2016-10-27 22:42:30date was

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  • [Through the Looking Glass] Funk ‘n’ Pop: A Social Movement in the Making


    In the first entry of a new column, M. Greens looks at Nacelle’s bi-weekly festival, Funk ‘n’ Pop, proposing that this is not your typical Cairo event – but a sign and potential of evolution in public and communal expression.’Through the Looking Glass’ will see the writer scrutinise various topics, trends and phenomena in Cairo through a different, more analytical viewpoint – or as she likes to put it, ‘experiencing ideas from new perspectives.’

    As I considered what contemporary social-phenomenon in Cairo would make for an interesting article, Funk ‘n’ Pop was the first option that came to mind. In 2013, when 3al Ganoob held their first 3-day festival in Marsa Alam, the beginnings of a new event-species emerged in Egypt; one that was influenced by the awe-inspiring seaside experience and humbling, collective Bedouin culture of our treasured Sinai Peninsula.

    Building on the theme of combining nature, music, and a collective lifestyle, festivals such as Cloud 9 and Oshtoora have sprouted over the past three years. However, attending such events required more time, money and effort than a person could give on a consistent basis, until Nacelle held held their first Funk ‘n’ Pop event last October.  For the first time, city-folk have the space to enjoy the communal vibes and good sounds on a biweekly basis without having to pay a fortune, miss work or worry about an 8-to-12-hour drive; a privilege that has potential to yield social change.

    12717109_587092764787798_1841659793_n(Photo courtesy of Nacelle on Instagram)

    While the event itself already provides so much for discussion, I found myself eager to refine the focus of my analysis to just the audience it attracts, in other words, a kind of anthropological observation of Funk ‘n’ Pop goers as a part of a newfound social movement. To make matters more intriguing, after attending the event a couple of times and allowing myself to fully soak in the atmosphere on the ‘Beanbag Island’ as I like to call it, I realised that this is, in a way, as introspective and ‘subjective’ an article as it is analytical and ‘objective’ since I am just as much of an audience member as any other. For that reason, I feel it is important to highlight exactly what I aim to discuss in the paragraphs to come: rather than discussing the event directly, which would lead to plenty of well-deserved yet too predictable praise, I am instead proposing that this event is more than just a group of people looking to have fun; it might be Cairo’s hippest counter-cultural movement yet.

    To those who have never been to Funk ‘n’ Pop, here is how I would briefly describe it: imagine yourself on an island, or at the Royal Mohammed Aly Club specifically if you’re familiar with it, surrounded by the longest river on the planet, our Nile, in the middle of a beautiful garden that is filled with joyful faces and enjoyable music perpetually playing in the background. The space gets so crowded as what seems like thousands of people diverge, emerge and converge together, all dressed with more funk than I’ve seen in all five years I’ve lived in Egypt; it may as well be one of the most populated frequently reoccurring social events that Cairo has ever seen.

    12783475_1571180263197739_1411895071_n(Photo courtesy of Nacelle on Instagram)

    Everyone uses the same ‘Funk ‘n’ Pop debit cards’ to purchase anything at the event, which can be recharged and reused every time at ‘Your Bank’, situated quite conveniently in the middle of the whimsical grassy field that is lined by orange, purple, and pink lit trees. Recently, the addition of a ‘silent disco’, as well as the impromptu drum circle that started around a bonfire by performers and audiences alike, made it so that one could attend three different concerts simultaneously. In short, it might be the closest thing to paradise in Cairo, available to everyone, as long as they can afford the entrance fee of course, which restricts the audience demographically to a specific socio-economic class. That being said, who is this financially capable audience that such an elaborate haven caters to?

    Speaking to Ahmed Shawkat, one of the organisers, I asked him what he thinks one reason might be for the event’s raging popularity to which he promptly replied, “nature.”

    12338990_1036115966418652_1828913598_n(Photo courtesy of Nacelle on Instagram)

    Indeed, it’s truly remarkable how liberating it feels to know that nothing stands in the way between you and the heavens, to inhale freshly photosynthesised oxygen straight from the neighbouring trees. It’s only fair, then, to say that the majority of us Funk ‘n’ Poppers are nature-enthusiasts, perhaps not to the extent of being labelled as tree-huggers, but at the very least enough to say that the open natural terrain is much appreciated to uncomfortable bar stools and claustrophobic dancefloors.

    However, if I had to choose one word to describe Funk ‘n’ Poppers it would be experimentalists. From my personal experience, the environment that is found on the island is that of openness and exploration. Whether these sentiments are reflected in fire dancing performances, collective percussion jamming, or even in the daring outfits that would otherwise be reserved for beach parties and music festivals, it’s clear that the audience is innately inclined towards creativity and expression – an inclination that flourishes in Funk ‘n’ Pop’s relaxed, tolerant, ‘über-chill’ environment.

    This is an audience that has finally found a local space to unleash their full potential as, to quote Karl Marx, “creative species-beings.” And while other adjectives (such as selfish and lazy) have been often proclaimed to be at the core of human instinct, I tend to agree with Marx and I believe Funk ‘n’ Pop could be considered proof that, when provided with a psycho-socially comfortable and stimulating environment, human beings naturally tend towards creativity and innovation. My hypothesis is that by having the opportunity for such an enlightening social event every other week, Cairo is experiencing what may turn out to be a new arts and culture movement whose foundation is based on the collective experience and freedom of expression and exploration. As volunteer and dedicated attendee Sara Enan puts it, “it’s an inclusive event in the sense that it brings everyone together regardless of what you’re into… combining friends who would enjoy a day out in the sun with others that want to party and dance by providing an accepting location that offers something for everyone in a judgement free zone.” And I quite agree.

    I believe that this communal, tolerant vibe, or even more so culture, along with its eclectic micro-population and their creative tendencies is a start of a new collective mentality in Cairo that promotes free expression and awareness to the importance of appreciating nature, the universe and the people you experience it with.

    By M. Greens