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HABIBI FUNK

Completely unknown album by Salah Ragab's Cairo Jazz Band vocalist Maha, recorded in Cairo in 1979. Features productions by Hany Shenoda of Al Massrieen. Maha's "Orkos," originally released on cassette, is one of these standout musical diamonds that combines Jazz and Egyptian vocal traditions with Funk, Latin and Soul. Out via Habibi Funk October 10th.

Maha's "Orkos" immediately catches your ear as a unique album. A strong and energetic voice, equally grounded in jazz as well as Egyptian vocal traditions, Maha sings over instrumentals that offer a wide palette of influences, sonically emblematic of the cultural changes that were occurring in the country. The album features rich compositions and productions by renown Egyptian musician Hany Shenoda, who's group, Al Massrieen, Habibi Funk worked with in 2017 (the release led to sync placements in Hulu's "Ramy" TV Series).

At the time of its release, however, the "Orkos" cassette quickly faded away among the growing number of releases populating the Egyptian musical soundscape. For more than 40 years, it sat in near obscurity before being given new life in the form of a properly licensed vinyl release. Habibi Funk and Disco Arabesquo are honored to play a part in sharing Maha's story. Below is a bit more context around the release as well as the campaign schedule.
The arrival of the cassette brought a seismic shift in how music was produced and consumed around the world. Smaller bands and labels were able to release music without the logistical and financial barrier present in vinyl manufacturing. At the same time, in Egypt, a new crop of musicians and composers made their way into the scene, seeking to bring something fresh to what was perceived as the widely monophonic musical traditions of Egypt. Hany Shenoda, Mohamed Mounir, Magdy El Hossainy, Omar Korshid, Salah Ragab and Hamid El Shaeri are some names that come to mind. Many built their sounds combining their own musical upbringing with influences coming from the outside. The success of these projects varied widely, but for each there were numerous lesser-known bands and singers. Many of these often-short-lived projects would release their music on cassettes on tiny labels only to fade into the musical ether.

Maha's "Orkos" album fits this category. Put out in a small run of cassettes, it's fair to say that the singer's sole recording outing was not a financial success when it was originally released by Egyptian label Sout El Hob in 1979. While it may not have found an engaged and open-eared audience upon its release, the first few bars of the album indicate this is a special, timeless album that transcends the musical boundaries that many artists were seeking to break through at the time.
From the funk sounds of "Law Laffeina El Ard" (Single 1, out September 1 with Pre-Order announcement); the moody, mellow sounds of "Kabl Ma Nessallem We Nemshy" (Single 2, out September 23) or "We Mesheet;" to excursions into Latin sounds in the title track "Orkos," and disco with "Ana Gaya" (Album Focus Track, out October 10) the album is an amalgamation of genres that stands out from the immense creativity present in Egypt at the time.
We connected Maha in late 2021 and she was clearly surprised to have someone call about music she recorded more than 40 years ago. She also seemed interested in the idea in bringing her music back to people's attention. A few weeks later we were speaking with our friend Moataz, who runs the Disco Arabesquo project and showed him this great new album we found and to our surprise he knew the album, having found a copy of it a year or two before, in Cairo. It was then obvious to team up for a collaboration for this project. You can find Moataz's story about Maha and her music, as well as extensive interviews with Maha herself, in the booklet accompanying the release.

TRACK LISTING

1. Orkos
2. Kabl Ma Nessallem We Nemshy
3.We Mesheet
4. El Hob Matnassash
5. Ala Shat El Nesyan
6. Law Laffeina El Ard
7. Ana Gaya

An absolutely legendary album from Lebanon by Issam Hajali's group Ferkat Al Ard, "Oghneya" stands out as one of the great musical gems of the Arab world. A groundbreaking release from 1978 that represents the meeting point of Arab, jazz, folk and Brazilian styles with the talent of Ziad Rahbani, who did the albums arrangements. Filled with a variety of sounds and genres, from Baroque Pop to Psych-Folk to flashes of Bossa Nova, Tropicalia and MPB, "Oghneya" is like if Arthur Verocai took a trip to Beirut in the 70's to record an album.

