Hassan Khan

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Hassan Khan

Work from his oeuvre.

“Is it possible to isolate, extract and hold up for inspection the essence of a culture? In a city like Cairo, teeming with endlessly competing stories and voices, any attempt to tease out the core threads of its cultural identity is almost certainly doomed to sloppy generalization or scattergun biographical anecdotalism. Egyptian artist Hassan Khan is all too aware of this dilemma, as he journeys in his work back and forth between the individual and the communal, and the revealed and the hidden.

As the largest city in Africa and the centre of the Arab world, Cairo’s population is estimated at somewhere between 16 and 25 million, depending on whether you include the city’s millions of homeless and undocumented citizens. This overcrowding forces people onto the streets, where daily life is led with a necessarily casual regard for the distinction between public and private. The loudness, theatricality and energy that such an existence demands are reflected in Shaabi, a popular form of street music that is as impassioned as it is generic. In his 2005 work DOM-TAK-TAK-DOM-TAK Khan found six recordings of Shaabi standards, analysed and re-recorded their rhythms with a Shaabi percussion section and then employed virtuoso street musicians to improvise separately, withouthearing one another, over the recorded beats. He then mixed the independently performed tracks together, producing six hybrid instrumental masters that, while built from subjective interpretations, actually sketched out a reductive schema of the genre that set the clichés of spontaneous personal expression and predetermined cultural momentum against one another.” – Frieze

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