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Soundscapes: Shaghaf is Back

From high school in Egypt to the studios of NYUAD, Shaghaf is now making waves in the Cairo music scene. The Gazelle’s music columnist sat down with the band to discuss the release of their latest single Enty Fan and their hopes for the future.

Nov 28, 2020

From NYU Abu Dhabi's Battle of the Bands to the stage at the Wasla Music Festival 2019 in Dubai, the Egyptian student band Shaghaf, made up of Youssef Azzam, Class of 2020, Ahmed Mitry, Class of 2021, and Sara Fakhry, Class of 2021, are back with their latest single Enty Fan, which translates to “You are Art”. They referred to this as #TheShaghafComeback after previously circulating #WaitforShaghaf for a few years on social media.
The band members originally got together in high school before joining NYUAD, and with this release, they hope to communicate how much they've grown over the last four years. “What we’re most excited about is that we’re gonna break the image that everyone had of Shaghaf… especially for [Fakhry] and Mitry [there was the perception that] you can’t make a career out of it,” commented Azzam. “Now, they’re graduating soon and this is something we’re hoping to look at… more professionally.”
As students at NYUAD, Shaghaf’s members had many opportunities to learn and develop their technical skills; however, the band members were often in different countries for most of their experience because of study away semesters. "We're always not on the same wavelength in terms of where we are in the world, and it comes to affect both the creative process,” explained Azzam. “Even if one of us has a song, it stays in the closet until we all start meeting to actually work on the song."
Fakhry explained that the only time they spent together on campus was during her first year. "We finished our five songs that we wanted to do, and then we realized that they're not really professional, and by the time we realized that, we were all in different countries."
Additionally, access to funding and resources is often an issue that stands in the way for many independent artists. However, the band members made use of all the resources they could find at NYUAD, and they expressed their gratitude for having access to studios and support from the faculty. "It's a privilege for us that we got to record our EP in the studios of the university," expressed Mitry.
Back in their hometown, Cairo, the group members managed to find spaces to create music, where they connected with members from popular Egyptian band Cairokee, and got the chance to work in their studio and learn from their expertise.
"We never stopped working on the songs, especially Enty Fan. Every vacation we had in Egypt, I used to go and work on it… in Cairokee's studio," explained Mitry. Their contact at Cairokee would finish in the studio at 11 p.m., so Mitry would go there at 11 p.m. and keep working until 10 a.m. the next morning. "We didn't have the facilities to work 24/7, but we had to make use of what we had."
The band’s dedication to their work speaks to the high standards they set for themselves. They are self-proclaimed perfectionists, citing that as one of the reasons it took them so long to release their latest single.
"The process is never ending, but sometimes you need to put your foot down and you just set a deadline," said Azzam, referring to the multiple versions that they had of the song before deciding to release it.
Fakhry describes this release as a relief: "We're finally stepping out of this phase we've been in for four years… it's nice to kind of shift or finish a chapter, and it feels great when you do."
Through Enty Fan, Shaghaf starts their journey as representatives of their generation of Egyptian youth. In this song specifically, their lyrics tackled a social issue that they have seen affect people around them: the difficulties of loving and accepting oneself. "We're trying to send a message that in order to be able to love, in general, you need to start loving yourself first," explained Azzam.
"[The song] discusses issues in our country mainly. . . I don't think we can do this in English,” commented Mitry. “There are some things you don't know how to say other than in Arabic."
They made a conscious choice to sing in Arabic, and hope to stick to it throughout their careers. "It's like maintaining our roots here," stated Fakhry. "When you're singing in Arabic, your own language and your own dialect, for your own people and by your own people, it's something that's very personal, especially when some of the songs are related to your country or the people that you love that are from here."
Their instrumentals carry a story too. Enty Fan's chord progression came to life after Azzam's attempt to play around with a chord he liked in the song, Tghayarti, by an alternative Arab artist, El Far3i. He created an acoustic version of the song first, and then band members Mitry and Fakhry added their own parts. They explained how this is their usual process; everyone adds elements of their own style to the work.
As the band members have grown over the years, so has the place of Shaghaf in their hearts. "It's more than just passion now, it's a drive, it's something you want to say," expressed Fakhry. Shaghaf indeed has a lot to say, and their main objective is for people to be impacted by that.
Mitry reminisced on their Wasla performance, and referred to someone who first heard of them at that concert. This individual has been following them and waiting for their song to be released ever since. "It matters to someone, and I'm just so happy it matters to someone," he said.
"As much as we're anxious, I think something that we've been hoping for is the day that someone comes up to us and says: your music actually affected me in some way,” expressed Azzam, echoing his bandmates' sentiments. “That's what we stand for as Shaghaf."
With their creative spirits itching to create more, the members of Shaghaf expressed their excitement to explore and make their own sound as they grow together, both as humans and as musicians.
Listen to Enty Fan now on Apple Music, Spotify and Anghami.
Sarah Al-Yahya is a columnist. Email her at
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