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The ever-versatile Jack Adams aka Mumdance has a background in a variety of British bass and pirate radio musics – grime, garage, hardcore – but has always cast his gaze further afield and been aware of international, localised dance styles. Recently, Adams returned from a trip to Egypt, where he was working aongside Pinch and Faze Miyake with local musicians from the Mahraganat movement as part of Cairo Calling, a collaboration between Rinse FM and the British Council. Mahraganat is a contemporary youth style which combines elements of traditional Egyptian folk music with breakneck tempos and basic electronic production tools.
The first half of these collaborations took place in the UK, with Faze Miyake, Kode9, and Artwork working with Mahraganat artists Figo, Sadat, Diesel and Knaka. For the second half of the exchange, Mumdance travelled to Egypt to work with them. "It’s crazy how big they are in Egypt," Adams told FACT recently, "When we walked down the road they were mobbed with people wanting to have a photo, literally everywhere you go you hear their music being played, out of all the tuc tucs, cars, shops – they are superstars."
Before he plays at Rinse's Fabric party next Thursday, Mumdance has put together a mixtape of brand new, original music recorded from his time out in Egypt. It's a blistering half hour of hard-hitting, energetic sounds that never usually reach these shores, and one of the most thrilling Dummy Mixes we've hosted.
How did your trip to Egypt come about?
Mumdance: I literally got the call to go to Egypt a few days before I went. I had been following what Kode9, Artwork, and Faze Miyake were doing with the Cairo Calling project when it was in the UK and was reading all of The Quietus' pieces on Electro Chaabi, so it was great to actually be involved with it. Massive shouts to the British Council! They are an amazingly switched-on organisation.
"I did a similar thing with them a few years back where I went to Mexico and worked with a number of Tribal Guarachero, Canto Cardenche and Cumbia artists in Mexicio City who I still keep in contact with to this day, so I jumped at the chance to go to Egypt and work with Sadat, Diezel, Alaa Fifty, Kanaka, Figo, Islam Chipsy, and all the guys, as they are all fiercely talented."
What exactly is Mahraganat and how did you get into it? What first drew you to it?
Mumdance: "The direct translation of Mahraganat is ‘festival', which I think is a great description that captures the ethos and feel of it. A lot of the MCs that I was working with in Egypt are keen to differentiate what they are doing from what a lot of people are calling 'Electro Chaabi'. Chaabi is a more traditional style of wedding music, and they feel that what they're doing is something completely new, rather than a rehash of older sounds, which is why they decided to call it Mahraganat.
"In terms of how I got into it, I've always paid attention to what is happening, musically, around the world since I was young. When people first started paying attention to my music a few years ago, my sound drew huge influence from from a number of overseas regional music scenes, and since then I have been lucky enough to travel the world to meet and work firsthand with most of the artists that I had been influenced by.
"I was first made aware of what was happening in Egypt a while back, when the guys from Radioclit showed me a load of the wedding videos on Youtube – which are definitely worth checking out, and while you're at it, check out the Rolling Stone coverage of Sadat’s wedding; crazy!
"I'm drawn to Mahraganat as it has a ton of energy. I would draw a lot of parallels with what is happening over there to what happened in the UK with grime when it first started, although the message is completely different. This is another thing I love about Mahraganat – even though I have no idea what is being said, the energy and vibe from the music is apparent and transcends any sort of language barrier."
You recently returned from a short hiatus and spoke about a new approach to production. Could you give a little detail as to what you're doing, or thinking about, differently now?
Mumdance: "I think that half the reason I had a break is because I wasn’t happy with where my production was. I had an idea in my head and I couldn’t get it out into the sequencer, so it took me a little while to work out how to get the sound I wanted. At the time that this was happening – a few years back – the electronic music landscape in the UK was changing quite a lot, and I didn’t really feel like I fitted in with it, so I essentially wanted to take a little bit of time out so that I could hone my own sound and ideas and stand on my own without feeling like I had to follow anyone or attach myself to any scene.
"In terms of how I'm thinking differently now, I think Ive just stopped sweating over the smaller details that ultimately don’t matter in the wider picture. It's easy to get caught up in minute details when you're making music – like, I’d be stressing out for hours over a reverb tail or something, and then a few weeks later, when I returned to the track, I couldn’t even spot the thing I was worried about. For me, now, it's more about capturing a vibe or a feeling. It's all good and well being a perfectionist, but if you never put anything out then it's a pointless exercise."
Many of your most recent projects have been collaborations, do you see yourself continuing to take that direction going forward or settling on an individual style?
Mumdance: "I've always done a lot of collaborations, as it's what I enjoy doing most. It's much more interesting (and fun) to sit in a studio with someone else who has a completely different way of looking at music, and a completely different background and musical upbringing. In my mind, combining ideas and cultures is the best way to make new and progressive music.
"Saying that, though, I think the next thing for me is to embark on my first solo album. I've done two mixtapes over the past few years – 'Different Circles', and 'Twists & Turns', which I equate to albums – but now I feel that I'm in the right headspace and have reached a stage in my production where I'm ready to start a solo album and to make something which has a consistent message and feeling that runs throughout the whole thing. That's something that I feel is key to separating a good album from a great one.
"This mixtape was a pleasure to put together, and every single track is brand new and exclusive. It draws a number of tracks that we made over the week together, and shows a lot of the parallels between the UK and Egypt. I tried my hand at making some Mahraganat tracks, and the Egyptian MC jumped on some of my grime instrumentals and over a more dubstep-orientated one from Pinch. Also, one of the producers, Dezel did a Mahraganat mix of Wiley’s Eskimo which is in there too. For me though, the highlights are the purely Egyptian tracks – they show us how its done properly!
"Massive shouts to everyone at The British Council for making this happen, as well as Charles, Kate, Jarrad, Ron, Mahmoud, all of the translators, all the 100 Copies crew, and of course Rinse FM!"
Mumdance Mahraganat mix ميكس مامدانس للمهرجانات
01. Cairo traffic introduction مقدمة زحمة القاهرة
02. Mumdance feat. Figo – 100 Copies Vocal مامدانس وفيجو – صوت ١٠٠ نسخة
03. Dezel – Music That Will Make You Dance Like Crazy ديزل- مزيكة هترقص بجنون توزيع الديزل استوديو (يلاطرب)المدفعجية
04. Alaa Fifty, Kanaka & Dezel – Mahragan Anjax Snyega علاء فيفتي، وكنكا، وديزل – مهرجان أنجكس
05. Dezel, Kanaka & Figo – Kolo Edo Fooooa (Eskimo Remix) ديزل، وكنكا، وفيجو – كله إيده فوق (ريمكس إسكيمو)
06. Mumdance feat. Sadat, Alaa Fifty, Kanaka & Dezel – Cairo 8 Bar مامدانس مع سادات، وعلاء فيفتي، وكنكا، وديزل – بار القاهرة
07. Knka & Dezel – Untitled كنكا وديزل – بدون عنوان
08. Pinch & Islam Chipsy feat. Sadat – Untitled بينش وإسلام شيبسي مع سادات – بدون عنوان
09. Mumdance feat. Sadat – Take Time (Salam City Freestyle) مامدانس مع السادات – (فري ستايل مدينة السلام)
10. Dezel & Kanaka – Untitled ديزل وكنكا – بدون عنوان
11. Sadat, Alaa Fifty, Dezel, & Kanaka – Untitled سادات، وعلاء فيفتي، وديزل، وكنكا – بدون عنوان
Mumdance plays Rinse FM's Easter party at Fabric on Thursday April 17th 2014 (buy tickets).