Blisteringly groovy collection of completely off-the-radar songs by Libyan composer / producer Najib Alhoush's group The Free Music, circa 1976. Releasing an astonishing 10 albums, all impressively strong and equally infused by soul, funk, disco and reggae, The Free Music created a distinctly infectious groove that unfortunately didn't make an impact outside of Libya due to the complex political situation at the time. There is a reason it says "Part 1" in the title.
Avid Habibi Funk listeners may be familiar with Libyan composer / producer Najib Alhoush, who's track "Ya Aen Daly" - the Bee Gee's "Stayin Alive" cover - was included in our second compilation. While the original track never excited us, Najib's version managed to strip it from its pop approach that had taken over disco during the genre's peak. At that time, disco tracks mostly were aiming to appeal to the widest audience possible. Najib had turned the original track into something different and very unique. Upon further research we found that Najib was actually the singer and founder of The Free Music band alongside Fakhreddin, Salim Jibreel, Abdulrazzak 'Kit-Kat', Mukhtar Wanis and Mohameed Al Rakibi.
Initially, we only licensed Najib Alhoush's "Ya Aen Daly" from Yousef Alhoush, Najib's son, who was pleased to hear that there was interest in his father's music form someone abroad. In the process of exchanging and learning about Najib's music and career, our understanding was that The Free Music only recorded the one album. This couldn't be further from the truth, in fact, there were ten albums produced by the group, all impressively coherent with a clear influence from disco, soul, funk and reggae.
The Free Music album was probably the longest it ever took us to gather information, photos and musical source material in a good enough quality to be reissued. This is largely due to the complicated political situation in Libya, compounded by the fact that Libya is still largely cut off from international payment systems, so getting an advance payment to the right person can be a process that takes weeks. The same goes for getting master tapes to a studio abroad and afterwards back to Libya.
When we look for music that works under the umbrella of Habibi Funk, we often come across albums where bands experimented with influences from Soul, Jazz, Funk, Disco and more, usually on a single track or two but then they often go down to a different path for the rest of the album. This was not the case for The Free Music. All their albums are fully dedicated to their unique blend of Disco, Reggae and Funk and it feels that when we made the selection for this album, we could have chosen a completely different number of tracks and the album would be been equally strong.
The lead-off single is the stupendously groovy "Ana Qalbi Ehtar" out February 3rd along with LP pre-order to capitalize on Bandcamp Friday. From the outset, the rhythmic strumming of the funkified guitars give way to the galloping drums and bass, opening up to anthemic vocals and rounding out with a blistering guitar solo, a certified disco-funk classic through-andthrough.
Second single, out February 17th is the disco slammer "Hawelt Nensa Ghalaak." Guitars, harmonized horns, synths and bouncing bass and drums collide w/ spaced out vox to make the track a dancefloor sureshot for any party.
Third single is "Mathasebnish," a pure disco-funk slammer if there ever was one – with stabbing horns, funky bass riffs, a riding rhythm guitar and anthemic vocals, rounded out with stunning flute and guitar solos – the track will surely be on repeat along with the arrival of warmer weather.
Album focus track "Men Awel Marra" is another standout disco-infused tune, showcasing the immense creativity out of Najib and The Free Music. This past summer we finally had the opportunity to get together with Yousef face-to-face at a coffee shop in Istanbul's central Istiklal road together with our friend Anas El Horani. Yousef told us the whole story of how his father got into music, the start of the band and his father's continued conflicts with the Gaddafi regime that probably kept his career from becoming even bigger. As always, both vinyl and CD come with an extensive booklet featuring background on The Free Music and Najib Alhoush, including words from Najib's son, Yousef, as well as unseen photos, cassettes and more.