It is only after finishing the production of a single, EP or album that the hardest part comes in: choosing a record label. This is not as easy a task as it might seem, and small producers often get their hopes up and start sending their tracks to leading labels that their favourite artists are signed to. That might not be the best option, as the scene is more competitive than ever, and the bigger the label the more challenging it will be to get signed. However, when it comes to the ‘underground’, the music speaks for itself. This is why a small label in your hometown/region may be more beneficial than other big international ones, because of the family feeling it gives. Another thing is making sure to send the right track to the label that most fits your sound.

 

From the most obscure to the most prominent sounds, record labels are based everywhere in the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. We compiled a list that gathers some of the region’s best dance music record labels for the producers who feel lost, and the DJs who want to dig deeper. While some are brand new operations with less than a year in the game, and some others have been shaping the regional sound for a time now, they all deliver world class quality music.

 

Ark To Ashes [Dubai, UAE] - Dub

Shadi Megallaa is a name you might be familiar with if you have any experience with Dubai nightlife. Not only does he own the only record store there, but also one of the most influential record labels, Ark To Ashes. His taste is what makes his label unique, as dub is a somewhat broad term that sometimes means house and other times means a form of reggae. “Ark to Ashes is inspired by the madman/genius known as Lee 'Scratch' Perry. In 1979 Scratch burnt down his beloved Black Ark studio in Kingston, Jamaica to rid himself of the negative energies surrounding it. Every once in a while we must also burn down our own Arks in pursuit of a more positive existence. The label aims to bring back the spirit of the Black Ark and bring it back to life.”

Fantôme De Nuit Records [Beirut, Lebanon] - House, Disco

One of the most mature-sounding of the lot. The label is owned and run by a staple of electronic music in Beirut: Nabih Esta AKA Nesta. Their digital and 12” format releases have featured some of the region’s tastemakers, such as Lebanese artists 3lias, Rolbac and Nesta himself, Egypt’s Adham Zahran and Morocco’s Amine K. The common characteristic shared by this roster is their tip top elegant sound that gets as dreamy and dusty as it gets rumbly and club friendly. Their music was supported by the likes of Laurent Garnier, Damian Lazarus, Horse Meat Disco and James Dexter to name a few.

Feedasoul Records [Byblos, Lebanon] - House

Owned by two Lebanese DJs/producers, MAYHM and Patch, Feedasoul’s aim is clear: to feed your soul through nostalgic house music that combines acid sounds, jazzy chords and syncopated drum grooves. The label’s catalogue encompasses regional artists as well as international talents who contribute in the growth of the Middle Eastern scene, from Germany’s Etur Usheo and Paralog to Lebanese Eli Atala and Rolbac.

Artesian Sounds [Izmir/London] - House, Lo-Fi

Based between Izmir and London, and owned by Aleksandir and Emre Can Swim, Artesian releases music strongly inspired by the rising lo-fi movement that is led by the likes of DJ Boring and Mall Grab. Their first and only EP featured rising English house/lo-fi artist Harrison BDP. Although this sound has been abused a little in the past year, we think Artesian has the potential to release some of its finest cuts. Highly recommended for producers embracing the old sound.

BMIDIR Records [Saudi Arabia] - House, Minimal, Jazz

Electronic music in Saudi Arabia? Yes. BMIDIR is the only Saudi record label we know of, but it’s a good start for a country yet to establish a thriving music scene. The surprising thing about it is the aesthetic of the music it releases, as it is not a newbie deep house record label, but one that has developed a very mature sound that is groovy, jazzy and subtle - no over exaggerated sounds, all elegant. BMIDIR is still new, with only one year in the business it has succeeded in collecting a nice catalogue of releases, including Saudi Gy Bantu and Egyptian producer Adham Zahran.

