Very unpleasant news to report today, as Algerian-French singer Rachid Taha passed away today from a heart attack. He was one of the first and most important artists to fuse Raï and rock together in a way that gained him fame all over the world. Here he is taking on The Clash’s cult classic.
Welcome to the world of easy (cheesy) listening out of… Cairo?! Yes!! According to the bio over at his Bandcamp page, “Abd al-Rahman El Khamissi (bio in Arabic only) is an Egyptian poet, writer, journalist, dramatist, radio producer, film director, composer and talent scout for famous Egyptian actors such as Soad Hosni. He has been seen as a great romanticist and one of the finest Egyptian poets. Khamissi’s versatile talents as an artist and story teller portrayed in many ways the aspirations of Egyptian society.”
There is an elegance in this release mixing tango, the aforementioned easy listening and the better elements of soundtrack music. Many thanks to the folks at Radio Martiko who selflessly dedicated their efforts into releasing this gem.
Ored Recordings have done such stunning work recording and producing music from out-of-the-way places that they should be given an endowment to continue their work. This particular gem comes from Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, which rests in the heartland of the Russian Caucasus. To familiarize yourself with your intrepid artists, consider reading the write-up you’ll find on their Bandcamp site:
Iynar (Eeinar) as is
The artistic work of the Iynar Ensemble has been a great example of what falls into the professional Soviet folklore category. The medium-size male choir appeared at the beginning of 90s in a Balkarian village Tashli Tala. The ensemble singers are the amateur artists who love singing and have enough talent for it.
The main part of Iynar’s repertoire consists of songs sung by Omar Otarov. Following the same logic, Tahir Guziev, the bandleader, used ‘the brightest example of the national folk music’ as a guidance. The repertoire includes the classic genres: ritual songs, Nart saga, ancient epos, lyric songs created by both past and contemporary composers. The ensemble plays at celebrations, takes part in various music and folk festivals, and occasionally wins awards.
However, Iynar seems to be related not to traditional folk genres but to the Caucasian pop scene. Their music video filmed in accordance with the standards of local pop music industry can be a bright example of that. It is evident due to the fact that this video received airtime on TV channel ‘9th wave’ which is specialized in the Caucasian pop music.
On the one hand, the whole situation seems strange, on the other hand it is quite common for the region. The thing is that many local amateur artists turn to epic heritage of the past while also having close ties to the local pop scene. This, in turn, leads them to adopting the aesthetics held by local film producers who draw inspiration from pop music of the 1980s.
What is also indicative is the way we were connected with them. We were introduced to Tahir Guziev by Muzafar Etcheev, the radio host, producer, and one of the leading figures of Karachay Balkarian Pop Scene. In other words, we came to the village Tashli Tala by getting directions not from folklorists but from a showbiz person.
We may call the ensemble Iynar as something not folklorish and get it out of our project’s agenda. This is what we would have done a year ago. Indeed, despite the fact that the Balkarian ensemble’s repertoire is, in its most parts, folk in nature, it is obvious that the way it is performed is not folk at at all.
What if we shift our focus from only authentic music and start looking at a tradition as an evolving phenomenon affected by various factors? What if we presume that the Soviet system and the Omar Otarov’s artistic legacy created a new tradition in the Karachay – Balkarian folklore? In such a case, Iynar becomes an important figure for Ored Recordings. We perceive it as today’s expressions of traditional music in one of its forms. The Soviet folk music is a new genre for Ored Recordings. Our scope of interest may have expanded, but traditional folk music remains at its core.
What is important is that theе recording session was not ordinary both for us and the music ensemble. At the very beginning, we explained that contrary to other music professionals we always aim at documenting the situation as it is. The ensemble members found the recording session rather new and unfamiliar. So far they had been dealing only with sound producers, who were quite intrusive during recording and post-production. So, the recording session in Tashli Tala was a kind of challenge to Iynar (unfortunately, the session turned out to be a bit formal)
Did the ensemble manage the situation? Did we manage to document a piece of semi-folk culture? This music release may offer answers.
Sound: Timur Kodzoko
Sound editing: Timur Kodzoko
Photography: Elena Miloserdova
Cover art: Milana Khalilova
Notes: Bulat Khalilov, Yaroslav Suzdaltsev, Olesya Altynbaeva
Special thanks to Muzafar Etcheyev and Betal Bekanov
Recorded in Tashli-Tala village, Kabardino-Balkaria,
Russia. In June 2016.
Chris May at The Vinyl Factory has done a great job making choices for introducing their vinyl junkie readership to the best of Ethiopian jazz from the 1960s onward. Special thanks to Al Clark for pointing this wonderful link out to me.
Thanks to a spate of reissues of classic material from the 1970s across various labels, Benin’s music scene has been receiving a lot of very well-deserved attention. Among the best of the modern bands is The Gangbé Brass Band, who blend horns and traditional instruments with incredible vocal harmonies.
Disques Debs International Volume 1. Label: Strut. Release Date: ‘29th’ July 2018. Compilation Of The Week. Nowadays, Disques Debs International which was founded by Henri Debs in Guadeloupe, in the late-fifties, is regarded by many connoisseurs as the one of the best, if not greatest of all French Caribbean labels. That is high praise, given […]