Many know Safi for his Nile Bazaar show on Nile FM that focuses on world music, as well as being an established musician and DJ within Egypt’s nightlife. This is his first entry into the production world with his debut LP Darb, choosing to collaborate with none other than Egyptian producer and live act Fulltone (also known as Amr Khaled).
Fulltone comes from a rock and blues background and is regarded as one of the leading live acts of the region, injecting real instruments into his music. He has released several EPs peaking in Beatport’s top 100 chart. This LP also includes a track by Student DJ winners Aguizi & Fahim.
Darb has strong influences from the region, and contains remixes from Miret, Keybe, Timboletti and San Miguel.
We can hear the influence in the first track “Tudan” from Fulltone’s use of tribal percussion, real Arabic instruments and Safi’s speech in Arabic. All of these aspects add to the aesthetic Fulltone is trying to reach, while mixing these elements with synths allows it to evolve from the oriental House movement trending in festivals such as Burning Man and Fusion.
A weak point, on the other hand, is the volume of the highs in the vocals; and would be preferable to bring them back in the mix with the use of effects such as reverb and a low pass filter. But a bounce back is when he showcases his artist’s influence and musical ability with a guitar riff introduced at the end.
The second track “Albeat" starts with a breakdown and Safi’s voice over it. The beat has more of a house feel due to the standard percussion, and the tribal percussion is clearer and less crowded than the previous track. The harmonic minor scale is used, one of the main scales used to compose popular Arabic music.
Aguizi’s "Ahl el Maghna" starts with warm chords followed by percussion resembling those of progressive house. A ney solo is introduced followed by a subtle vocal sample that fits well in the mix. The Arabic feel starts to really appear when a digitally sampled oud loop comes in. Aguizi & Fahim have a good grasp on one shots, constantly adding different samples to add energy. The duo can have an interesting palette of sound design, though I find they are trying to stuff too many elements into one track and the result becomes a bit of an over-saturation. Every melody conveys an emotion, and a listener must have time to take in that emotion and feel it. If these beautiful melodies don’t even have one bar of space to breathe, then it devalues them.
The remix, on the other hand, is a more laid back oriental house track resembling work of artists such as Nu and Rampue. We can immediately hear the space in this production, due to the elements being removed, thus delivering them in a more mature and subtle way. The groove takes it space to grow and the vocal takes its time to come in, building anticipation. Due to a few standout tracks this is an overall strong debut release however it could do with having less remixers which somewhat overwhelm the listener. Miret’s remix of Aguizi & Fahim is the strongest, highlighting the aesthetic the LP is trying to attain. He was able to take the most valuable elements in Aguizi's track, strip them down and arrange them beautifully in the juxtaposition. The remixes of Fulltone drift away from the initial aesthetic and make half the EP sit in the darker side of house, sounding very generic much like the music of labels such as Life & Death, Steyoyoke, and the thousand others trying to sound like them. Fulltone is able to breath life in his music by creating beautiful melodies sourced from real musicians playing instruments. The remixes remove that life and make it sound like any other track.