ART & CULTURE (Egypt) – Electronic Poetry in Alexandria


Telepoetic and how not to be labelled within genres…

It has been ten years now since Telepoetic first emerged in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria. At a time when there were not many bands around, they first started jamming and experimenting together, to find their own voice and sound.

It marks the 10th anniversary since the name Telepoetic first came up -an imagined word made of two – tele, in terms of electronic music and poetic- having the poetic character that even without words find its way into the soundscape of the band. Alexandria has always been a city of the poets and an important centre for the independent music scene in Egypt. I talked with Ahmed Saleh, one of the founders of Telepoetic who plays guitar, keyboard and keys.

10 years earlier: starting being electronically poetic.

The electronic scene in Alexandria compared to Cairo is still a small community -and this hasn’t changed since Telepoetic emerged back in 2006. Ahmed Saleh actually did not start with music; his origins lie in visuals. He learned all his instruments and making music by himself. He did not have a teacher or professional training in learning his instruments.

The style of Telepoetic changed quite a lot in those ten years and it is hard to define them or to put them into a specific category. For starters, they had a vocalist whose name is Maii Waleed. She is now quite famous, co-worked with Zeid Hamdan and had a project called Ritza. While they were still working with Maii Weleed during their first phase, their style was completely different from the one on their debut album. Saleh recalls that “our style was much more pop and indie-like”. Their music was more easy-going and less electronic.

After a while things changed. Their music became, in Saleh words, much more “powerful and energetic”, and Maii Waleed left Telepoetic to work on her own projects. A new phase, in the combination of Ahmed Saleh, Mohammed El-Desouky playing bass-guitar and Samo El-Taweal the drums and pads, began. They became “much more post-rock within the shape of electronic but our style is hard to describe”, Saleh tries to explain. It is hard to describe it because all the material that Telepoetic has produced, emerged out of jamming and experimenting together with friends. Telepoetic is actually originally a project developed by friends, and Saleh tries to explains what Telepoetic means to him: “When you play with old friends, you can experiment everything and do everything you want, that is what Telepoetic was – an experiment: we were free to do anything.”

This is reflected in their sound -the jamming and experimental character of their music is their trade mark. Now their music is completely instrumental- switching between a bluesy post-rock environment combined with an ambient electronic style -it has a mood of Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky but Telepoetic are not copying their American or Scottish counterparts- they have their own special kind of sound-set without relying on a specific method. This can be heard in their debut album Ensehab (Withdrawal). It also has a lot of improvisational character in it. This results in that they don’t restrain themselves to remain in only one genre, and basically, to define bands into genres has for the band only two functions. One is that categorizing certain bands into a specific genre is only useful for the industry so that they are able to label the music. The other aspect is that the audiences themselves think generally most of the time in terms of genres in order to describe to what they are listening, as Mohamed Desouky explained during an interview with Rami Abadir, another electronic artist from Cairo, two years ago.

Their first album Ensehab was released in November 2013. It was produced by 100 Copies Music, a label located in the heart of Downtown Cairo. The label concentrates on experimental music, sound and jazz-related music and its main intention “is creating a platform/network for the independent music scene in Cairo”. The label was first established in 2006 by Mahmoud Refat, and its annual live festival first started in 2007. Focusing on electronic sounds 100 Copies Music is the most suitable place for a band like Telepoetic to develop their music in such an environment. Although there is no story or narrative told in the Album except that it is the result of jamming sessions, the sound and the music is telling a journey of the band’s musical experimentation since they first emerged in 2006. While the Album was produced by 100 Copies Music, the difficulty while making the Album was to find the right sound, Saleh remembers. “Catching the right sound on the recording is really difficult and hard, it took us a long time to achieve the sound that we wanted.” Eventually, they managed to catch the imagination of the sound they wanted to play and got it into the record. While listening to the LP, there is a feeling that it would work well as a soundtrack to a Mr. Robotesque story.

They collaborated with a visual artist called Philip Geist creating a stream of colourful visuals combining it with Telepoetics soundscape.

They are working often with visual artists and Saleh describes that “We actually had a visual artist in our band and we did a lot of concerts with him, but the venues here in Egypt often do not have the possibilities for this. The right equipment is lacking therefore we cannot play in every concert with visuals.

The band is now planning to record a new album in the coming months and 100 Copies music will produce it again. They are doing concerts frequently and although they are playing more in Cairo, they want to play in Alexandria as well. But he admits that “It is very hard to find a venue in Alexandria – to play any kind of music, although there were some good venues in the beginning such as El Cabina. Their last concert was during the Fête da la Musique Festival in Cairo. Usually when they are playing outside a festival environment 80 to 100 people attend a concert such as at Room Arts Space and Cafe where they played last February.

While Telepoetic’s journey surely has not ended yet -there will be more changes, and developments coming, and hopefully they will keep playing for another ten years. On their Facebook Page they already announced their next concert in Cairo.


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Tugrul von MENDE

M.A. Study of Middle Eastern Studies (University of Leipzig) - Germany

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