As I’ve said before, a schizophrenic out on a walk with his Tascam DR-05 is infinitely more interesting than a neurotic moping on his couch with an Epi Texan. You gotta get outta yer head and let the world create itself around you. Yo-yo around town, let Cairo guide you. The city pens something new daily, but yer too up and out to pay any attention. That’s the secret: yer the yo-yo and Cairo is flippin’ you around her fingers. Walk the dog around the world and up the elevator. Only when yer at the apocheir can you really see the whole place laid out as it actually is. Yeah, real heads know that the yo-yo is a state of mind and these two, Bishop and Byro, they’re real heads. They’re peregrine falcons who fell asleep on the bus.
You’d never believe it, but I’ve scored some high-level scuttlebutt! A genuine communique from out of the shadows of Sugar Street. I was directed to this geezer, baleful and billy-goateed, slurping down shrimp at a Chinese spot. After not a little bit of convincing, he pointed me to another geezer, and this next one to another. Before I knew it, I had criss-crossed Cairo a dozen times, kissing the feet of every streetside dignitary in town.
Anyway, I finally got to them in the middle of their rounds. Those wizened, cracktoothed boys, with radar antennae strapped to their domes, were wandering about and sorting through trash. They dragged me into an ahwa and all piled around the shisha. Between sips of tea and sips of smoke, I made my request; they nearly cackled themselves off their cushions. “Abdel Baqy Byro?” they sputtered and sprayed, misting me in sweet minty shai. “No such person around here!” Naguib, summoning all his reserve solemnity and sagacity, pinched his chin and disclosed: “Without a doubt, it’s a fake name, a pseudonym, a shield.”
And he was right. It wasn’t even a pen name, just a name for a pen.
There are social and political questions we can ask at this juncture, ones that go beyond authenticity as a purely aesthetic or performative value. The creation of this heteronym, presumably Cairene, could certainly be considered just another iteration of the tendency to repackage and repurpose the lived experiences of others as some exotic curio, for example. Even in its geographic/cultural specificity, even if we consider these representations to obtain within the contemporary mode of living in Cairo, the facelessness of the project only serves to submit the voices and performers within the piece to the homogenizing regime of Western media consumption. Moreover, his attempts at weaving his own work into the collage speak to a bizarre sense of dominance he has over the narratives being spun.
Would I consider this a craven attempt at authenticity? Maybe, but I also think it doesn’t matter all that much. I think he doesn’t even care about authenticity or how other people might define it. My inclination is to call it a complementary persona, a look in the mirror that reveals someone other than himself. A sounding board to reflect upon, a muse to cast admiration upon, a rival to beat upon.
Maybe he just needs an alternate personality to skulk his way through the city. A version of himself that can sit on trains and spy on football teams. It can be tough sometimes to get by unseen, and what he is trying to do benefits from a certain type of anonymity.
A record label? No, I don’t know anything about that. I’ll have to look into it.
God, it smells. This whole city is just a broiler for garbage.
Yeah, I know him. I practically taught him everything he knows. I taught him the secret to getting around town and the secret to surveil without limit. It’s easy. All you have to do is be the biggest weirdo in sight. Loosen up the wrists and limber up the legs. Make yourself flexible like melted plastic under the Cairo sun. Bug out your eyes and slink real low. Everyone that sees you has to not want anything to do with you. A real pariah, so not even a mugger would risk contracting your social disease.
If you can manage that, you can go anywhere and do anything. But, honestly, he’s a sneak, and I wouldn’t trust him. The last time I caught him, he was in the night market, moaning into a microphone with a shitty speaker at his hip. I don’t think he was even singing in any real language, but the tourists were just coursing coins into his hat.
Yeah, I wouldn’t trust him. He’s got the blood of poets on his hands, but, always with his wolfish grin, he just washes them invisible.
Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with this mess. On the whole, I think this entire record is unlistenable and without any redeeming qualities. Half of it sounds like it was recorded in the back of a U-Haul truck and the other half isn’t even music! It’s just people talking and street noise and stuff.
I don’t know if misters Bishop and Byro think their doing something cool or edgy with this album, but I can tell you that it does not work. From the lame raps with dumb autotuned vocals to the meandering go-nowhere guitar, the “music” on this record is slim and unsatisfying. And also, most of these lyrics are gross and some are downright offensive. I bet your moms would be ashamed of you two.
Actually, there definitely trying to be edgy. With the weird political stuff (messing around on your laptop while a news report plays in the background?? C’mon!) and cringey spoken word, it’s tough to take this release seriously in a world where we have artists like The C▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒, A▒ L▒▒▒▒▒▒▒, and R▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ putting out new music.
I really don’t think it’s fair to real music to even give this record a score, but since I have to, I’ll give it a
P.S. Oh, and for the record, to Bishop and Byro, I do write songs, thank you very much. And they’re a whole lot better than the half-baked garbage you put onto your album and try to sell to people for a crazy amount of money.
I have seen a malaise drown this poor city in recent years. The various political ruptures that have torn through the region, I believe, have left many mute and cloistered within the smallness of their own lives. It feels like listening to the same, degraded, sad song over and over, playing through the words and gestures of every soul crowded on the streets. Even the typically amiable men who crowd the coffee shops on break seem lethargic and without conviviality. A stultifying silence reigns.
Now, I must fully admit that I am not completely aware of the provenance of this music, but by descriptors and collected players, I think this is what music in Cairo must sound like today, in these times. These two gentlemen have provided for us an antidote with which to dispel the abulia that looms specter-like over the populace. It is ecstatic and free, moving with grace and humor from one passage to the next. Yes, it is, on occasion, a little coarse, but its brio is to be admired.
A finger on the pulse, indeed, it comes to us as a document of life in the daylight and beneath moon. I hear Cairo in the snatches of street and radio, all tempered by the unusual musical style of the duo. It is refreshing to hear the popular, though sometimes, and unfortunately, backwards-facing, sounds of Cairo repurposed toward something new and exciting.
Yes, this is the dithyramb of the people, the Cairene chorus. I would call it: Cairo écorché!
My mother listened to it and said I wasn’t allowed to.
Last night, several men reported to me that they saw him stealing out across the sands, a gravedigger’s toolkit strapped to his back. Now, we wake up to reports of an ancestral tomb prised open and thoroughly pilfered.
So far, our investigation has yielded little of use. It is clear he was using an assumed name during his stay in Cairo, one tied to a variety of suspect occurrences. We very much regret our lack of vigilance in this matter. However, there is one lead that we hope can bring this thief to justice. Left behind in the hotel room, it appears he forgot to take with him his copy of Baedeker’s Egypt (5th ed.) filled with notes on his criminal intentions.
We would urge all receiving this message to keep alert for this individual. In order to restore both property and dignity, it is imperative that he be found and turned over to the appropriate authorities. Before this becomes a distant episode, before he burns across the Maghreb and disappears into the lines of the Atlas, justice must be done.