Mutamassik | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The recent riots in France, suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine, and the 9/11 aftermath are all harbingers of the Western nightmare wherein expansionist Islam threatens to turn Europe into the new Maghreb, which it failed to do a millennium ago. DJ Mutamassik, a longtime Brooklyn-based bringer of beats who now lives in Italy, musically represents this post-colonial reality, but instead of engaging in violence and conflict, the epic clash of modern and ancient civilizations unfolds on her new CD as a whirlwind of constructive cross-cultural creativity.


Mutamassik -- a.k.a. Giulia Loli -- is a graduate of Mount Lebanon High School who was interested in fringe musical forms from an early age. Living in the Big Apple for much of the '90s, she built upon the "illbient" electronica scene to hammer out a hybrid sound, merging drum and bass, dub and hip hop with the petrol-can rhythms and violin-dominated orchestras of her mother's Sa'aidi (south Egyptian) ancestors. Just to drive the point home, there's a photo of Loli as a young girl with her Egyptian family meeting Henry Kissinger, and one track features a rapper named 4th Pyramid proclaiming, "tell the womb of El-Faiyum peace for bearing me / Coptic my parents be."


However, Loli's emphatic identification with her roots, both visually and sonically, shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying the rhythmic compulsion which she purveys with ease, from the hard-as-nails 1997 productions of "M28" (a remix for Arto Lindsay) and "Raqs Sharqi Scratch" to newer tracks such as "High Alert A'ala Teta," where she collaborates with her husband, Morgan Craft, himself an improvising guitarist.


The title, Masri Mokassar, means "Broken Egyptian" and that's truly what this music is: breakbeats, breakcore, whatever term will make 'em flock to the most adventurous and forward-thinking dance floors, but done with a Middle Eastern flair by someone who's actually been there and back, unlike the recently deceased Bryn Jones (of pro-Arab electronica project Muslimgauze), who never left the British Isles. For this authentic summation of her first 10 years, one could tell her "shokran ya rab" (thanks a lot) for compiling her unique works -- and then hope that Mutamassik's next decade will be even more prophetic in staking out future by-products of rampant globalism.

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