Masters Of This Land is a post-rock/electronica duo from Cairo (closely linked to another act Go! Save The Hostages!). The two members, Amir and Youssef use guitar, bass, synth, a drum machine and a sampler to create relaxing downtempo music.
An interesting bent to this band is that they use their music to satirize the Egyptian government, as well as current nationalist movements around the world (Trump and Brexit were two examples that Amir offered). I can’t pretend that I am aware of the current situation in Egypt, but Amir has filled me in on some recent history, mentioning a 2013 Military coup following from rule by a Muslim Brotherhood.
This political theme is surprising. The imagery of aggression and power contrasts sharply against the mild downtempo music.
On one hand we see some strong satire of the current regime. The Masters Of This Land eagle symbol found on the album cover is based on the Roman SPQR eagle, a symbol of domination. The EP was released on the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, when the military first took control. Amir shared that the band name was taken from a quote by a recent post-coup Justice Minister who was a former judge. Translated, what he said was that the judges were “masters of this land, and everyone else are slaves” (reference). The band name, symbol and release date are all pointed attacks on the government through ironic mimicry – an answer to the government’s “brain-melting propaganda”, as Amir put it.
One the other hand we have the wonderful music, which doesn’t invoke thoughts of defiance in the slightest.
Tranquil notes play over rigid electronic patterns. Glitchy beats coincide with serene swells. Acoustic and electronic marry and together they create sounds of peace.
Some of the song names are interesting. “C_LORRI”, full of spacey, sci-fi noises, is named after the file name of the first photo of Pluto that the New Horizons probe sent back to earth. “This She-Wolf Is A Gift To My Kinsmen”, with its music box intro, ethereal coos (possibly an e-bow?) clucky synth parts, was the first recorded sentence in (Old) English, written in Anglo-Saxon runes. “Factory 221” was the codename of the area where the Chinese developed atomic weapons in the 50s/60s.
Writing an EP full of relaxing electronic music is an unusual method of protest, but still something I can endorse. I’m a fan of political music, and have always loved the punk ethos of using music as a vehicle to stand up against injustice. And in a weird way it has worked. OK, so this short EP isn’t going to single-handedly overthrow any corrupt governments, but it has at least made me more aware of what is going on in Egypt.
I don’t wish for any of this to be misconstrued as racist. As I said before, I am largely ignorant to the happenings of the various Arab nations throughout recent years. But I do feel compelled to share when I hear stories of rebelling against oppression and injustice.
Politics aside, Masters Of This Land features some great music, perfect for relaxing to. Instrumental projects are open to interpretation, but this one features some fascinating content if you choose to delve deep. If not, never mind, the music stands up on its own as both calming and interesting.
Masters Of This Land links: