Asfalt / “Our main supporters are Arabs. Thanks to them, we are still making music”

Ibrahim Farouk and Mohamed Gadare the Egyptian hip-hop duo making you re-think rap in Arabic

by Maán Jalal

Entertainment 28 April 2019

Ibrahim Farouk and Mohamed Gadare are Asfalt, one of the most interesting rap duos rapping in Arabic to come out of Egypt. They take on social, political, and cultural issues exploring them through their music in fun, kitsch, direct ways.

They formed Asfalt – which means tar in Arabic – in  2005. Since then, they have grown a massive audience and been core members of underground hip-hop scene in Egypt. Their 2017 track released with Universal Music MENA, Let Us Stand (Khaleena Wa’feen) reached over 1 million views on YouTube.

Not only has Asfalt performed at numerous live shows and on Egyptian television on shows  such as Hip Hop All Stars, Clash of the Titans, Sharkiat Fathy Salama, La Musique Festival but they are part of a group of young artists educating Arab audiences on how rap can be a vehicle for change and awareness.

Asfalt are currently working on new music and will be releasing two new tracks this year. The Arab Edition managed to catch up with them and find out a little bit more about who they are and what they’re music is about.

Asfalt’s message to Arabitioners!

How did you get into rap music?
We started as listeners and we really liked the music between the early ages of 15-16. Then we started memorizing songs rapping them out in clubs, until we wrote our first rap in college.

Where did you come up with the name Asfalt?
We rap about the streets and the daily life of the average person, and asphalt (which translates to tar) is in the streets, and so I came up with Asfalt. In the beginning, we wanted an easy name that sounds almost the same in all languages, in case we had to perform overseas,  and Asfalt served that purpose.

What was the initial reaction to your music when you guys first started out?
It’s hard to tell. When we first started, the internet wasn’t as popular, so we got feedback from our friends, which was supportive with little hints here and there. There was only one website were you could post your songs. It was a struggle. Now you can tell if people like your song in a day or two. Pretty ironic.

Between the two of you, how does the process of creating music happen?
It’s actually both of us. We have a process when it comes to creating new songs but we still keep room for spontaneity. For example when it comes to writing, sometimes we write together and sometimes we write separately and then we get together and go over what we wrote. As for music, we deal with a lot of producers. Once we settle on the music, we record a demo and we listen to it for like a week and then get together to see how we feel, or if we want to change something.

How do you think rap fits into the Arab world?
Rap fits like other genres do, it’s in movies, trailers, soap operas, ad, it should be treated and dealt with as other genres. But still some people think it’s an outside or an alien genre. That’s why as Asfalt, we try using musical instruments that people in the Arab world are familiar with, like oud, tabla, etc…

What’s been the reaction to your music from Arab audiences?
Our main supporters are Arabs. Thanks to them, we are still making music. I think that sums it up.

Check out Asfalt’s music video In Our Country (Fi Baladna) and let us know what you think!

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