Introducing the person behind selecting and curating our musical mixes, bringing you monthly playlists from across the entire Mashallah region.
If you’re a regular listener to our Mashallah mixes, you know the name Gabriel Luis Manga well. He’s a 27 years old writer, currently living in New York City, and has been the curator of our playlists since the very first one in 2014. With the new Mashallah News up, Gabriel will continue playing the role of our very own favourite maestro – and not only that, he will also introduce a whole new feature: special mixes curated by different interesting artists from the region. Here’s Gabriel telling us more about it.
You have curated mixes for Mashallah for over one and a half years now. How did it start?
It started because I had just moved back to New York after four years in Cairo, and I wanted a way to stay in touch with the music scene there. Even more so, I felt like there wasn’t a place where someone could get updates on new underground music coming out of places like Cairo, Beirut, Tunis or Algiers, and that there must be other people like me who would be into a monthly playlist that highlighted that.
Beyond that, I also think there’s not enough credit or awareness going out for experimental/electronic sounds from the Middle East and North Africa.
What is your relationship to music, are you a musician yourself?
I used to DJ when I was younger, and have always been on the lookout for new music that I haven’t heard before. I kind of started DJing again towards the end of my time in Cairo, throwing parties at the Garden City Palace Hotel alongside the incredible Lebanese-Nebraskan journalist Jahd Khalil. Beyond that however, I haven’t played in a band since I was 14.
What musical trends do you see in the region at the moment?
I was in Cairo for the emergence of the electro-shaabi/mahraganat scene, which I thought was probably the most interesting thing to happen musically when I was there. But there’s a lot going on beyond that (also I can’t listen to mahraganat before 4pm, and usually without having a beer). I think services like Soundcloud and Dandin make it easier than ever for artists to get their music out there, so my prediction/hope would be that it fosters more collaboration and awareness between artists within and outside of the region.
Any particular bands and projects we should keep an eye on?
I really like the work that BLUFRANK from Cairo is doing, he’s got some more electro upbeat stuff. Moseqar is another guy from Cairo doing awesome stuff, his remix of Hotline Bling is the best I’ve heard. There’s a singer from Palestine named Makimakkuk that I wish would put out more music, her EP last year was incredible.
What about Cairo where you’ve lived, how is the contemporary musical scene?
I was lucky enough that 100 Copies opened up a new space while I was there. 100 Live Festival was going on, Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival started, things felt like they were gaining momentum. Mahraganat/electro-shaabi was definitely the most popular music, you couldn’t go more than a block without hearing Amr 7a7a or Oka & Ortega blasting from a car or motor bike. But even less on the surface level, there are just a lot of young people making experimental music and it was a kind of scene where people encouraged each other.
Starting from now, you will be in charge of a new set of mixes for Mashallah, put together by different artists. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I’ve been doing these playlists for a bit now, but I’ve always wanted to know what a mix directly from an artist would sound like. Who are they listening to? Who are they influenced by? If I were at a club they were doing a set at, what would it sound like? I want to model these mixes after the BBC’s essential mix, and really just give the artists free reign to do whatever they want with it.
The first one out, by Hello Psychaleppo, is just released. How would you describe it?
It’s a really outstanding mix that showcases a lot of great artists from the region. If I could use one word to describe it I would say “Big”. The sounds in it are very all encompassing.