ROIT [Istanbul, Tukey] - House, Tech House

ROIT is a digital/vinyl record label out of Istanbul that offers world class house music that sometimes drifts towards elegant tech/deep house. With nearly five years of experience, the label has reached several milestones, achievements that earned them the support of house veterans Leftwing & Kody several times. Check out their dirty raw beats.

Granular Music [Dubai, UAE] - Deep House

This one is for deep house fanatics who love getting lost in shimmery emotional pads and chord progressions. Based in Dubai, the label launched in 2015, and artists Mohamed Sadek and QWRK have since maintained a steady release schedule.

Shagara Records [Cairo/Berlin] - Deep House

Shagara (meaning 'tree' in Arabic) is Cairo’s newborn record label. With less than a year in the game we could say it is considered strong. Founded by Sharshar, Shunus and Berlin’s Nerubic, their aim is to release quality music from established and emerging talents. They already released two EPs by Nerubic, Shunus and Sharshar. Other than that, they commit to planting a tree for every copy of a song they sell. So if you love your planet, support Shagara.

Besworx [Cairo/Dubai] - Deep House, Tech House, House

Founded by Cairene DJs and producers Mohey and Slim Nasr, Besworx is Cairo’s biggest electronic music record label to date. Their aim is to pick up high quality releases that would shake a dance floor. For those who don’t know, Bes was an ancient Egyptian dwarf god and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing, so it makes sense that their music is made with the dancefloor in mind. Their catalogue features a talented roster of local producers like The Meteors Project, Chiati and Richard R, that were supported by some heavyweights of the industry including Undercatt and Nick Warren. Other than the label, they host a label showcase night in Cairo that features their artists.

Shibiza Recordings [Iran] - Tech House

Shibiza’s releases always find their way to the top of the charts with several entries in the top 100, which reflects the quality of their releases. Founded in 2012 by DJ Ferry, the label is unique in that it’s based in Tehran. Its roster is more international than local, which is because of the limited number of producers in Iran. If you’re a tech house producer, this is certainly a go to.

Superstitious [Doha, Qatar] - Tech House

Founded in 2013 by Qatar’s top DJ Faraj M Alkuwari, Superstitious releases top quality tech house music that was supported by veterans in this field like Sam Divine, Marco Carola, Richie Hawtin, Sam Paganini and Riva Starr. Their roster is a mixture between local talent (Faraj himself) and Spanish artists. If you’re into techy shakhla3a, let Superstitious shakla3 you.

L’enfant Térrible Records [Cairo/Montreal] - Downtempo

Based in Montreal, the Egyptian duo In2Deep have been making waves lately in the downtempo house music realm. Their imprint L’enfant Térrible has hosted releases from some big name such as YokoO and Gab Rhome. Their release and artist catalogue keeps growing, as bigger and bigger artists such as Dixon, Laurent Garnier and Jakob Seidensticker chart their music. Soon enough we expect them to welcome a raw sound on their label, as they’re making a shift towards dub and house music.

Shahr Farang [Iran] - Minimal, Techno

As much as Iran may seem an obscure country when it comes to electronic music, there is a lot going on there, with an obscure sound of minimal and techno presented by Shahr Farang, and possibly influenced by the country’s political state. There is no concrete info or evidence about who owns the label or runs it, possibly because of the fear to get in trouble if their identity goes public, but their biggest artist is Ahu, a minimal and ambient wizard. Their music is pressed to vinyl, then distributed by Juno UK, dd Berlin and Subwax.

Hypnotic LTD [Beirut, Lebanon] - Techno

The 12” dedicated record label from Lebanon has only one quality EP on their catalogue by German producer Weisses Licht. Although they’re very new to the game, their debut techno EP is promising. We can’t wait to see what else they have in store!

Casa Voyager [Casablanca, Morocco] - Electro, Breakbeat

Named after Casablanca’s railway station, Casa Voyager’s releases are the kind to take you on diverse trips. Their artist kollektive comes from around the globe offering quality electro and breakbeats music that is a bit unusual for the region. The presence of such a label is beneficial for people who listen to electronic music as it definitely will open their mind to new sounds and aesthetics. Casa Voyager release their music on digital and 12” formats.