In 2015 we heard Ferkat Al Ard's music for the first time, a Lebanese trio compromised of Issam Hajali, Toufic Farroukh and Elia Saba. It was a stunningly unique release that blends traditional Arabic elements, jazz and Brazilian rhythms hand in hand with poetic-yet-politically engaged lyrics. The band was active in the left-wing movement of Lebanon of the time and they communicated their political ideas candidly through their songwriting.

In our mind the idea was to see whether Issam was interested in re-releasing "Oghneya." He was not opposed to it, but also made it clear that it was not his priority for a first project. He suggested we start with his first album, before Ferkat Al Ard was formed, "Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard," which was recorded in 1977 in Paris together with his friend Roger Fakhr (whose work we have been privileged to re-release in the meantime as well.) "Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard" is melancholic, stripped-down, guitar-based folk intertwined with jazz-fused breaks, and the unique sound of the santour glistens through. While the music is very accessible, some song structures are rather atypical, neglecting common patterns of verse, hook, verse, hook. The lyrics mostly trace back to the poetic work of Palestinian author Samih El Kasem, with one song also written by Issam, who composed the music for the whole album.

We re-released Issam's "Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard" in 2019 to a great reception, with positive reviews all over the place and an ongoing appreciation for the album. This meant it was time for us to undertake an "Oghneya" re-release again!

If you compare "Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard" and "Oghneya," one apparent distinction is the strong Brazilian influence in the music. Issam Hajali explained that you can already hear traces of this influence on his debut, but it's "Oghneya" where this musical relationship really peaks. Lebanon and Brazil have had a strong connection for nearly a century due to the continuous flow of immigrants from one country to the other. Today, Brazil has the largest Lebanese diaspora in the world, the "Brasilibanês". The migratory route was not a one-way street, however, and some Lebanese returned to their home country, taking recordings of the music they learned to love in Brazil with them. They were followed by Brazilian musicians who visited primarily Beirut during the 1960's and the first half of the 1970's, just like many other musicians from around the world. In these years between the independence and the beginning of the civil war, Beirut became even more of a cultural center and regional hub than it already was.

Bossa Nova, at that time, was one of the defining sounds of Brazilian popular music. Issam Hajali remembers hearing it at a bar in Beirut's Hamra district in 1974, which hosted musicians from Brazil playing the occasional gig. When Issam had returned from Paris in 1976 he got to know Ziad Rahbani, son of Fairouz, who had a shared passion with Issam for a lot of things, among them Brazilian music. Issam showed him some of the tracks he was working on, and Ziad agreed to help with arranging. The music that evolved from this cooperation between Ferkat Al Ard and Ziad Rahbani's arrangement is, to put it lightly, outstanding. Issam's singing is embedded into the uniquely beautiful string arrangements backed by the band's poignant, swinging groove. The lyrics of the songs on "Oghneya" are based on poems by Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al Qasem and Tawfiq Ziad, three pillars of Palestinian poetry within the last century, and their influence on "Oghneya" was itself a strong political statement during the Lebanese war.

"Oghneya" was eventually released in 1978 by the band themselves on cassette tapes. Finding a blank tape that fit the playing time proved to be impossible during the war so they needed to open up the case of each cassette to physically cut down the tape and customize it to the playing time. The album was well received, though some cultural critics deemed it too "occidental" in its sound. While the cassette was circulating, Ziad Rahbani started a label called Zida, together with Khatchik Mardirian. They decided to help the band with a re-release on vinyl in 1979, a year after "Oghneya" was originally released on cassette.

Sadly, there are two tracks from the original release of "Oghneya" that did not make it onto the reissue. "Ghfyara Ghaza" was replaced by the song "Juma'a 6 Hziran." while "Huloul" was taken off without a replacement. This happened as a precondition from the band for this reissue to happen. We would have loved to include all tracks, but the decision ranged between having either a reissue like the one we put out or no reissue at all. Thus, an easy choice for us.

