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moktar’s "All Like That" finds innovation in tradition

31 May 2023, 12:00 | Written by Joe Webb

Traditional Arabic instrumentation cascades over thumping breakbeat in the excellent new single "All Like That" from exciting Egyptian-Australian producer, moktar.

Egyptian-Australian producer moktar exemplifies dance music’s unrivalled capacity for connection in a myriad of dynamic and unexpected ways. Aside from precise, impactful percussion and often sparse, fidgety arrangements, his soundscapes are characterised by the incorporation of Egyptian and Arabic instrumentation.

Previous standout tunes "Immigrant" and "Silk" — released on Mall Grab’s Steel City Dance Discs label — feature bustling hand percussion, mizmar (an oboe-like instrument), and vocal samples. His latest release "All Like That" is a marked attempt to “take things up a notch”, and incorporates Egyptian and Arabic phrases to reflect pride in his heritage.

“I’ve always wanted to incorporate words like ‘Habibi’, which means love, and ‘Alhamdulillah’, which translates to ‘praise to God’, that you would usually use when something good happens,” moktar explains. “Both are keywords in my culture and are a big part of my desire to share them in my new music.”

Introduced at early doors, these phrases jump around the piece in a clubby, pitch- and formant-shifted tone that evokes a charming excitement and confidence. Their inclusion in a track so obviously rooted in the edgy, unrelenting sounds of breakbeat and techno is a clever manipulation of artistic form that supports moktar’s wider artistic vision — liberating himself from the racial discrimination he faced as an Egyptian growing up in Australia, and using his work to liberate and connect to others facing similar injustice.

It is a testament to the clarity of moktar’s artistic voice that "All Like That" really does resemble a fusion of stylings. Throughout, there’s more than a generous helping of tabla drums and other hand percussion, jolting about in adventurous syncopated flourishes. He pitch-shifts a mijwiz — a traditional Egyptian reed instrument comprising two bamboo pipes that’s sometimes referred to as a ‘double clarinet’ — to imitate a siren, launching an awesome breaks section about halfway through that’s probably the heaviest section of the track. The creative peak comes when he modulates a spoken vocal sample to replicate a sitar sound, a disarming sleight of hand that epitomises both his micro-scale production credentials and his broader artistic project.

Yet there’s no need to type moktar as merely a producer who uses interesting instruments: judged by technical prowess and straightforward dance-ability, "All Like That" is really high calibre. Knotty hi-hats thread through dubby bass and jagged snares, while the synths are warm and radiant. While the lead vocal sample and chord sequence are definitely ‘clubbier’ than much of his previous work, there’s no loss of innovation, just a potentially broader appeal.

"All Like That" is a tune that exists somewhere between the local and the global, the East and the West, the insulation of the studio and the openness of the rave. And along with his new event concept QÄRÄE on the horizon, and recent B2Bs with Bradley Zero and Mr Scruff, it’s a tune that signifies that moktar’s journey as a figurehead of this uniquely global dance culture is only just beginning.

"All Like That" is out now. Find moktar on Instagram.

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