Apart from Cairokee and maybe even Dina El Wedidi, there have been few bands and artists that have been able to climb the ladder between the underground and the mainstream. Massar Egbari are a few ladder rungs down and Hany Adel's acting exploits have given his band, Wust El Balad, some attention, but mainstream acceptance has alluded so many others.
Whether they're burdened by day-jobs and unable to take the leap of faith because of it, or their music is just a little too different for Egyptian ears, these five guys deserve more than Egypt is giving them.
There are few musicians that are as prolific as the ever-so talented and charming indie musician, Hany Mustafa. Whether flying solo as HanyMust, saluting the Beatles with cover band, Glass Onion, or rocking out with Sada That (formerly EgoZ), Mustafa is something of a musician's musician in Egypt. As proficient on stage as he is in the studio, his various threads of musical output aren't too alien to fans of contemporary music, but his underground status hasn't stopped him from giving it his all with several releases over the years and a staunch commitment to gigging.
Often held up unofficially as the best guitarist in Egypt, Ousso Lotfy is already a big deal, having worked with the likes of Mohamed Mounir, Angham, Sherine and Amr Diab. But by his own admission, the mainstream Egyptian music scene isn't his cup of tea and he's much more at home collaborating with the likes of Shady Ahmed and Eftekasat. It goes without saying that this, for all intents and purposes, is a darn shame; when Ousso Lotfy is free to be Ousso Lotfy, he is as engaging and skilled a musician as you'll find in the country.
Better known as that handsome guy from The Cadillacs, Bluenotes and several other bands, George Aboutar can lay claim to being one of the most charismatic front-men on the Egyptian music scene. More than just a guitar-wielding vocalist, few can hold a crowd and look like they're having as much fun doing so than Aboutar. Had he been born of another land, George would have been a chart-disturbing indie rebel, who's snapped with a different model every other weekend; the kind that parents warn their children of; a proper, old-school, reckless rock star whose indiscretions are tolerated because of his talent.
Although she's been on the scene for some time, It's only in the last six months or so that Egypt has come to read from the gospel of Shereen Abdo. She's the kind of singer who wears her heart on her sleeve on stage, whose pain, joy and emotion are in every one of her songs. The sultry genre-bending songstress shed the concept of genre long ago and folk, electronic, jazz, progressive rock and even metal are just a few of the sounds she has explored to great success.
There's an argument to be made that Wael 'NeoByrd' Alaa is already a star - but, once again, Egypt hasn't truly embraced him. Beyond his work in film and advertising, there's still an untapped goldmine of music to be, well, mined, and although his albums Transbyrd and The King is Dead have been critical successes, he's still too often referred to as that guy with the big chicken head thing or that guy that did that catchy mash-up. Maybe it's his reluctance to be part of the local electronic music scene; maybe it's a case of being a victim of his own grand ambitions in the arts. Either way, that guy with the big chicken head thing is a master of his craft.
By Haisam Awad