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HABIBI FUNK

Ahmed Malek

Musique Original De Films, Volume Deux

    Habibi Funk is thrilled to share a second collection of deep grooves and unreleased songs from Algeria's Ahmed Malek, often compared to Italian heavyweight Ennio Morricone. Malek's music effortlessly switches between thematic jazz, funk, reggae and Algerian folk – creating indelible soundscapes that intersect the musical innovations made in African jazz by Mulatu Astatke, Bembeya Jazz National along with some of Europe's finest experimental composers like Piero Piccioni and Janko Nilovic. "Musique Originale de Films, Volume Deux" is out June 28th, 2024 via Habibi Funk.

    Whenever an interview asks about a "memorable moment" in Habibi Funk label history, one we always reference is how we got in touch Ahmed Malek's (22K Spotify Followers, 285K Spotify Monthly Listeners) music and subsequently his family. It all started with us coming across Ahmed Malek's music on YouTube in 2012. We were mesmerized by how effortlessly the music would switch between jazz, funk and Algerian folk while counterweighting it with an undertone of melancholia. Musical perception is different for every person, but there is a chance that his music will touch you in one way or another. At the time, we had just started the Habibi Funk label and we felt Ahmed's music might be a good fit for the sound we were trying to highlight. Fast forward three years: we had become captivated with the idea of reissuing some of Ahmed Malek's music. We knew some people had tried to locate his family but, but with no success. In the end it was an incredible amount of luck that made it possible for you to read these words and listen to Ahmed's music. We were on a DJ gig in Beirut playing old Arabic records and we mentioned our passion for Ahmed Malek's music to a friend. She said she knew one person in Algier, and as much as it would be a shot in the dark, she could ask her if she had an idea of how to find Malek's family. Two weeks went by before we heard back, and what we got was incredibly good news - her Algerian friend was the neighbor of Ahmed Malek's daughter! We're not spiritual people, but it felt like the universe wanted to see the release happen. We started to speak with Henya, Ahmed Malek's daughter and she was more than happy with our idea. She assured us that her father would have loved the plan as well. She provided us with tons of awesome material, from great photos, to unseen video footage and unreleased tracks. Eventually we visited Henya in Algeria and we licensed some of her father's music, first for one (Habibi 003), then for another (Habibi 005), then we eventually organized an exhibition in June/July 2019 – Planète Malek – Une Rétrospective – at the Musée Public National D'Art Moderne & Contemporain in Algiers, focusing on Ahmed Malek's artistic life. We also produced a small movie about him that our friend Paloma Colombe shot and directed. "Musique Originale de Films, Volume Deux" is a deep collection of unreleased songs and stemmed grooves from the Algerian master, from jazz, funk, psych to reggae rhythms and Latin flavors, all under the sonic umbrella of "Planète Malek;" and to quote the maestro, "I didn't choose music, music chose me." Lead single is the subtlety funky "Thème Rythme Léger," out May 3rd along with LP Pre-Order (coincided with Bandcamp Friday for a larger impact) a delicate sonic dance between flute, piano and Spanish guitar with a Bossainfluenced groove. The steady, swingin' drum groove is cloudlike - definitely toe-tapping friendly so just grab a partner to feel the Rhythme Léger. Second single out May 17th is the reggae-infused "L'Empire Des Rêves" – a sultry sax melody weaves through a prismatic rocksteady thematic groove. 3rd and final single "Thème Djalti feat. Aïda Guéchoud" – is a true Western-inspired ode to his Italian counterpart Ennio Morricone. "Thème Djalti" features the haunting vocals of Aïda Guéchoud, and combines elements of baroque and Bossa-jazz in a timelessly thematic way that seems grandiose yet remains uniquely personal to your ears. Swelling strings, trumpet, fem vox, flute, and plucked guitar expertly arranged, feels like you're riding a horse into the sunset. Focus track "La La La" is fiery afro-arab-funk of the highest order! Put on your dancing shoes as Ahmed cuts the rug and gets us grooving along. Sonically the cut sounds like if Ahmed ran into The JB's and Fela Kuti at a Cymande concert. Driving guitar and organ solos vie over pulsating bass riffs and afro-funk drumming that'll have you out on the dance floor in no time. As always, both vinyl and CD come with an extensive booklet featuring background and interviews with Ahmed compiled through found newspaper clippings and newsreels, also including unseen photos, scans and more. "Ahmed Malek: Musique Originale de Films, Volume Deux" will be out everywhere June 28th.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Thème Djalti (feat. Aïda Guéchoud)
    2. Leila Et Les Autres
    3. Thème Rythme Léger
    4. Bossa
    5. Aller Simple
    6. Casbah
    7. La La La
    8. Une Autre Complot
    9. Le Mariage De Moussa
    10. L'Empire Des Rêves
    11. Oulaya
    12. Djalti
    13. Sans Titre

