A conversation with Ma3Azef, one of the few active Arabic-speaking music publications

Curious about how a whole year under the pandemic conditions have been affecting them, we reached out to a number of editors from various music publications based in different parts of the world, and asked them to share their different experiences, approaches, feelings. Their answers provided us with some good insight and more good questions to think about. 

Here is Ammar Mnla Hasan, the executive editor at Ma3azef, an online music magazine and internet radio centered in Tunis, Cairo and Ramallah started in 2012, answering us below.

It’s been a whole year under the pandemic conditions. How has your work been affected?

Early in 2020, we were preparing to move to Tunis and open Ma3azef’s first physical office, after we operated online for the past 8 years. This office was also meant to host the main studio for Ma3azef’s newly launched online radio, alongside two other studios in Cairo and Ramallah. These plans were put on hold due to the pandemic, and we are yet to be able to work together under one roof.

Nevertheless, the restrictions of the pandemic allowed us to see our long-planned radio come to life. It was also a chance to test the resilience of our operation as an independent alternative online media in the region.

How has it affected your approach to music in general?

Travel restrictions and lockdowns made us dig deeper into more obscure parts of the internet. We discovered new exciting record labels (AVANT!, Seagrave, Hypermedium, [a+w]) and launched a vibrant Premieres section. We’re also excited to have an audience now in regions like Eastern Europe, where readers would browse the website searching for hidden gems or using Google Translate to go through some premieres.

In addition, we produced online writing courses and technical tutorials that speak to tens of thousands of youngsters learning music production online in the region. We also co-curated streams and documentaries with partners from around the globe.

“Our main motivation is to produce critical content that is profoundly Arab, whether in terms of language, style or discourse.”

What is your main motivation at Ma3azef now?

When Ma3azef was launched back in 2012, we were picking up a long lost tradition of accessible critical writing on music in the region, and we remain today one of a few active Arabic-speaking music publications. Our main motivation is to produce critical content that is profoundly Arab, whether in terms of language, style or discourse. The ideal Ma3azef review would not translate well to a different language / culture. At the same time, it is important to us to be an active part of the ongoing global conversation on music journalism.

Besides the pandemic, what other key changes had effect on you during this time?

We started thinking about the project when the Arab revolutions kicked off in 2011, and ever since then, political turmoil has been the standard condition we’re in. In the editorial room, we’ve always wanted to address political issues in a challenging and meaningful manner, which is not necessarily always easily classifiable. We don’t feel it is enough to merely state which side one is on, but to actually question givens and propose new ideas outside the binaries that dominate politics.

This interview is originally published in Turkish in Bant Mag. No: 74, our special music issue.