Many musical acts have come onto the Egyptian music scene during the past year. Very few, though, have gained popularity due to their complete disassociation from the Egyptian revolution, and even fewer have been able to convey the absurd amount of fun and relief that making music and art can be.
In 2012, when the art of popular music has been reduced to little more than rehashes of exhausted ideals, and when being postmodern no longer means much, Zizo Kambutar (Zizo Computer) has managed to make a name for itself.
Globally, what Zizo Kambutar does is nothing novel: using tacky melodies and mock music videos to portray a familiar personality that ironically makes fun of popular/celebrity culture in the process. The video “Ana Zizo” (“I’m Zizo”) serves as the duo’s introductory manifesto. Locally, however, it seems to have struck a novel chord.
They kind of make me think of a less ambitious, less polished Egyptian MGMT, particularly due to the joke being lost on a lot of online viewers.
I’d be hard pressed, though, to say their following has too much to do with the quality of the music or videos individually, but more with their good execution of the overall package in creating the Zizo Kambutar persona.
Upon meeting Zizo Kambutar, however, it was, amusingly, often hard to separate fiction from reality. The duo refused to break character for the entire interview, going on to profusely explain their story in a heavy Egyptian accent: how Zizo, the Egyptian romantic poet, had been haplessly reciting his poems in local coffee shops for years while supporting himself as a school bus driver. One fateful day, however, Kambutar, the Egyptian hacker — who equates his computer keyboard prowess to playing “al-biano” (the piano) — overheard one of Zizo’s poems and reportedly ordered the ambitious Zizo to quit his job and confront his destiny as an artist.
However, after insisting that the duo break character during a phone call, another story was revealed the next day.
This story finds two young men, who required that their names not be revealed — one of whom is behind a successful electronic music act in Cairo — who are overtly bored with the hackneyed nature of Egyptian popular music, the characters it breeds and the audiences that support them, and who are just looking to refute the whole ordeal while having a good time in the process.
“Popular Egyptian artists take themselves and what they do so ridiculously seriously,” says Kambutar, the skinnier of the two. “If you look at the billboards, the song content, etc., it’s all so meaningless and self-indulgent,” says Zizo. “Everyone knows that, but we just wanted to have some fun with it and hold up a mirror.”
Whatever it is though, it seems to have worked. Zizo Kambutar have so far only released three songs, with accompanying videos on YouTube, but the reactions and comments confirm their views. The comments are extremely varied, which, according to the duo, is a very welcomed position to be in.
One user exclaims how Egyptian music has long encouraged impious behavior in the region, and how he hopes the new Egypt will put an end to it once and for all. Others aggressively try to argue their own musical superiority.
Others, while not loving them, defend the duo, often trying to explain that “the video is not very good but the music is well played,” or that “my friend knows Kambutar and he’s actually really smart.”
Favorable reviewers, though, include one South Korean male who posts a YouTube video professing his love for the project. Others are girls wanting to marry Zizo, guys confessing how they broke up with their girlfriends because they didn’t understand it, or another fan saying how Zizo Kambutar makes the revolution bearable by “creating music that makes fun of the artists who are making a career out of milking it.”
At the end of last year, Zizo Kambutar came in second place in an online GAP Modeling Competition after fans entered their names and voted viciously. The duo received clothes and LE1000 in gift vouchers.
Also, last summer, after performing live at Al-Azhar Park, they recounted stories of how families and children lined up after the show to take photos and get autographs, which can be seen on their Facebook page. The duo couldn’t understand the motivation.
“It’s definitely weird, but funny,” says Kambutar.
Although Zizo Kambutar was never intended to be a serious project, they say that people’s reactions have made them consider seeing how far it might go. They might release an album this year, with shows that feature a full, oversized band playing Egyptian instruments to support them.
Their new song, “El Koshary,” is expected to be released online in the coming weeks, and they’ve already completed a handful of others.