Al Massrieen: Arabic funk via the essential Habibi Funk Records
Al Massrieen, this gem of a band, came onto my radar when I was introduced to Habibi Funk Records, a Berlin sub-label of Jakarta Records that specializes in reissuing Arabic funk and jazz music from the ’70s and ’80s. Al Massrieen was an Egyptian band that played groovy Arabic funk from 1977 until the group’s end in 1988.
The full release, titled ‘Habibi Funk 006: Modern Music,’ will be released online April 28th.
From Habibi Funk’s SoundCloud:
“[This] was one of the first bands I learned about once I discovered the tape format. They were really popular in Egypt in the 1970s and the more of their music I found on either tapes or Arabic pirate mp3 sites, the more I was becoming a fan. Only very few bands from the region can match the band’s versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the [band]. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt’s only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.”
Bahrain-born, UK-based multi-instrumentalist Yazz Ahmed, like Kamasi Washington in the United States, is reintroducing a new generation to modern jazz. Ahmed has worked with These New Puritans and Radiohead (she plays flugelhorn throughout ‘The King of Limbs’), and in her solo music, she combines her British and Arabic roots through jazz and electronic experimentation. Even if you’re not familiar or terribly interested in jazz, Ahmed’s music deserves your attention, and she’ll most likely make you second guess your thoughts on jazz.
From Ahmed’s Bandcamp bio:
“[Yazz Ahmed’s] new album ‘La Saboteuse’ [out May 12, 2017] is a deep exploration of both her British and Bahraini roots. Ably assisted by musicians including Lewis Wright on vibraphone, MOBO-winning new jazz kingpin Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet and Naadia Sherriff on Fender Rhodes keyboard, it’s composed of undulating rhythms, Middle Eastern melody and Yazz’s sonorous trumpet lines. The record sounds like the passage of a desert caravan, bathed in moonlight. The theme of ‘La Saboteuse’ is the sense of self-doubt that Yazz feels when she is creating, personified in a female saboteur, an anti-muse that spurs her into action.
‘La Saboteuse’ will be released in four chapters incrementally, unraveling the story, before the full version is available. Each chapter has its own cover, with beautiful illustrations by Bristol artist Sophie Bass.”
Ghoula: techno glitchiness meets natural North African instrumentation
Shouka is a French/Tunisian independent music label. Ghoula, who is on Shouka, is a Tunisian musician and producer who makes wonderful music that combines a sort of modern techno glitchiness with natural North African instrumentation.
From Ghoula’s bio on his website:
“This first solo album was mainly born as a result of Ghoula’s great passion for old North African vinyls. He would dig up vinyls from flea markets and the old Tunisian medinas, and then play various instruments over the original music. Gradually, he started sampling, to exhibit short particular sounds, which he used like bricks to build a brand new music genre. Thus, he immersed himself in a world apart, a world that he explored step by step through its various themes and lyrics. His ultimate goal would be to give a new life to this hidden musical heritage. With this in mind, and also to pay tribute to the nickname that he has always had, Ghoula decided to highlight the importance of his heritage even through the album’s title: Hlib el Ghoula.”
Baharat is one of the many exciting bands on Batov Records, a London based independent label with sounds from all over the world. I’m drawn to this Tel Aviv three-piece because the music sounds psychedelic but tight, a kaleidoscope sound that doesn’t get in the way of itself. If you like Tame Impala or any music that would fit well in an Urban Outfitters, you’ll especially like this group.
“In middle eastern cuisine it’s well known – ‘don’t forget to add some Baharat to the dish! It always brings the magic!’ We are very pleased and excited to add a special new spice to the Batov Records kitchen…a band of 3 of Tel-Aviv’s finest hipsters, mixing the flavours of middle-eastern sounds with the vintage vibes of surf music. This tasty EP was recorded at home with minimal equipment, superb musicianship, lots of humility, a tape machine and no drugs. It is still a hallucination of timeless tunes.. and if you don’t think we’re objective about it, you are definitely right.”
Eslam Salem: for fans of ‘Hail To The Thief’ and other moody jams
The latest release from Cairo’s Eslam Salem is a somber affair, with twitching beats and guitars supporting a mournful voice with quite a range. The results echo Radiohead’s ‘Hail To The Thief’ in that you can hear human pain behind manipulated sounds.
Bargou 08: “a unique blend of popular Tunisian music with modern, hard-pumping rave”
Wonder what post-‘Think Tank’ Blur would sound like if they spend more time in Tunisia? Bargou 08 is your answer. “Mamchout” is the first single off new album ‘Targ,’ which comes out February 17th via Glitterbeat Records.
“[This] Belgo-Tunisian band plays a unique blend of popular Tunisian music with modern, hard-pumping rave. The meeting between the heavy synth groove and the sound of the melismatic flute, reaches an even higher level with the playful rhythm section and the charismatic front man strong vocals. A musical journey through the almost forgotten popular landscapes of north – west Tunisia, an isolated region between the Tunisian mountains and the Algerian border. [They take] the listener to a journey through this musical heritage, so close to extinction, and perpetuate it through a celebration of authentic lyrics, melodies and dance, combined with modern beats and electronic sounds.”
David Peretz: ambient-like music from Israel that flutters and floats
David Peretz is an Israeli musician who makes ambient-like music that flutters and floats, like the bird on the cover of his latest release. It broods, yet it’s a sound I enjoy getting lost in.
From the Bandcamp bio:
“musician, producer, writer and ‘cultural gardener’, based in Be’er Sheva -on the edge of the desert in the south of Israel. He was the leader of ‘Blueband’ – a melancholic slow core band, and participated in many other alternative projects. Nowadays he leads a musical solo career”
Alaa Wardi: Saudi YouTube star remixes the evolution of Arabic music
Riyadh a cappella musician and YouTube star Alaa Wardi created a vocal remix of 42 of the most popular songs in Arabic history. I hadn’t heard most of these songs before, but it’s fun to see how Wardi shows the evolution of Arabic music.
This video came out last summer but is worth sharing if you haven’t seen it yet. Click here to see a list of the original songs.
Tigris: it’s OK to be bizarre as long as you groove like this.
Tel Aviv’s Tigris is a melting pop of different grooves; I hear a few different songs within a single track and it makes me want to dance silly on a beach.
From its Bandcamp bio:
“TIGRIS pulls the East and West African music into a new and surprising musical center. Crazy grooves, special combination of instruments, addictive melodies, and the virtuosity of each band member – puts Tigris in a new territory on the original African music map that covers the world.”
Tomer Yeshayahu is a Tel Aviv musician and the co-founder of the popular Israeli folk-rock duo ISAIAH along with Mika Avni. This month, Yeshayahu released his second solo record Boidem, which conjures a lot of the same psychedelic swirl as Tame Impala.