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Shaabi means 'of the people'. It originated in Cairo in the 1970s, as a new form of urban music expressing the difficulties and frustrations of modern Egyptian life. Shaabi lyrics can be both intensely political, and filled with humour and double entendre. Because of its nature as street music, and a widespread indifference to copyright law among Egyptians, Shaabi today is mainly distributed on pirated tapes and CDs.
The first shaabi singer to rise to stardom was Ahmed Adaweyah, whose first album in 1972 sold a million copies. Like many shaabi singers, Adaweyah was famed for his mawwal. More recently, Shaaban Abdel Rahim rose to fame in 2000 with the controversial 'Ana Bakra Israel' ('I hate Israel'), and has remained something of a working-class hero due to a string of populist political hits.
Other well-known singers in the shaabi genre include Saad al-Soghayer, Amina, and Abdelbaset Hamouda. Another notable singer is Hakim, who is from a middle-class background unlike most shaabi singers, and whose commercially successful brand of shaabi-pop is generally cheerful and apolitical.
The most recent new development to come out of Cairo's Shaabi scene is 'mahragan' ('festivals'; Arabic: مهرجانات [mɑh.ɾɑ.ɡɑˈnɑːt]) music, also known as 'electro-shaabi' in the West. However the performers use mahragan (meaning a big, loud, messy event; and a festival) to distinguish themselves from sha'bi,. The best-known artists in this genre are Islam Chipsy, Oka Wi Ortega, Sadat, Figo, Alaa 50 Cent, Shahta Karika  </ref> Islam Fanta. The genre was popularised by the alternative culture magazine Audio Kultur, the Cairo Liberation Front and by the blog Generation Bass.
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- Hubbard, Ben (11 May 2013). "Out of Egypt's Chaos, Musical Rebellion". New York Times.
- Maria Golla, “Egypt’s Mahragan: Music of the Masses.” Middle East Institute. July 7, 2015.http://www.mei.edu/content/at/egypt%E2%80%99s-mahragan-music-masses (accessed September 9, 2018)
- Ali Abdel Mohsen, “A Q & A with Leading Mahraganat Singer Sadat.” Egypt Independent (April 13, 2013) http://www.egyptindependent.com/qa-leading-mahraganat-singer-sadat/ (accessed August 20, 2018)
- Doiezie, Mathilde (2014-12-18). "Islam Chipsy : "Notre langage musical est sauvage, brutal, bruyant"". Le Figaro (in French). ISSN 0182-5852. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
- "Electro Chaabi". Generation Bass. Generation Bass. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
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