    "East of Any Place," out December 1st via Habibi Funk, is a treasure trove of songs discovered alongside Rogér Fakhr's acclaimed 2021 album, "Fine Anyway." These tracks, hidden for decades and only passed between a handful of people, offer a glimpse into Rogér's musical genius and the vibrant scene of Lebanon during a period marked by civil war and social upheaval. This release serves as a companion to "Fine Anyway," feat studio tracks that didn't make it into the previous album.

    Around 2 years ago, we released an album by Rogér Fakhr entitled "Fine Anyway" on Habibi Funk. It came about as a result of afternoons spent at Issam Hajali's jewelry shop on Mar Elias Street in Beirut. We had started working on the idea of re-releasing some of Issam's music and he proposed his first album "Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard," recorded before starting his band Ferkat Al Ard. At some point, Issam mentioned how he had actually kept some of Rogér's music on tape in his basement - but cautioned that he couldn't play it to us before Rogér would give the green light. Eventually, after some hesitation, Rogér luckily did. During this time there were a number of ongoing projects and we somehow missed out on inquiring further. Yet Rogér's name kept on coming up in conversations with musicians of the same generation in Beirut. No matter whether it was Ziad Rahbani, Munir Khauli or anyone else talking about him, every single mention would almost inevitably be followed with a huge praise for his music and approval of his talent. The disparity between him being so highly appreciated amongst his peers, while somehow simultaneously not being part of the researchable musical history of Lebanon (at least to us!) of the last decades, baffled me and at some point, we just asked Issam for Rogér's contact. After, we exchanged some emails and he ended up sending a selection of music recorded in the late 1970's in Beirut. While some of that material had never seen a release, other songs were released on his album "Fine Anyway" - which Rogér had, at the time of release, hand copied around 200 cassette copies. When we first heard the songs of "Fine Anyway" we were blown away! The music was a mixture of folk with touches of other genres. Maybe one could also refer to it as "singer-songwriter," since all of the songs were Rogér's own compositions. Songs of unique beauty both musically and lyrically. At the same time, they gave us the feeling of them being somehow isolated capsules of time and space. Nothing really revealed where they could've been recorded and, not knowing it was Beirut, a first guess would have likely been Southern California, sometime in the 1970's. The immersive effect of his compositions and voice are just incredible. When we put the album out, we knew we loved the songs and the music, but with its sound being slightly different and the lyrics sung in English, we were not sure whether it would find the same appreciation that other releases had had under the umbrella of Habibi Funk. Luckily, the appreciation of the album became quite apparent very quickly and it did not die down in the years to follow. In the process of putting together "Fine Anyway" we came across a number of other songs Rogér had recorded around the same time. Initially Rogér was not too fond of them for one reason or another, though in our minds the musical quality was not the reason. It was a treasure trove of songs that only a handful of people had access to. Some time ago, Rogér started working on some new songs that will hopefully will turn into a new album, and while we spoke about these, we brought up all these other songs we still had from the same sessions as "Fine Anyway," and that we felt it would be great to share them with the world as a bonus to the songs already shared as part of "Fine Anyway." Luckily, Rogér eventually agreed, and this is how we are able to share "East of Any Place." As always, both vinyl and CD come with an extensive booklet featuring background and interviews with Rogér, including unseen photos, scans and more. "Rogér Fakhr: East of Any Place" will be out everywhere December 1st to coincide with Bandcamp Friday, be sure to listen to eponymous focus track, the psych-folk-tinged "East of Any Place."

