Abo Sahar's self-coined electronic genre 'Trobby' is heavily-influenced by his youth and memories in upper Egypt. "People dance to my childhood dreams," he says.
When I come face to face with Abo Sahar for the first time he sits in a green room with graffitied walls back home in Minya, Upper Egypt. With a kaffiyeh around his neck, he blows thick shisha smoke at the screen. It's a familiar sight and an image you'll witness most nights if you follow him on Instagram, where he logs on live to put on spellbindingly improvised shows for his fans
At 36-years-old, his humility defines rather than defies his status as Abo Sahar is a man utterly immersed in something that is bigger than him. Led by the passion for his music, he has created a world for himself that he allows others to enter. It's a buzzing and spiritual realm where his faith in what he does saves him from a nameless dread. "I feel safe when I play music and don't feel comfortable on the street." he says. "For that, I don't know why. I only know that I feel the best when I make people dance."
There is a reason he's not used to people. Growing up in the green and remote parts of Upper Egypt, he spent a lot of time alone with his grandfather with only a battery-powered AM radio that rang out music from another world. It magically distracted him from his isolation.
At 7-years-old he started making music by playing the long stalks of grass he plucked to make a reed instrument for himself. Encouraged by his grandfather, he always intended to create something in his own style."There were no artists in my family but my grandfather said I had a beautiful voice," he says. "It made me care about what I was doing."
Putting the poetry of his grandfather's words to music, Abo Sahar wrote to fire up his own imagination. He fantasised about being on stage and performing for friends but when his music would stop there would be only silence.
Abo Sahar.Photo courtesy of the artist.
As he grew into his teens he begged his family to allow him to work with his cousin setting up speaker systems at the rowdy weddings in his region. "This is how I got to understand how the wedding parties work," he says, "and where I got to handle the equipment for the first time."
By around 15-years-old Abo Sahar was already growing his reputation as a great playlist maker and before long started writing his own music using simple computer software. His performances at weddings would soon take him into the big cities.
It was only when he started to upload his music to a Soundcloud account that things began to get serious. "I reached a lot of people suddenly and got a lot of feedback but three years ago when Hizz, a record label in Cairo, contacted me, I felt like I was finally talking to people who cared more about the music than the marketing. They showed the respect to help find me a place in the city to sleep and a studio to create my music."
Going back and forth was how Abo Sahar got to define his own genre that he calls 'Trobby.' It's the sound of his inner world, an amalgamation of the words 'True' and 'Being.' As Sahar explains: "my music is more than style, it is my life-story translated into sounds and melodies. My sadness, madness, my happiness." When I ask him how we can differentiate it from 'Electro Chaabi,' the exultant party sound played deliriously by the keyboard players of Cairo, he tells me 'Electro Chaabi has only one mood but Trobby has many in just one track. My music will take you to the memories of my childhood, to the train stations, high buildings and saying goodbye to my village. It is pure feeling.'
The sound of Trobby can be exemplified in "Ro3b," which evokes his journeys back and forth to Minya. Hizz have placed Abo Sahar in the vigorous Cairo party scene where he's been influenced by house music, techno, trap, and pop music but he insists, "my music can go from one style to another but it is always Trobby. It is what I play in wedding parties to 3-year-olds to 90-year-olds. People dance to my childhood dreams."
Abo Sahar continues to and will always be a star of the Egyptian wedding circuit but this along with his daily Instagram live shows may have to take a temporary back seat when his album is released on Hizz later this year. It promises to be filled with new sounds and features from local and international acts backed by a tour that will take him across the Arab region, Europe, and the United States.
Abo Sahar is poised to take his music even further than he could ever have conceived. There is a little pause before he says goodbye, "I will do these shows because people wait for me" he says, "I just need to make them feel good."
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