defeat in the face of what is a dormant,
backwards music (non-)industry. So what’s the lesson here? ‘Listen Local’ seems