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: A heady selection of woozy, psychedelic folk that wouldn't sound out of place in 1960's California, Roger Fakhr's 'East Of Any Place' is just as mindblowing as his 'Fine Anyway' LP on Habibi Funk. There are echoes here (pre-echoes) of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and there's also loads in common with modern psychedlia. Quite the treasure.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. (You Look) So Funny
    2. Dawn
    3. East Of Any Place
    4. Queen Of Diamonds
    5. Road Of Farewell (feat. Bruna-Maria Naufal)
    6. Down To My Bones
    7. For Free
    8. Rainhill
    9. Had To See Harry
    10. Drinking Tea

    Habibi Funk is digging deep to present the songs of Ibrahim Hesnawi, otherwise known as "The Father of Libyan Reggae." Kingston meets Tripoli in this incendiary collection of Arabized roots, dub, dancehall and more. Featured on Habibi Funk's last compilation (HABIBI015) with his track "Tendme," Hesnawi crafts restless funk with evident buttressing from a reggae foundation. Highlighted across the LP is how Hesnawi essentially pioneered such an effortless synthesis between traditional Libyan music and Jamaican reggae stylings, plus the endlessly disparate funk, jazz, and disco accents which firmly situate Hesnawi in a league of his own. LP out everywhere October 6th.

    Some years ago, we started a Facebook group named after our label "Habibi Funk" with the idea to create a space where everyone could share music they felt fit under this umbrella, one way or another. One day a Greek member, Thanasis Moutsopoulos, shared a photo of a vinyl record he found at the Monastiraki flea market in Athens, Greece. It was by a Libyan artist named Ibrahim Hesnawi and called "Hesnawi And Peace." At this point we had never heard of the artist and Thanasis was nice enough to record the album for us. We were immediately electrified by what we heard: A whole album full of classic reggae with some light touches of funk and disco here and there which Hesnawi had recorded in Italy more than 4 decades prior. We eventually decided we would love to learn more about reggae in Libya, and a mutual friend introduced us to Ahmed Abujazia, who was born and still living in Tripolis; through a shared appreciation of music, he agreed to help us work on the project. We asked around and eventually managed to get Ibrahim Hesnawi's telephone number. A few weeks later, Ahmed met Ibrahim in person and proposed our project. Hesnawi was happy to work on a rerelease of his music with us. Excited to share the story of his musical career, Hesnawi was apt to point us towards songs he felt like would be a great match for the tracks we had already expressed interest in. All of this happened in 2018, which was also when the licensing agreement was signed. It has taken us 5 years to actually bring the project to the world, mainly because of the challenge of finding tapes in good enough quality to release. Sadly, Ibrahim Hesnawi lost his studio reel tapes at some point and the digital files he had of his music were of poor quality. So, we spend years