Artist Session #05 - Molotof (EGYPT) delves into the Roots of Music, Mahraganat, and the importance of Collaborations

Artist Session #05 - Molotof (EGYPT) delves into the Roots of Music, Mahraganat, and the importance of Collaborations

Mahraganat is one of those music scenes I have been paying attention to, thanks to my friends at PopArabia. As I indulged in the new age of the Egyptian sound, Molotof emerged as my clear favourite, truly a gem within the Mehraganat scene. Having heard glowing praises from friends and colleagues in the music industry, I couldn't resist but delve deeper into his artistry and vision. Beyond his musical prowess, Molotof's approach to art and its transformative power became an equally compelling facet of his persona.

Molotof shared his journey and thoughts about music, collaboration and art in our interview. From a childhood surrounded by diverse artistic influences to his calling in music, his commitment to collaboration, exploration of roots, and genuine approach to sensitive topics reflected not just a musician but an artist with a profound understanding of the interconnectedness of different forms of expression. Thanks to his projects, I have discovered many Arabic rappers, such as Shabjdeed, BLTNM and more, who I believe will drive the youth movement across the North African market.

Srishti Das: ‏What is your earliest memory of music that you recall that played a huge role in your pursuit of music as a career today?

Molotof: There is no specific memory; it’s just how I was raised.

I was raised in an artistic family. My grandfather was a novel writer, and my mother was a sound engineer on the radio. Since childhood, she has always made me listen to different kinds of music, specifically traditional Egyptian music. As a result, I also loved all types of art, and I tried to draw and write. My interests only bloomed as I grew older, so I studied filmmaking at the High Institute of Cinema. Still, I found myself in music, and this is the best kind of art that I want to express myself in, but I also found that all types of art are one but in different forms.

Srishti: How would you describe Mahraganat to people outside of Egypt?

Molotof: Mahraganat is an Egyptian genre that comes straight from the streets of Egypt and the rural areas in Egypt. It’s actually not a music genre but a whole culture in itself. The young people in Egypt use this culture to express their identity, and is the most authentic way to let out their energy through music. The sound itself is a blend of traditional Egyptian music and something called “El Moled”, which is a religious celebration with modern genres like Electronic music and Hip-hop.

‏Srishti: Could you tell us a little about the history of the scene and where you think it is headed in the future?

Molotof: It started in the USA when the Hip-hop movements began, and then after years in Egypt before the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Mahraganat started, so it is very inspired by the culture of Hip-hop, and you can find more about the history of Mahraganat from a documentary film called “Electro Chaabi”. I can’t expect what is coming in the future of the scene because I am not directly connected to it. Maharaganat and Hip-hop are a part of my journey through music, and now I started to work on different genres and to continue my journey to discover the roots of music in all the world.

Srishti: I found you through a friend who shared Jaw Ard with me. Could you tell me about the collaboration with Shabjdeed and a little about your recent EP, ‘Free Palestine’, which seems to have vanished from your streaming profiles?

Molotof: I always like to discover collaborations that allow me to try my sound with different artists from different countries. I met Shabjdeed in Egypt, and we recorded the vocals together. Later, I travelled to Sinai in Egypt, which is part of Egypt but near Palestine. I just wanted to feel like I was in Palestine while working on the track. 

In this song and the visuals created with it, I was trying to express my universe at this time, even though most of it had all changed by then. So I sat with the director Eslam Abo El Enien and the producer Nojara and described my vision and my universe to them. We shot part of the video in Cairo and the other part in Palestine. 

Also, I always create projects for Palestine because it is a part of my Arabic background. I have collaborated with many different Palestinian artists like Shabjdeed, Synaptik and Haykal. Even the music video for my song, Malhomsh Aman, was wholly shot in Palestine. I always try to create one project related to Palestine every year. It’s just something that is personally important to me.

Srishti: Many music scenes have been a part of different social and cultural movements. What is your approach while making music that touches upon sensitive issues?

Molotof: I don’t try to create music connected to a specific culture or a movement; I do what I feel and go with the flow. I also think that all cultures are linked to each other, so I don’t like to classify myself as something I am or something I am not. I like to be free and make what I feel in that specific moment when I want to make it. 

Srishti: Coming back to Jaw Ard, the music video was incredibly moving, and you are now studying filmmaking as well. How does music and visual art impact you as an artist?

Motolof: I think art is creating your own universe, and that is true with making music, but it is also the backbone of filmmaking. When you produce a film, you build a universe for this film. All kinds of arts collaborate to create this universe, like the visuals, colours and the soundtrack. For example, the universe of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings

So when I create a project, I try to create a whole universe for the album or the single with music and visuals together.

Srishti: Egypt is one of the oldest song-writing markets in the world. What is your opinion on preservation vs evolution, and which one is more important to you? How do you navigate through this in your approach to music-making?

Molotof: I think about the history of music as doors, and you can travel to any time or any period by listening to the music of that particular period. I also believe in evolution in music, and what we are making these days is the same as the old people wanted to make, but now we have more technology, so we approach their vision more and more. 

So, I try to understand the history of music and build from this point. This is why I am always studying the roots of music in the world, and I constantly find it all to be connected.

Srishti: What has been your most rewarding project to date?

Molotof: I tell everyone my life itself is the project; there is no specific project. Additionally, I am not waiting for a reward from any project. I focus on enjoying the journey and the music, not what I get from them. 

Srishti: Who are some artists and music scenes that inspire you vs those you listen to just because you enjoy them?

Molotof: I listen to music very randomly on Spotify, and when I like a song, I save it to my playlist and then I listen to all these different tracks from different genres together. Besides that, I focus on learning and discovering traditional music and discovering my roots. I studied the Oud instruments at the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo.

When I make music, I find myself inspired by the electronic music I listen to on Spotify and the traditional Egyptian music I continuously study. I blend and bring together all my inspirations.

I also take a lot of inspiration from nature or the place that I am in while making the music, as I mentioned before about making Jaw Ard. I love to travel to areas that have preserved their nature in Egypt, such as Sinai and make music there because I discovered that traditional music is very connected to nature.

Srishti: What is the plan for the year? 

Molotof: This year, I am working on my new Album, “The Cow’s Belly”, which is inspired by my grandfather's novel about the history of Cairo. The idea is to focus on the roots, nature and the original sounds and cultures of Egypt and how all these original sounds are connected together across the world.

Srishti: What is one thing about the world that makes you happy?

Molotof: Music and nature.

Srishti: Who are a few artists everyone should look forward to this year that you think have huge potential?

Molotof: I want to encourage people to listen to their roots in music, and I found that the original sounds and culture have considerable potential to play an essential role in the future of music. I feel that we all have this need to come back to nature to understand ourselves as humans. There are a lot of great artists, and I hope for a great future for them. What will have huge potential is the original artists who don’t give up on the journey.

***Interview edited for clarity

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