Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Bosaina’s electronic music is setting a trend

Meet Bosaina, a member of influential Kairo is Koming collective, who are revolutionising the alternative electronic music scene of Egypt's capital.
Bosaina is the daughter of a businessman and an actress, born into what she calls an ‘aristocratic’ family. Courtesy The Other Side
Bosaina is the daughter of a businessman and an actress, born into what she calls an ‘aristocratic’ family. Courtesy The Other Side

In the past five years, Egypt’s electronic music scene has been transformed by a wave of young, forward-thinking producers and promoters, who are leading the charge in introducing challenging contemporary sounds to Cairo’s clubbing community.

At the heart of this movement sits Bosaina – sometimes styled as Bosaina II – a 28-year-old producer/singer/actress/artist/stylist/model. Arguably the most visible and vocal member of Kairo is Koming (KIK), a six-member collective of artists, she is in the half of the group who also run Vent, which is described by them as the city’s first “alternative” nightclub.

As well as bringing leading electronic-music names to the city, Bosaina has been sharing the sounds of Cairo’s underground with crowds across Europe, the United States and Asia. And tomorrow, she brings those sounds to Dubai’s The Other Side. Just don’t call it that.

“It’s kind of uncool to say underground,” she says. “In the Middle East now, every independent artist is being called ‘underground’. It’s a very western concept. We’re not really underground, we’re in front of everyone – it’s just that we’re a total subculture.”

It’s a subculture that is gaining increasing traction internationally. Last year, Bosaina was invited to Tokyo for the annual Red Bull Music Academy. KIK have toured Europe together twice and host regular “exchange” nights in London. Resident Advisor commissioned an epic 7,000-word article unravelling the Cairo scene, a scene KIK claim to drive, and which is attracting a level of interest that would have seemed absurd a decade ago.

What changed? Globally, the answer is the internet, with regional promoters and producers able to tap into cutting-edge trends online.

In Cairo, there has been a more specific catalyst – the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

It’s a subject Bosaina (who chooses not to share her first name) is sick of talking about. She laughs at Cairene musicians she sees as still jumping on “the revolution bandwagon”. Yet it’s can’t be disputed that the international media attention that it brought did much to legitimise the music KIK’s members were making before the events of Tahir Square.

“There was no interest in us before the revolution,” Bosaina concedes. “We were playing the same things we do now to crowds who wouldn’t tolerate us and venues who wouldn’t book us twice.

“[Then] people saw that [arts and culture website] Vice was writing about us, and they were like: ‘Oh, okay, these guys are not just kids.’”

Bosaina missed Egypt’s uprising. She had returned to Cairo after five years in the United Kingdom during which she explored and led bands on East London’s indie-guitar scene. But spent that important early part of 2011 in Jordan, acting in The United, Disney’s first Arabic-language film.

“I was in like ‘la la fantasy Disneyland’ while there were people dying in Cairo,” says Bosaina, the daughter of a businessman and an actress, born into what she calls an “aristocratic” family.

Then she performed in Wetrobots <3 Bosaina, a brash, wobbly, “electro-punk” trio she led alongside fellow KIK members Ismail Hosny and Hussein El Sherbini. Their EPs Dirty Bourgeoisie and Bang is Blow attracted some attention, but it was the tall, striking, frontwoman’s gyrating, coloured hair, sassy vocals and aggressive stage presence that perhaps made the biggest impact. The band is still a going concern, but with an unreleased, 18-month-old album shelved, Bosaina’s passions have moved on.

“People send me and the Wetrobots booking requests all the time,” she says. “They want us to play the stuff we made in 2011, because right now what we made in 2011 is becoming trendy in Dubai and Beirut and Jordan – electro-pop, indie-electro. We were doing this stuff four years ago and no one was interested in it. Now everybody’s interested in it, and we’ve moved on to the future.”

She is equally unsentimental about her other band, the “trip-hoppy, vibey, future-pop” duo Quit Together. When co-founder Zuli – another KIK member – couldn’t make their gig at trendsetting USA festival SXSW last year, Bosaina – a classically trained pianist and violinist – remained in the US for seven months and taught herself production.

Her resulting solo debut, NY Apr-Jul 2013, was an engaging six-track cycle of lo-fi, ambient, warp-ish, electronica, conjured with a mix of her new-found software skills, live samples, filters and effects.

“I got sick of people sending me messages saying: ‘Can you sing on my track in Arabic?’,” she says. “On my own, I found I could make something more organic, more me.”

It’s a sound many are still adapting to. When the six KIK members tour together, Bosaina normally opens the evening, so her downbeat music isn’t a “buzz-kill” (her words). When she performed at the UAE’s Meet d3 festival in April, launching Dubai Design District, she found the crowd lukewarm.

“People did not take too well to my ambient stuff at all, I feel they found it perplexing and boring,” she says. “I felt they were bored, and by nature of that, I was bored.”

Boredom is unlikely to be an option when Bosaina performs at And Lounge on Thursday. She promises a “hybrid live” set, mixing fresh edits of KIK material, from trip-hop to electro-pop, and ambient to drum‘n’ bass.

“I might sing, I might not. I might rap, I don’t know,” she says. “It’s going to be a big variety. When I play regionally, I always feel a big need to represent myself and my scene, I feel this responsibility to take all my Cairo influences and sounds and put them in one place.”

And where is that scene going next?

“There’s no end result. It’s ongoing. I don’t see the scene in Egypt being anywhere near as progressive as what’s going on elsewhere for at least 10 more years. Which means we have at least 10 more years of work to do before people start catching up.”

* Bosaina performs for The Other Side at And Lounge, The Address Marina Mall, on Friday, from 9pm. Dh75 advance from platinumlist.ae

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: September 8, 2015 04:00 AM

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