trying to find every Hesnawi tape we could get our hands on in order to find a copy that would suffice in terms of sound quality to be used as a source for remastering. Eventually, we had 5-6 copies of some albums, just to identify the ones that sounded the best. We've finally been able to find enough songs in great sound quality that has allowed us to create a selection that both we and Ibrahim were happy with. Now, we're able to share the story of the father of reggae in Libya with the sound quality his work deserves. In many countries, reggae was a widespread fad before its popularity gradually subsided. In Libya, however, the genre remained popular since its initial introduction in the late 1970s. Reggae's thematic throughlines like references to Pan-Africanism, liberation, and the end of oppression and exploitation resonated—and continues to resonate—forcefully amongst a Libyan audience. To this day, you will find countless bands playing variations of the genre as are there Facebook groups with predominantly Libyan members sharing old and new reggae tracks with ten-thousands of members. And no matter who you ask, chances are high that the genre's popularity in Libya will be largely attributed to one man: Ibrahim Hesnawi. Born and raised in Tripolis, the capital of Libya, Hesnawi was not initially interested in music. However, he credits Bob Marley, the universal face of the reggae genre, with changing his mind. Bob Marley was the artist that brought Reggae to Libya. And the two disparate musical cultures—Jamaican and Libyan—weren't so far apart. On the contrary: local musicians intertwined these influences quite fluidly. Libyan reggae borrows elements from its own culture, and is usually accompanied by a steady marching tempo, a significant hallmark of wedding chants. An effortless synthesis of Jamaican reggae and traditional Libyan sonics is featured throughout Hesnawi's catalogue. What better example of this audio amalgam than the LP's powerhouse lead single "Never Understand" which brings a roots and dancehall flavor into conversation with North African and Middle Eastern musical rhythms and Jamaican stylings. With warm keys, a thick, bouncing bass and English lyrics to boot, the track sounds like a missing Bob Marley cut. Fiery funk tracks "Tendme" (featured on HF015) and second single "Watery Al Kabir" bring a tireless groove to the record via chugging rhythms and key interludes that deliver searing harmonic motifs. Focus track "Only World" grounds the LP, placing an emphasis on its anthemic lyricism and subtle, yet slick guitar licks and synth runs that make Libya seem like the "only world" where Reggae continues to stand strong. As always, both vinyl and CD come with an extensive booklet featuring background and interviews with Hesnawi, including unseen photos, scans and more. "Ibrahim Hesnawi: The Father of Libyan Reggae" will be out everywhere October 6th.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Never Understand
    2. Tendme
    3. Only World (feat. Suzan)
    4. Kesati
    5. Tayr Al Salama
    6. Al Hob Wal Salam
    7. Fouhi Ya Nesma
    8. Enti
    9. Watany Al Kabir

