Aly and Fila ride the Quiet Storm

Updated 01 May 2013
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Aly and Fila ride the Quiet Storm

Aly Fathalah is not with Fadi Naguib, one-half of the internationally acclaimed Egyptian trance duo who go by the alias Aly and Fila. He has unfortunately suffered an ear injury because of a faulty sound testing and has stayed home.
Fadi, however, makes up for his absence with double the enthusiasm. He laughs. A lot. We’re in a hotel lounge in Mumbai, India, and he’s drinking tea out of a fine china cup. The country is certainly not new to them. “I come here almost twice a year,” Fadi tells me.
Do Egypt and India share much in common? “A lot actually. Like traffic?” he laughs. “And also how the people are so friendly. The food has a bit of similarity, a bit,” he narrows his left eye just to convince me.
Presently, they are celebrating the 300th episode of their globally transmitted Internet radio show, Future Sound of Egypt (FSOE), and are preparing to release their new artist album “Quiet Storm” in June. The first single “Running out of Time” featuring Chris Jones has just been released this week.
Aly was an engineering student and Fadi was studying political science. They were expecting to slip their feet into regular jobs, but along the course of playing music “for fun”, somewhere it all turned into serious business. This was in the early 2000’s and they’ve been traveling the world since, performing in out-sized concert venues and playing some of the biggest club gigs. They’re the unofficial music ambassadors of trance representing not just Egypt but the entirety of the Arab world on international waters. Most often, they long for home. “I miss my friends, family, my dogs, and my wife for sure,” Fadi says.
“Simple things like going to a café, having a shisha, watching a movie with friends, the culture and the atmosphere of Egypt. Social life is so important in the Arab world. You’re always out, going out with people. It’s not like in Europe, where everyone is living their own life. In the Arab world, it’s about sharing your life with everyone around you.”
However, Egypt has quite quickly if not dramatically changed its social climate post the citizen revolution that rocked the country’s stagnating political reign. This was almost two years ago, yet till this day the country is still in a state of limbo.
“Well… when the revolution started we were very enthusiastic about everything. We were happy to finally have a change in our political system, which we wanted. But actually, right now, we’re not really sure what’s happening. It doesn’t look stable right now, but we are hoping the change will be for the better, for all Egyptian, not only one sector of the population.”
Reflecting upon the sense of disillusionment prevailing among Egyptian people, Fadi says, “I can sense it every time I’m back in Egypt. I always talk to the taxi drivers, with people working at the airport or the people working in shops, and I see the disillusionment. I spend most of my time out of Egypt, so when I go back I like to listen to ordinary citizens, get their feedback and stories; its always great to hear it from the people and not the media. These days what you hear from the people is frustration,” clapping his hands together to convey his frustration as well.
The turbulent situation in Egypt however, has brought about musical inspiration to the duo.
A fiercely expressive underground music scene has shown simmering visibility in Egypt and neighboring countries post the Arab Spring. This independent music industry has matured past its romantically puerile mainstream template, with many acts quietly but vocally serving as an alternate method of citizen journalism.
“The revolution gave underground bands and artists a spotlight to shine and bring forth their artistic talents,” he adds.
Three years ago, they sub-labeled Future Sound of Egypt to the massive Dutch record company Armada Music, and have steadily climbed ranks on the DJ Mag poll, cinching the under-20 spot in 2012.
“The whole idea of FSOE is to actually promote Egypt and its rich history. If you see the visuals at our events, it’s all about ancient Egypt and the beauty of our country. We are like an image for Egypt and we are trying to be good ambassadors. I think we are doing a good job.”