Cosmo Records [Casablanca, Morocco] - Minimal, House, Techno

Cosmo records is one of the very few regional labels to sign tracks from globally established artists such as Cab Drivers and Margaret Dygas. Local producers also take a big chunk of their roster. The sound they are pushing is a fusion between minimal and techno and psychedelicized eastern sounds to incorporate a magical element. Highly recommended.

Tikita [Casablanca, Morocco] - Techno

Dark, spacey, deep and fast is the best combination of words to describe Tikita’s sonic direction. The 12” record label only has European artists in their roster, which can be an opportunity for regional artists to join.

Jeton Records [Istanbul, Turkey] - Techno

Jeton has been operating for almost 10 years now. Founded by Ferhat Albayrak, one of Turkey’s prominent techno DJs, the label’s vision is to get quality underground releases that narrate a story, and make them see the dawn of light. They are also throwing their own showcases in Istanbul, showcasing their roster’s taste that is straight to the face techno music. Their releases are techno club tools by a mixture of local, regional and international artists.

VENT [Ankara, Turkey] - Leftfield, Noise, Techno

Established in 2004, VENT has been serving the community of music producers that think outside the 4/4 realm. Although they feature some contemporary techno tracks, most of their releases are based on highly processed soundscapes. They release 12” only music.

Avosync [Istanbul, Turkey] - Ambient, Techno

This new born record label with only a year of operation has been consistent with their release schedule, releasing around 9 EPs already. Their sound is spacey, ethereal and dark and can range from ambient to techno - two genres that share a lot. Not only they are limited to being a record label, but Avosync also has a visual collective to give an ultimate audiovisual experience.

KitchenSync Records [Dubai, UAE] - Techno

This newly established label is after some serious techno, backed by a strong team of regional and international artists including Adam Rahman, Modrac and Seventh Sea. Their sound is raw and their release schedule is more or less consistent.

Boogie Box [Abu Dhabi, UAE] - Techno, House

Launched by Hassan Alwan in 2016, Boogie Box has always had the aim to promote quality music through their record label and party series. The sound offered by its artists ranges from anywhere between house and techno, and their releases are often in both digital and vinyl formats. If you sign to this one, you are guaranteed good artwork for your track too.

Bedouin Records [Dubai, UAE] - Techno, IDM

The darkest in the list. Distorted kicks and drums are a main aesthetic in Bedouin’s catalogue. The Dubai based label has been in the game for three years releasing one dark EP after the other, in both digital and vinyl formats.

VL Records [Beirut, Lebanon] - Future Bass, TripHop, Deep House

Vibe Lebanon dates back to 1998 to when it was only a radio station hoping to promote quality music from around the globe. Now it is a full fledged record label with a release catalogue that is so diverse that it ranges from slightly mainstream dubstep, future bass and trip hop to more underground deep house and techno. They feature regional as well as international musicians putting their genre aside and focusing on the music.

264 [Dubai, UAE] - Footwork, Trap

The only trap/footwork label on the list. Hailing from Dubai, the 264 person crew have an aim of building a community, a family. They have been almost 2 years in the game releasing quality music, outside of your average house and techno. Their roster gathers regional and international artists from around UAE, Tunis and France.

V.I.V. [Morocco/France] - Footwork, IDM, Glitch
Formed almost a year ago by four Moroccan friends, V.I.V. is a record label and a collective with an aim to destroy the planet. Other than that, they would like to promote alternative and experimental sounds in Morocco, and develop the music scene. Their catalogue is way far from your average 4/4 house and techno, so unless you feel you're a sound design madman, this might not be your best bet! That said, they have said they're open to expanding the breadth of their genres, as they're just starting out.
 
Main image shows Sherry's Vinyl shop in Cairo.