    Attarazat Addahabia & Faradjallah's album came to us as quite a mystery. Our friends from Radio Martiko got access to the studio archive of the Boussiphone label and a reel labeled "Faradjallah" was among the items they had found there. After listening to the selection of reels they borrowed, Radio Martiko felt it was not a fit for their label and helped us licensing it from Mr. Boussiphone instead. We knew nothing about the band. We just had the reel with the music but very little information. What we knew was that the music was incredible and very unique. Gnawa sounds were combined with funky electronic guitars, very dense layers of percussions and female backing vocals more reminiscent of musical styles further south than Morocco. We started asking around whether anyone knew the band with no immediate success until we asked Tony Day, a musician from Morocco who helped us during our search for Fadoul's family. His sharp memory came through once again, remembering all the names of the Attarazat Addahabia band members and even how to contact the bands singer and leader Abdelakabir Faradjallah. After visiting him at his home in Casablanca with our Moroccan colleague Sabrina multiple times, he shared his personal story. His father arrived in Casablanca from Aqqa at the age of six and his mother came from Essaouira. Abdelakabir was born in the neighbourhood of Benjdia in 1942. Abdelakabir Faradjallah studied fine arts in Casablanca, graduating in 1962. He also played soccer in the second team of "Jeunesse Societe One". His brother-in-law Ibrahim Sadr worked for one of the biggest football teams of the time in Morocco called "Moroco Sportive Union", which allowed him to travel to France occasionally. While Ibrahim was never part of the band he brought along a few instruments from trips. Yet the majority of the instruments they could not afford to buy were build by Faradjallah and Abderrazak, Faradjallah's brother who passed away early. For instance they had built a Spanish guitar and a drum made of wood barrel and sheepskin by themselves.During the 1950s Faradjallah was booked as a singer for surprise parties with friends. He started to write his first songs including "L'gnawi" in 1967 and wanted to make people discover Gnawa culture, or maybe rather his take on the culture to be more exact. Faradjallah recalls his first interaction with the genre in the streets of the Dern neighbourhood, where he used to go to elementary school. Gnawa is one of the essential musical genres of Morocco. It combines ritual poetry with traditional dances and music linked with a spiritual foundation. Musically a lot of influences originated from West Africa as well as Sudan. Gnawa is usually played by a selection of specific instruments such as the qaraqab (large iron castanets centrally associated with the music), the hajhouj (a three string lute), guembri loudaâ (a three stringed bass instrument) and the tbel (large drums). People would put shells on their clothes and instruments and use incense at their parties. "Sidi darbo lalla - lala derbo khadem..." came from Gnawa verses Faradjallah used to sing when he was 14. The lyrics tackle a global (im)balance of power and the question of social status in this course. The band Attarazat Addahabia was formed in 1968. The original line-up included 14 members, all from the same family. They played their first small concerts here and there starting in 1969. Later in 1973 they performed bigger shows for instance at the Municipal Theatre followed by the "Al Massira Show" at Velodrome Stadium in downtown Casablanca. Their first album "Al Hadaoui" (the one you are listening to) was recorded at Boussiphone studios in 1972 and was never released before. Nobody seems to remember the exact reason why Boussiphone ended up deciding not to put the album out. The album's title track also served as the basis for Fadoul's "Maktoub Lah", who frequented the same circles as the band for some time. Their shows sometimes could go as long as 12 hours, starting at 5pm in the afternoon, with an occasional break here and there. In the 1980s the band took a brief break. Faradjallah recalled the reason for that break like this: "Zaki, the bands drummer, had fallen in love with a young girl from Mohammedia. Soon after, he fell very ill. The group members were convinced that the girl had given him 's'hor' (a kind of local Moroccan version of "black magic"). For four years, the whole group stopped playing. It was unthinkable to find another drummer to replace Zaki, even temporarily." So they waited four years for Zaki to "get back on his feet" before going back on stage. Apart from very few gigs here and there Faradjallah stopped playing music in the mid 1990s. Some members from the younger generations formed a new band and still play frequently to this day. Faradjallah runs a television repair shop coupled offerings beverages and snacks in the Belevedere /Ains Sbaa district of Casablanca. While Faradjallah was primarily a musician, he would work for the local cinema and paint their posters for new movies by hand and he designed all artworks and cover posters of the band. And this eventually led to him participating actively in our first exhibition dealing with Habibi Funk's work in Dubai 2018. He helped us by creating calligraphic complementations on large photo prints for that show.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Al Hadaoui
    2. Albaki
    3. Moulate Salef
    4.:Taali
    5. Aflana
    6. Chama'a
    7. Kaddaba

