'Islam Chipsy' Brings Egyptian Electro-Shaaby Music to Beirut

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Egyptian 'shaaby' (pop) music phenomenon Islam Chipsy has begun taking the indie electronic music scene by storm. From the streets of Cairo to international stages, his take on Egyptian wedding-pop, known locally as ‘mahraganat,’ (festival music) combines Arab beats with hardcore drumming and phrenetic electro keyboard melodies that sound like someone's old Nintendo gaming system has been possessed by a flamboyant Egyptian groomsman. Chipsy, however, is a self-taught virtuoso keyboardist and a wonder to watch live.

In December, Islam Chipsy played in Beirut at the Beirut & Beyond International Music Festival while touring in the Middle East and Europe, making stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and in various Scandinavian cities. The global appeal of his music perhaps comes from its proclivity towards all-out partying, however, his stop in Beirut was special.

“People [here] are excited to see us; they have received us well,” he said. “Being in this country is like seeing your brother who wants to know how you are doing. So you feel that you speak with each other through music, not with words.”


  1. B-roll of Metro al-Madina Concert Hall
  2. Islam Chipsy concert at Metro al-Madina
  3. B-roll of Islam Chipsy and his group at soundcheck
  4. B-roll of Islam Chipsy and his group on the streets of Hamra, Beirut
  5. ITW with Islam Chipsy
  6. ITW with Amani Semaan, Director of Beirut & Beyond Festival


  1. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: I started searching and experimenting for two years and without showing anyone what I was doing. A friend of mine put me on stage to DJ. It was very weird to have a keyboard on stage without a band. I started this technique as a kind of joke. In weddings people were very crazy. They would take their clothes off and dance. So I went along and used my technique. They responded very well and were on fire. I had a lot of work offers and I started to develop my technique, which became famous.
  2. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: It was in Al-Azhar Park in Cairo. We went on stage without doing any rehearsal. This was what got us here. We did a lot of concerts together and travelled very often.
  3. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: We all come from Imbaba in Giza and we met at weddings there. I used to meet Khalid and Islam quite often while DJ-ing. To put drums on stage with a DJ was also something new for them. So we started together and have been together till now.
  4. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: We don't rehearse. We live the mood at its moment. For the first track, I look at people’s faces and figure out what they need. It is like being a chameleon. I can adapt to the ambiance.
  5. soundbite (Arabic)
    Amani Semaan, Director, Beirut & Beyond Festival: The first time I heard Islam Chipsy was about nine months ago, in early 2014. I heard him on YouTube, not live. Even on YouTube, well… I was speechless. His music is very different. It is new and has a lot of energy. I could even feel this in the YouTube video. I realized what the band loves to do and what it was.
  6. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: This has nothing to do with coming from a certain area. It had to do with my personal ideas; what I wanted. Whenever I was asked ‘Why do you do this kind of work?’ I would say that I wish to travel around the world. I didn’t have any papers or anything else but it was a dream that I tried to realize and I succeeded, thanks be to God. When Islam and Khalid participated in this, this gave me more strength and energy and my music was renovated. We were able to create a lot of new music together. It was rather unusual – any band needs to have one set of drums, while the rest of the instruments would be tablah or tambourine, if it was an oriental band, or you could have a guitar. But to have a keyboard and two sets of drums and be able to accomplish something that a large band cannot was something very difficult to accomplish. It was a dream but we were able to realize it.
  7. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: We gave three shows in London. We also performed in Bristol and Newcastle. We have been to Sweden. We had two shows there, in Stockholm and Malmo. We’ve also been to Oslo in Norway. I would like to say that I could only feel at home here [in Beirut]. I swear to God that I’m not saying this only in front of you, because you’re from [Lebanon]. It is true.
  8. soundbite (Arabic)
    Amani Semaan, Director, Beirut & Beyond Festival: They have heard about him and they know there is something special about him. They want to watch him, especially since this kind of music does not exist in Beirut. Islam Chipsy started his career in weddings; he has performed professionally on stage only six or seven times. He only started his professional career effectively only now. Everyone is excited to see him, especially musicians. They are looking forward to discovering something new.
  9. soundbite (Arabic)
    Islam Chipsy: People [here] are excited to see us; they have received us well. They have not treated me only as a star – this is beside the point. They receive us like stars in any other place. But being in this country is like seeing your brother who wants to know how you are doing. So you feel that you want to talk about music with the people who meet you.