Their progressive trance sound has often expressed an indigenous flavor, with tricklings of the oud strings, and even more often, visual references to their home city of Cairo evident in their music videos.
When asked whether they would like to collaborate with any Middle-Eastern artists, he answers, “Actually there are a lot of great singers in the Arab world. For example Sherin, she has an amazing voice. Amr Diab is also great artist. He’s very professional. Every album of his is really strong with new ideas. He’s not keeping it the same. I’m not a dedicated fan of this music but I like what they’re doing. I don’t mind listening to them at some restaurants back in Egypt, or at wedding parties. It’s fun and it always has a groove to it, so you can dance.” He claps his hands and breaks into a smile.
Elaborating further, he says, “Well actually on our new album we have a male singer performing a ululation (a traditional musical expression native to the Arab region). It conveys the spirit of the Arab world and we have chosen it as the intro of our new album.”
Aly and Fila have collaborated with a somewhat “remotely regional” artist in the past.
“We did great work with Jwaydan Anwar, who is a British EDM singer/songwriter of Middle-Eastern origin on “We Control the Sunlight”; she’s very talented and we enjoyed working with her. It was her first big track and I’m sure she will be a big hit in the music scene.”
The trance culture is still considered a foreign import in the Arab world; and for these two DJ-producers who have broken ground and made a successful foray into an alien sound, albeit with elements of a regional attitude, this is a stride hardly any have paced. “I don’t know why. It’s not about trance. It’s about EDM in general. Like you said, some countries have purely underground scenes. In the Arab world it is not mainstream yet.”
It’s ironic however to notice the lamenting from the other side of the western world on the EDM scene losing its organic ethos and culture to the commercial sound and corporate structure.
“I think the whole new wave of big room house, is just a phase that comes and goes. I don’t think it will survive. Trance has always been there from the beginning of EDM. It has its up and down moments but it has always been there. The new movements like dubstep, it was huge, and then? It just goes big on the radio, but I don’t think it will survive the next three years.”
“We are sticking with trance that’s for sure, but there’s no harm in trying other genres. A good example is Armin Van Buuren. Sometimes he does a track, which works really well for the radio, but he always does a club mix of it. Which is clever I think. It’s a good way to promote the whole genre to get more people to listen to it. This way he brings a lot of exposure to a lot of us. Which is something that we plan to do. It’s like thinking out of the circle.”
And do they have any dream future collaborations they want to see fulfilled? He finally puts his cup of tea and saucer on the table with a cluck.
“We actually love Paul Van Dyk. Since we started, he’s been one of our main inspirations. We’d love to do a track with him. Maybe a track with Armin Van Buuren. We would also like to do a track with someone from another genre, for instance like Coldplay. It’s a dream you know. I love their music. For me they’re like the crème de la crème of the mainstream world. They have a message in their music, with their lyrics and compositions. I don’t want to call it pop because…” he trails off.
I suppose that’s a dirty word? He laughs. “I didn’t say that,” pointing his finger at me, “You said it,” and laughs again.
Where is the Future Sound of Egypt heading? “I’ll tell you something honestly. When Aly and I started, we didn’t know that we could achieve this all. We did it completely for fun, really, and then it all became serious. So to be honest I don’t know what we can expect, but we’re really ambitious and we don’t have a roof. We always want to become better.”
Interview arrangement courtesy of Submerge, India’s leading dance music portal.