    Habibi Funk is excited to share "Marzipan" - our first full length contemporary release courtesy of Beirut's multi-instrumental phenom Charif Megarbane, also known as the man behind prolific Cosmic Analog Ensemble. The LP is a journey into Charif's styling, one he terms "Lebrary": a vision of Lebanon + Mediterranean expressed through the kaleidoscopic sonics of library music. Drawing from artists that encapsulates the HF sound, such as Ziad Rahbani, Ahmed Malek and Issam Hajali, Charif translates these influences into an LP that is equally at home in '23. We always wondered why Charif's music stayed under the radar for so long, that all changes with "Marzipan", out July 14.

    Charif Megarbane, the staggeringly prolific producer, instrumentalist, and all-around musical mastermind returns with full LP "Marzipan." Following his previous release of EP "Tayara Warak" in 2022, "Marzipan" is a sonic journey that seeks to capture the full scope of Megarbane's habitus. As a composer and producer, Megarbane touts hugely versatile, sometimes volatile musicianship — his 100+ catalogue of projects (including legendary groups like the Cosmic Analog Ensemble, Free Association Syndicate, Monumental Detail, etc.) features a huge domain of sonic direction. This collection was previously developed in Megarbane's own Hisstology label which hosts a wealth of collaborative efforts. Now, Habibi Funk represents Megarbane under his own name. Megarbane finds a sonic through-line in his surrounding soundscapes as he draws on the chaotic energy of the crowded Beirut metropolis ("Souk El Ahad"), the warm atmosphere of the Lebanese countryside ("Chez Mounir"), or the lushness of a Mediterranean beach resort ("Portemilio"). Reflecting the aural composition of his direct surroundings into kaleidoscopic instrumentation provides a unique insight into how one musical phenomenon transposes sight into sound. Habibi Funk is thrilled to share "Marzipan" and finally throttle this under-theradar phenomenon into the solo spotlight. Despite the magnitude of his catalog, Megarbane's LP sounds as fresh—as resolutely inspired—as a debut record. "Marzipan" continues down the winding path he trod on EP "Tayyara Warak" (released Decmber, 2022) which features solid footing in the hectic city sounds Megarbane hears as home. Despite his obvious musical acumen, Megarbane's greatest talent seems to be his open ears. In many ways, "Marzipan" is a cartographic feat — it travels and traces a journey across many dimensions (both sonic and physical). Megarbane's instrumental catalogue is vast: toy glockenspiel, harpsichord, pedal steel, a classic Wurlitzer, et al are used liberally on the record. The resultant sound is as sprawling as the musician's instrumental dexterity. "Marzipan's" closing track "Bala 3anouan" can be translated loosely to "without address" — a fitting final word. Despite the entire record being a sincere testament to Megarbane's environmental approach to music-making, the record is not bound to any particular coordinates, or any particular sound for that matter. The vastness of his influences — beloved artists like Ahmed Malek and Issam Hajali (both Habibi Funk veterans); West African funk deep cuts; European cinematic scores; et al — result in a record of somewhat unparalleled expansiveness. Floating melodies and frantic rhythmic interludes both find natural homes across "Marzipan." The record is tinged with psychedelic elements—fuzz-drenched guitar, sliding microtonal interludes, hypnotic rhythmic breakdowns. Reflecting on his creative process, Megarbane cites a stream of consciousness approach: "It's a very spontaneous, playful, and diary-like approach and workflow…I trust my instinct because instinct is based on experience." Lead single "Souk El Ahad" opens the roll-out with a raucous energy, out June 12. Megarbane abstracts busy city sounds into a psychedelic framework, casting technicolor hues on everyday experience. Following is second single "Pas de Dialogue" out June 23. The track jerks the listener towards a more meditative state with lulling harpsichord and expanding, cinematic sound. "Marzipan" will be available physically and digitally everywhere on July 14, 2023. Be sure to listen for focus track "Chez Mounir" that captures the warmth of community in a joyful, laidback groove.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Souk El Ahad
    2. Tarator
    3. Pas De Dialogue
    4. Marzipan
    5. Chez Mounir
    6. 3aks El Seir
    7. Abou Boutros
    8. Istintaj
    9. Ma Ward
    10. Yara
    11. Chataranj
    12. Shanklish
    13. Portemilio
    14. Pale Baleine
    15. Ya Salam
    16. A Parking Lot By The Sea
    17. Bala 3anouan

    Libyan Reggae at its peak grooves courtesy of Benghazi-born Ahmed Ben Ali. After working with Ahmed in 2020 on the 12" hit "Subhana" (Habibi012) (2.4M Spotify streams), Habibi Funk is back with a fulllength release focusing on Ahmed's releases from the mid 2000's. The tracks on the LP represent a blisteringly deep collection of heavy reggae rhythms and synthesized grooves from a singular creative force, inspired as much from Jamaican sonics as from Libyan folkloric styles, as Ahmed says, "it's the Libyan style, not some bullshit." Out everywhere June 16th.

    As always, both vinyl and CD come with an extensive booklet featuring background on Ahmed, including unseen photos, scans and more.

