Under meters of concrete in central Cairo, a relentless buzz rebels and forms a melody. A tired man tunes his machines to catch a snatch of it, and accidentally creates a playground where these abandoned sounds can flourish. They develop a sense of humor and an acid tongue.
A few children with bent ears find their way to an alley with an entrance to the playground. They would later describe what they heard as a delicious hybrid: one part cream, one part bubble gum. So bend your ears and maybe you'll hear it too.
Mr. Dabbour can already hear some of you wondering with grimaced faces: "Is this… rebellion?"
No. Just a brand new dance.
This is the genesis story of Baskot Lel Baltageyya (which, loosely translated, means Cookies for Thugs), a project headed by musician Adham Zidan and poet Anwar Dabbour. On the Egyptian band’s debut album, Dabbour’s colloquial Arabic lyrics paint visions of a world spinning into chaos, where reality often veers into absurdity. Zidan, who produced the album in addition to writing the music, harnesses the madness with serpentine melodies that mingle and dance over hypnotic grooves like a psychedelic version of ring-around-the-rosie.
Zidan plays keyboards and sings in The Invisible Hands alongside Sublime Frequencies/Sun City Girls co-founder Alan Bishop. He honed his own style of lo-fi folk on Today Is Tomorrow, and is now expanding his horizons even further with Baskot Lel Baltageyya. Over the past decade, he has gained widespread recognition for his work as a musician, producer, recordist and mixer. Dubbed “Egypt’s musical renaissance man” by Scene Noise in 2019, he’s lent his keen ear to numerous other projects—such as Youssra El Hawary’s No’oum Nasyeen (2017), Tarkamt’s Live at the Necropolis (2018), Maurice Louca’s Elephantine (2019), Natik Awayez’s Manbarani (2020), and Nancy Mounir’s Nozhet El Nofous (2022)—and has collaborated with many of the biggest names in the region’s independent music scene, including Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Nadah El Shazly, Raed Yassin and Sam Shalabi.
Baskot Lel Baltageyya started as an audiovisual project, and from the beginning, Zidan has resisted the idea of it being pinned down as any one thing. As he puts it, “You can think of Baskot as a genre of music, a name of a group, or as something to consume.” The album serves as an extension of Baskot’s phantasmagoric live show. With his voice slathered in vocoders, Dabbour weaves his fragmented rhyme schemes with surreal images, odd characters, pop-culture references and imperative prescriptions for managing everyday life. “I rose from under the earth, got tired of the dirt / I found out that what’s above is dirtier—what a fucking ruin,” he sings in “Ma3assalama” (Sayonara), his robotic murmurs blending in with the fever-dream funk of Zidan’s zig-zagging synth lines and Mellotron flutes.
Astute listeners can find links between the album and the dark absurdist humor that prominently featured in Egyptian popular culture before life became more absurd than the culture. You may perceive similarities to monologuist performances, or to the different shaabi musics of the region, or to old Egyptian TV scores, or to early electronic music, or to western psychedelia. Alternatively, however, you can choose not to want to view everything in relation to things you already know. Bridging the gap between experimentation and pop, Baskot Lel Baltageyya stands as a style, a sound, and an edible entity all its own.
Baskot Lel Baltageyya was produced, composed, arranged and mixed by Adham Zidan. All lyrics by Anwar Dabbour. Mastered by Heba Kadry. Design and illustration by Tarek Abdelkawi and 3D Artwork by Mostafa Elbaroody.
- Adham Zidan - Backing Vocals, Organs, Electric Pianos, Mellotron, Synthesizers, Drum & Percussion Machine
- Anwar Dabbour - Vocals
- Mahmoud Waly - Bass
- Nagued Nagati - Drums
- Ayman Mabrouk - Riq and Tabla on Tracks 3, 8 & 10. Riq on Tracks 6, 7 & 11
- Produced by Adham Zidan
- All Lyrics by Anwar Dabbour
- All music written and arranged by Adham Zidan
- Recorded, Edited & Mixed by Adham Zidan
- Mastering by Heba Kadry
- Additional mixing by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh
- Additional drum editing by Peter Ayman
- Layout, design & illustration by Tarek Abdulkawi
- 3D Artwork by Mostafa Elbaroody
- Produced with the support of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture - AFAC
- Limited 12'' Vinyl LP with double 12'' insert (500 only)
- Digital via Wall Of Sound
© 2023 Baskot Lel Baltageyya ℗ 2023 Akuphone