TRACK LISTING

1. Matar Al Sabah
2. Entazerni
3. Oghneya
4. Edfeno Amwatakom Wanhadou
5. Matar Naem
6. Lahnon Lemra'ati Wa Beladi
7. Juma'a 6 Hziran

Hamid El Shaeri

The SLAM! Years (1983-1988)

If you were to ask for a defining Habibi Funk track, there are a few that come to mind: from Fadoul's "Sid Redad," Dalton's "Soul Brother" to Ahmed Malek's "Omar Gatlato." However, none are as widely connected with us at this point as Hamid Al Shaeri's "Ayonha." We heard the track for the first time when we were working on selecting tracks for your first compilation and we instantly loved it. We obviously had heard of Hamid El Shaeri's music before, but only material from his Al Jeel phase when he was already the full-blown superstar he is now. Listening to his releases from the early 1980's opened a whole new door for us. At the time, Hamid had just left Libya to pursue his career in Egypt via a detour in London, where he recorded his first album.

Hamid's distinct sound of the sound is quintessentially reliant on heavy synths and so it was particularly important to purchase these synths in a timely manner. "Whenever a new one [synthesizer] would come out, we would have to buy it immediately, otherwise someone else would get their hands on that sound." London also played an important role for Hamid as a musical epicenter. He fondly reminisces about the many live shows he attended there, including some of the biggest international musicians like Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.

After returning to Cairo where he also recorded his following albums, he connected with SLAM! for the release of his debut, laying the foundation of a collaboration that lasted for 5 albums.

Luckily, we were able to connect with Hamid through our friend Youssra El Hawary, whose extensive network has opened many doors for us within the Egyptian music scene. We met Hamid for the first time probably in 2016 at his office / rehearsal studio in the outskirts Cairo. We were expecting a larger-than-life character in-line with his status as a certified superstar, yet the actual person turned out to be very approachable and super easy to connect with. He liked the idea of an effort to amplify his early works again, which, when originally released, were far from an economic success. While he was down to assist with an interview and his blessing for the project he also told us that for any license we needed to speak with the original label SLAM! who released these songs, still held the rights and also remained in business over the decades though they didn't actively release any new music.
Hany Sabet had started SLAM! records in the early 1980s and focused on cassette tape releases, the format that expedited the success of a new generation of record labels in Egypt. By the mid 1980's, SLAM! had become one of the most successful and economically dominant record labels in Egypt, with Hamid El Shaeri being just one of their key artists, alongside Mohamed Mounir, Hanan, Hakim, Mustafa Amar and many more. Luckily, Hany Sabet turned out to be a friend of our colleague Malak Makar's father, which probably helped to warm him to the idea of licen- sing "Ayonha" to this - in the scale of his world - tiny label from Germany. Eventually "Ayonha" ended up becoming a widely successful release and either Hany or we brought up the idea of a full album dedicated to Hamid El Shaeri's work on SLAM!.

"Maktoub Aleina" is the first single and will be released January 14th. Following the massive success of "Ayonha," "Maktoub Aleina" is another mid-tempo groover with a beautiful, synth-forward melody, that brings together a lovely combination of soul, disco and Arabic pop music of the highest order, giving a taste of full album. The second single, "Yekfini Nesma Sotak" will be released January 28th and combines Hamid's unique formula of soul and pop, held together by a catchy synth melody. "Yekfini Nesma Sotak" picks up the pace a bit, making the uplifting mood of the track even more powerful. Third single, arriving February 11th, is "Dari Demou'ek," one of the stand out tracks of Hamid's early recordings done for SLAM! in the early 1980s. Dominated by a disco infused bassline, the track offers a lot of space of the funky production to shine while Hamid inserts his vocals at all the right moments. A masterpiece of disco touched by Arabic pop music. Full album arrives February 25th.

This release is dedicated to Hany Sabet, the founder of SLAM! and his wife Rosemary Jane Sabet (who took the photos we used for the cover and the booklet), who sadly passed away during the time it took us to prepare the release.

TRACK LISTING

1. Tew'idni Dom
2. Yefkini Nesma' Sotak
3. Ayonha
4. Ya Saheb
5. Git Ya Sheta
6. Shantet Safar
7. Oyoun Houriyat
8. Maktoub Aleina
9. Reet
10. Dari Demou'ek
11. Weyn Ayamak Weyn


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Tom Verlaine 1949 - 2023. Thank you for the music. https://t.co/uQb3iWX5C4
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After doing a shop window take over back in Nov with empty sleeves. The vinyl is finally here 🙌 Léna C - Promenade… https://t.co/nVagAWC9we
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