    Our first and major contact with Libyan music began five-or-so years ago, when we were invited to visit an abandoned tape factory in Tunisia. We have talked about this influential visit more at length for the Free Music release (Habibi021), if you're interested. Anyhow, the place was astonishing. It had a room full of unused - but already printed - inlay cards for tapes and three large rooms spreading over two floors of unsold stock. A rough guess would be more than 100,000 copies already dubbed with music, many of which were produced for the Libyan market. On top of this the owner, Hechmi, also told us of another 200,000 blank tapes held in a separate unit. Much of the music we found there was clearly influenced by Jamaican music, and we soon realized how popular Reggae music had been in Libya since the 1970's. Reggae in Libya has dominated the charts since its arrival in the 1970's and flourished with some of the pioneers of Libyan reggae such as Ibrahim Hesnawi, Najib Alhoush and The White Birds Band. Composers like Ahmed Fakroun and Nasser Mizdawi also played around with the genre, although they did not dedicate their sound to it. When we started researching into more contemporary recordings, we quickly came upon Ahmed Ben Ali (37k Spotify Monthly Listeners). Ben Ali is a Libyan singer and producer, whose YouTube channel at the time contained four songs (we later learned they had been uploaded more than ten years prior). Despite the fact that these songs seem to be pretty popular, the channel became inactive a few months after its launch. In the comment section you could read appreciative feedback, not only from Libyans but also people from all over the world who seem to share a common passion for Ben Ali's sound. Generally speaking, there is not really a blueprint on how to find the musicians with whom we would like to re-release music. In this case, we did consider visiting Libya, but in the end, it turned out not to be possible for a number of reasons. We focused our efforts on online research, and eventually we were able to connect with Ahmed by phone. Our work with Ahmed started with a 12-inch released with "Subhana" on the A-side and "Damek Majeb" on the B-side (track 4 on this release), which at the time were among the only songs we knew of Ahmed (Habibi012).

    After the release, he sent us some more songs, which we loved just as much. Soon after, the idea was born to follow up with a full-length release which Ahmed was happy to commit to. In early 2023, we met in person in Cairo to share a few more stories and to take some photos for the release, which you can find throughout the booklet accompanying the LP and CD. The lead-off single is the stellar rhythms of "Yarait" out May 5th along with LP pre-order to capitalize on Bandcamp Friday. Ahmed creates a singular sound that's inspired as much by the Jamaican sonics as it is by Libyan folkloric styles, and the rap-refrain will have you singing along by the songs end, a perfect track for the warmer spring/summer days. Second single, out May 19th is the upbeat slammer "Aziz O Adda." It's hard not to feel happy when the horn refrain comes in, followed by the anthemic vocals that make you want to dance out into the street, a dancefloor sureshot for any party, especially the tropical outdoor variety. Third single is "Ya Ta'ebha," out June 2nd, a bass-heavy reggae slammer if there ever was one – with stabbing pianos and synths, deep bass, and a hiphop influenced head-nodding percussive rhythm, rounded out with a stunning guitar solo – the track will surely be on loop as you bounce down the block. Album focus track "Ghali" is another standout reggae-infused tune, with vocoder, anthemic vocals, and synthetic brass, a perfect sonic showcase of the immense creative force that is Ben Ali. At his home studio, Ahmed operates as sound technician and producer, recording the music in addition to writing the lyrics – a one-man musical squad. Contextualizing his own style, Ben Ali points out that, "The Libyan folkloric rhythm is very similar to the reggae rhythm. So, if Libyan people listen to reggae, it's easy for them to relate because it sounds familiar. This is the main reason why reggae became so popular here. [...] We played the reggae Libyan style, it's not the same as in Jamaica. We added our oriental notes to it and if you mix both it becomes something great." With a bit of laughter, he adds that "...to me it's still original reggae, it's the Libyan style, not some bullshit."

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Ya Rait
    2. Subhana
    3. Ya Ghalian
    4. Damek Majeb
    5. Ya Ghayeb
    6. Ghali
    7. La Ta'tather
    8. Ya Ta'ebha
    9. Ana Middaee
    10. Aziz W Adda

    The Free Music & Najib Alhoush

    Free Music (Part 1)

    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.

    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


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