Known for their highly energetic live performances with belly dancers, water guns and tea towels, the Cairo Liberation Front are the Electro-Cha3bi pioneers of Europe. Formed in 2013, comprising of Yannick Verhoeven as the DJ and Joep Schmitz as the MC, played more than forty times around Europe. They don’t want to imitate, nor are they trying to be a political project. Their intended purpose is to create a platform, the so-called “new wave of Egyptian wedding rave”, where different cultures can meet. The Dutch boys want to bridge cultural gaps and show the various European audiences that there are many positive things to find in Egypt. BarakaBits spoke with Yannick about the universal energy, the similarities between the West and the Arab world, and how the collective aims to achieve their goal.
How did it all start?
“When Joost Heijthuijsen, the director of the extensive culture festival Incubate showed us a video in which Islam Chipsy was playing a keyboard with his fists, we were so excited. The raw sound reminded us of the early days of punk music in the 70s and the rave sound of the 80s. With minimal tools, Egyptian youth gets it done to make the most exciting music. The sound of Electro-Cha3bi is so fascinating, because it has a lot of influences from Western genres like hip hop, R&B and electro, combined with Arabic rhythms and instruments. It invited us to mix the genre with music styles that we find interesting.”
Being the first Western collective within the genre, you experienced a stormy development. How do audiences usually react?
“During the past year we have been in several countries such as Russia, France, Germany and Great Britain, and strangely enough every audience reacts exactly the same: everyone goes wild. It doesn’t matter if we perform in a multicultural neighborhood in Paris or at a VICE party in London. The audience understands the energy and this energy is universal. Although they can’t understand the lyrics, people understand the rawness and the uplifting nature of Electro-Cha3bi.”
What’s your goal?
“With Dutch polls indicating that Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom Party is currently the biggest party and the popularity of similar extreme right-wing parties in Europe, it has been proven that many people maintain negative feelings and thoughts about Islam and the Middle East. Cairo Liberation Front wants to show that young people who, for example, live in Cairo do not vary much from Western people. They are also engaged in entertainment, alcohol, drugs and girls, and they also worry about how to make ends meet and get ahead financially. Our goal is to give an insight into the rebellious youth culture of Egypt. Electro-Cha3bi contains its own lifestyle-related things such as clothes, hairstyles, slang and groundbreaking music where certain topics are broached.”
You’re celebrating your second anniversary this month. Congratulations! How do you see Cairo Liberation Front developing in the future?
“Thank you! We feel like we have only just begun and have many plans in store. Under the name Eurabia we host our own festivals and with our collective we work with many talented people for our design, videos, visuals and photography. We think that we need to spread this music in many more different places. We always try to find a way to show the Western audience how one lives in the streets of the Egyptian capital. And, of course, it’s our dream to visit Cairo to record music with local musicians, rappers and producers. We already shared the stage with Egyptian superstars such as Sadat and Alaa Fifty Cent, so the first steps have already been taken.”