Dwarfs of East Agouza
Dwarfs Of East Agouza is the Cairo-based trio of Alan Bishop, Maurice Louca, and Sam Shalabi.
Alan Bishop is arguably best known as the bassist and vocalist for now-defunct experimental rock group Sun City Girls. Since forming in the early eighties, the group released a staggering number of releases that alchemized avant-noise, punk, jazz, and Arabic musical influences with theatrical flair. Together with Hisham Mayet, Bishop also co-founded Seattle-based record label Sublime Frequencies, which records and collects local and traditional musics from around the world in both audio and documentary form. The label's approach vehemently opposes ethnomusicology and Westernized "world music," aiming instead to disrupt listeners' expectations with the gritty immediacy of recordings from North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and beyond.
From psychedelia to Egyptian shaabi, Cairo native Maurice Louca shatters the confines of musical and cultural labeling. His critically acclaimed debut solo album, Garraya, was released in January 2011 on the Cairo-based 100COPIES label and described by Egyptian music journalist Ali Abdel Mohsen as "a work of bruising intensity" and "unexpected beauty." Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot) followed on Nawa Recordings in 2014. Louca's trademark whirlwind of percussion-based rhythms seamlessly intertwine with layers of jarring yet coherent compositions and improvisations. He has played with artists like Tamer Abu Ghazaleh (Solo Artist/Alif), Khaled Yassine (Anouar Brahem/Alif) and Egyptian Mahraganat MCs Amr 7a7a and Alaa 50.
The prolific Sam Shalabi is a composer and guitar and oud player whose musical output spans jazz and free improvisation to psychedelic avant-rock. Among the most ambitious of his projects is his Land Of Kush ensemble, which involved over 30 musicians and two dozen different instruments—strings, horns, woodwinds, multiple percussionists, bassists, guitarists, and vocalists, synths, and the traditional Arabic music instruments of darbouka and oud. The group's recorded output was released on Montreal label Constellation Records, also home to fellow CTM 2016 act Jerusalem in My Heart. Shalabi also founded Shalabi Effect, an improv ensemble mixing psych-rock guitar with oud, tabla, drone, and electronics. The quartet released an album on Lebanese label Annihaya in 2012, and a follow-up is expected soon.