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Mexicans buy fake cellphones to hand over in muggings

In this May 15, 2019 photo, Axel, a vendor at an indoor electronics market, shows his dummy mobile phones which people buy in the case they are mugged and have to hand over their phones, in Mexico City. (AP)
Updated 27 min 3 sec ago
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Mexicans buy fake cellphones to hand over in muggings

  • The government of the eastern borough of Ixtapalpa — one of the city’s biggest and poorest precincts — launched a program this week to have police ride the buses to prevent robberies

MEXICO CITY: Armed robberies have gotten so common aboard buses in Mexico City that commuters have come up with a clever if disheartening solution: Many are buying fake cellphones, to hand over to thieves instead of their real smartphones.
Costing 300 to 500 pesos apiece — the equivalent of $15 to $25 — the “dummies” are sophisticated fakes: They have a startup screen and bodies that are dead ringers for the originals, and inside there is a piece of metal to give the phone the heft of the real article.
That comes in handy when trying to fool trigger-happy bandits who regularly attack the buses, big and small, that ferry people from the poorer outlying suburbs to jobs in the city center.
The scene is repeated over and over again, courtesy of the cameras that many buses now carry that record the assaults, often late at night or in the early morning: Sleepy passengers are seen bouncing along in the jitneys when one or two of the men aboard suddenly pull masks over their faces. One will pull out a gun while his accomplice passes down the aisle, often with his own gun, demanding valuables.
“You’re all screwed now! Don’t move or you’re dead! Cellphones and wallets!” barks a thief in one recent video. Time and again, those who resist or refuse are hit in the head with a pistol, or simply shot and left to bleed on the floor of the bus.
Martha Patricia Rociles Estrada, a schoolteacher from the low-income suburb of Nezahualcoyotl, was robbed herself. Now, she says, most city residents make their daily commutes in fear. “Getting on public transportation is now a risk,” Rociles Estrada said. “You get on, but you never know if you’re going to return.”
“Now you have to be careful to carry money, because if you don’t, the thieves get angry and you run the risk that they’ll shoot you if you’re not carrying money.”
There were an average of 70 reported violent muggings every day in Mexico City in the first four months of 2019. About two-thirds were committed against pedestrians, with the rest split almost evenly between bus passengers and assaults on motorists stopped at lights or caught in traffic jams. Between 2017 and 2018, such assaults rose by about 22 percent.
But when Rociles Estrada was robbed at gunpoint several years ago, most people weren’t carrying costly smartphones around with them.
“They just took whatever I had of value, my change purse, that was all,” she recalled
The advent of smartphones changed all that. Now, many people carry a device worth hundreds of dollars in their pocket, and one that may also hold their bank or credit card information.
That’s where “dummy” vendors like Axel come in. Axel says he sells three or four dummy phones a week out of his stall in a downtown electronics marketplace, next door to a colonial college building that dates to 1767.
Axel, who asked his full name not be used for fear police would accuse him of selling fake merchandise, said all of his customers know they are buying fakes.
“It’s useful for robberies, the large number of muggings happening in Mexico City,” said Axel. “They say ‘hand over your cellphone, give me everything’, and people know now they have to hand over the phone quick, in a matter of seconds, so they hand over these phones and often the thieves don’t realize it.”
But Axel admits the victim would be in trouble if a thief caught them handing over a “dummy” phone.
“Obviously there are problems, because if the criminals search it or find out ... there is going to be a problem.”
Because of that, some try a different strategy, spending a little more to buy a cheap but real second phone.
Gloria, who works at her own stall at another market across the street in a converted art-deco movie house, said the dummy trade started about 14 years ago, but for different reasons: Phone shops would buy dummies for their exhibition cases to protect against another type of crime, the so-called “sledgehammer crews” who can clear out a jewelry or electronics store in seconds by breaking windows.
“Generally, the dummy is for a showcase, for people who sell real cellphones,” Gloria explained. “Dummies have been sold here for about 14 years, for use in showcases, but nowadays people are buying them to protect their own cellphones.”
Gloria sells an iPhone dummy for 300 pesos ($15), that would save a victim the 18,000 pesos ($900) a real iPhone would cost here.
“In most cases, people want to avoid getting their cellphone stolen, but also their data,” says Gloria, who also asked her last name not be used.
The paranoia about assaults and muggings has been amplified by the fact that so many of the robberies are now videotaped by surveillance cameras on public buses. The tapes are often shown on news programs, instilling terror in people.
The government of the eastern borough of Ixtapalpa — one of the city’s biggest and poorest precincts — launched a program this week to have police ride the buses to prevent robberies. But even as the program started up with fanfare and media photo ops, some residents were skeptical.
Oscar Armenda, a transportation worker who was riding a bus in Iztapalapa around midday as police started climbing aboard, said, “This is good in a way, but in a way it’s not.”
“They should do this at the time of day when it’s needed, at night, not now,” Armenda said.