A staccato of scratchy sounds and droning two-note melodies came out from the two laptops of Yara Mekawie and Ola Saad onstage, comprising an abstract minimalist electronica that was the first act of the 100 Live Electronic Music Festival on Thursday night.
The duo was followed by Hassan Khan and Neobyrd, among others who offer more complex sound with beats underlying the melodious output. But as Mekawie and Saad explain, their performance isn’t about making music.
“It’s about the sound and trying to convey colors through it,” Saad told Al-Masry Al-Youm. Mekawie concurred, adding, “When you hear what we do, the intent is for you to see light.”
That’s why as a duo they call themselves RGB, after the color model in which combinations of red, green and blue are mixed to make any other color – building blocks, like the elemental sounds, the duo layer onto each other as they perform.
“Our music is very conceptual. It sends a human message about colors through sound,” Mekawie says.
They played at last year’s 100 Live festival but as separate performers. “We do different things,” says Mekawie, “But we decided to combine these differences into one set this time around.”
As audio and video artists, Mekawie and Saad make conceptual video art with electronic music soundtracks. They mix sounds they record from their surroundings with electronic sounds from their computers, creating a sonic landscape they feel conveys their concept of visualizing colors by listening. They add the sounds bit by bit in a live setting, working in tandem, though each is on her own laptop. In concept, their work evokes Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s “sonic landscapes” pioneered in the 1970s, but is more minimalist, less textured.
The duo cites late artist and musician Ahmed Basiouny as the inspiration for their foray into experimental music. Among his many artistic endeavors was combining digital music with visual recordings. The 32-year-old father of two died on 28 January from bullet wounds he sustained during the protests and is one of the more recognizable faces of the revolution’s martyrs. Graffiti portraits of Basiouny can be found on the Nile Street in Agouza near the Balloon Theater.
Mekawie and Saad are quick to dismiss the notion that there is any relevance to them being the only females on the festival roster, and in the wider electronic music scene.
“No one focuses on this at all,” says Mekawie, “and no one is supposed to. The important thing is what we do”. Saad adds, “It’s quite irrelevant, it’s never come up.” The 100 Live Festival continues today at Rawabet Theater, Downtown, and will feature performances by Maurice Louca and Telepoetic, among others.