Rap is Invading the Egyptian Radio Waves

Af Nick Kofod Mogensen

In the beginning of 2014, another important page was written for hip-hop music in the region when the first radio station entirely for Arab hip-hop music was launched.

When the Arab Spring began in December 2010, the entire world’s attention turned towards the Middle East. ’Revolution’ was on the lips of many in the region, and the tunes of change were in the air. While the nature of the political changes of the Arab Spring is yet to be determined, one thing is certain: Hip-hop music in the Arab world was not only a driver for the revolutions and revolts sweeping across the region, it has undergone a revolution itself and has blossomed to a whole new level.

Radio 16 Bar is a dream come true for Revolution Records, the first underground hip-hop label in Egypt. Explaining what made them launch the radio station, Ahmed Rock from Revolution Records said:

According to our believes, hip-hop is more a message than just a music genre in the Middle East. We decided to launch Radio 16 Bar as the first radio that broadcast a huge library of Arab Rap in the Middle East, hoping it would become a light beam for this kind of art which we believe is carrying an important message and reflects opinions and problems of our Arabic communities. We wish it becomes an important step in improving and spreading the Arabic hip-hop.

The political situation in Egypt has been uncertain ever since the Arab Spring began, and the situation became even more difficult when the Egyptian military arrested Mohamed Morsi, the president at the time. While some call it a revolution and a pro-democratic action, others call it a coup d’état. In the aftermath of the arrest, several television stations were taken off the air, and other journalists were met with restrictions concerning their coverage of the political situation. But even in this uncertain political climate, Radio 16 Bar hasn’t had any political problems so far, Ahmed Rock explains.

Serious Competitor

Starting the first radio dedicated to Arab hip-hop proved to be a challenge. Even though they just started broadcasting in the beginning of 2014, everything was planned and ready to go a year ago. Except for one thing, as Ahmed Rock explains:

The only thing that was really hard was collecting this huge library of Arabic rap music. We had to search everywhere and contact a lot of rappers to get the music in the best quality

Luckily, the hard work paid off. When Revolution Records decided to start Radio 16 Bar, they thought that the Egyptian rappers needed an alternative channel for sharing their music and messages. But they could never have anticipated just how much needed the radio was. As Ahmed Rock explains, the radio has an average of 80-85 listeners per second, making them a serious competitor to the traditional radio stations in Egypt. Hundreds of rappers from all over the region send their songs to them, adding to the radio’s already impressive music library.

Revolution Records have collaborated with RAPOLITICS for years, and Ahmed Rock explains that RAPOLITICS have helped them a lot: “We got supported by our Danish partner RAPOLITICS in reaching our dream of having an Arabic hip-hop radio. It was very appreciated over here. We think we became better organized because of the experience we gained working with RAPOLITICS.”

Kiki H. Hansen is the project leader of the BOOST project. Funded by the Danish Center for Culture and Development, it aims to support the presence of hip-hop music in the debates of the future of Egypt. She is very excited about the success of Radio 16 Bar:

We at RAPOLITICS belive that this project is extremely important as it is helping empower the youth of Alexandria to be able to express their current situation as well as dreams and aspirations for their future in a creative and constructive way. The launch of the radio is one way to spread this movement. I know Revolution Records have been working very hard on this part of the project, and I’m proud to work with so passionate and dedicated people.

When asked about the future of Radio 16 Bar, Ahmed Rock explains that it was far from over:

This is only the start. We have a lot of good plans for the radio. We plan to cover the rap concerts and all the hip-hop events and broadcast it live on the radio. We will start a weekly live broadcasting program with the most popular rappers in Egypt, and we are still thinking of a lot of new ways to update Radio 16 Bar, the strongest alternative media for the Egyptian rappers.

Blog author: Nick Kofod Mogensen is a communications volunteer at RAPOLITICS. He is a Master’s student in History from University of Copenhagen.