The playlist: Middle Eastern and north African – Alif, EEK, Mdou Moctar and more

In the latest of our playlist series, John Doran listens to the freshest Chaabi bangers delivered direct from Egypt, Palestinian protest rap, and the Saharan Prince

Lebanon/Egypt: Alif – Holako (Hulagu)

As Khyam Allami’s oud intertwines with Tamer Abu Ghazaleh’s buzuq and Bashar Farran’s liquid bass, Holako wraps itself round your limbs like bindweed. The opening statement from Alif’s new album Aynama-Rtama, due on 4 September, is hypnotic in effect. You can try and free yourself from the intricate riffs all you like, but when Khaled Yassine’s giant drum break slams in, your fate is sealed. The album, which was recorded between Cairo and Beirut last year, also features an old friend of this column, Maurice Louca on keyboards and electronics. He was responsible for one of the best Arabic albums of 2014, Salute the Parrot, also released via the Nawa label.

Egypt: EEK – Kahraba Preview

Finally … the keyboard king of the Nile delta, Mr Islam Chipsy and his two drummers, Khaled Mando and Islam Tata – collectively known as EEK – are set to release their debut studio album, Kahraba, this month. Chipsy’s Egyptian label Nashazphone has provided us with this tantalising teaser trailer of the four intense keyboard and drum workouts that make up the release. Those of you already familiar with last year’s blistering lo-fi release, EEK Live at the Cairo High Cinema Institute, will recognise the bare bones of the opening and closing tracks (Trinity, Kahraba), but they now explode out of speakers in pointillist high definition. Of even more interest are the tracks Mouled El Ghoul and El Bawaba, which create propulsive Levantine techno by deconstructing the Egyptian classical tradition and weaving them into something more organic. Kahraba is already a lock for my top 10 albums of the year, and I can’t wait for other people to hear the full release. And as if that wasn’t enough, Chipsy and EEK have just been added to the lineup of this year’s excellent Incubate festival in the Netherlands, so those who missed this column’s gig of the year in 2014 (EEK at the Boston Arms, north London) have a chance to redeem themselves. You’ve got until 14 September to get that pedalo out of the shed and get it seaworthy and pointed towards Tilburg.

The Middle East: Various Artists – Hip-Hop In The Holy Land

Mike Skinner, also known as Brit-hop/grindie sensation the Streets, hosts and co-directs (alongside Alex Hoffman, head of music at Vice) a new six-part series of films for the website Noisey called Hip-Hop in the Holy Land. The aim is to portray the bristling diversity of the scene, which is populated by rappers and MCs from many different walks of Middle Eastern life. Or as they put it: “Jewish, Arab, Hebrew, Israelite and none of the above”. This exclusive taster features Skinner interviewing Tamer Nafar from the rap group DAM about the problems faced by Palestinian rappers in Israel. For details on the premiere of the film on 2 July, click here.

Central Niger: Mdou Moctar – Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai

Smart readers will no doubt point out that, geographically speaking, the city of Agadez is not in north Africa. They are right: it’s the largest city in central Niger and lies in the Sahara desert. However, just like the huge region north of Timbuktu in Mali, the city is arguably musically and culturally closer in nature to north Africa than central Africa, due to its Berber and Tuareg heritage. Either way, I’m not going to let mere geographical facts stand in the way of me telling you about this fantastic new album, now available on Sahel Sounds’ Bandcamp. A long time coming, it is the soundtrack to the independent film Rain the Colour of Blue With a Little Red in It, which charts the creative rise of Mdou Moctar. (It is based, loosely, on the Prince movie Purple Rain – and there is no Tuareg word for purple, hence the bizarre title.) Revel in the liquid guitar playing, carried rattling along on hammering railroad beats.

Egypt: Pinch and Mumdance – Big Slug (Sadat Vocal VIP)

It’s always good to see the kind of support (and genuine interest) Jack Adams, AKA Mumdance, shows to Egypt’s electro chaabi scene, recognising its spiritual kinship to UK grime. Mixed in among the grime and techno on his recent Rinse FM show, featured in full below, are plenty of raw and exclusive Mahraganat treats, including the brand new cut by Sadat and Alaa50 laying waste to an Amr HaHa beat (the 10 minute chaabi section kicks in about 19m 40s into the two-hour mix). The vocal talents of the motormouth native of El Salam City and chaabi king MC Sadat can also be heard (at 35m 35s) over the recent Mumdance/Pinch collaboration Big Slug which was recorded during a session at 100Copies in Cairo. And as if this wasn’t enough, Mumdance and regular collaborator Logos have just announced a series of Sunday sessions, all summer long, run by their label Different Circles. The weekly parties, at the Victoria in Dalston, north London – now complete with a booming Funktion 1 rig – kick off on 5 July with a guest slot from Team Amr HaHa (Sadat, Alaa50 and Elssa). Get a ticket booked – you can watch Heartbeat on iPlayer when you get in.

Jordan: 47Soul – live in London and at Glastonbury

My finger was hovering over the send button on this copy when news reached me that the electro dabke, chobi and sham-step party starters from Amman, 47Soul, are in the country. The four-piece are playing at Worthy Farm on 25, 27 and 28 June, and then in the capital at 93 Feet East on 15 July. For more details, check their Facebook page. They’re on first in London, so get there early!

Thanks this month to Hicham Chadly, Chris Kirkley, Bunny, Nina Joyce, Alex Hoffman and Jack Adams. Please feel free to email suggestions for inclusion in future playlists to


John Doran

The GuardianTramp

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