[Music] Various Artists – Zamaan Ya Sukkar: Exotic Love Songs and Instrumentals from the Egyptian 60’s

Belgium’s Radio Martiko continue to impress with their reissues!  This one collects a few old slabs of Egyptian exotica, and it’s one of the most charming comps I’ve heard in a while!

From the label’s Bandcamp site:


In Western countries, when we speak about exotica, we think about the likes of Martin Denny, Les Baxter or Arthur Lyman. Musicians who created an exotic dream world by incorporating instruments and rhythms from other cultures in their compositions. The musical influences from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Orient provided a way for the listeners to wander off to an imaginary paradise and escape from their grey, daily routine.

In the late 50’s and the 60’s, it was not only in the West that people felt the need to flee from their regular life. In quite some countries that were considered to be ‘exotic’ from a Western point of view, you can find examples of composers who approached music in a similar way as their Western counterparts. They created their own imaginary paradise by adopting musical influences from other cultures.

Egyptian Exotica

We went through the archives of Sono Cairo, Disques Sharara and Misrphon to introduce the world to the exciting world of Egyptian exotica. You will hear Jazz, bolero, mambo, twist, … but with a different, unexpected feeling. What makes it interesting is that the Egyptian interpretations of the music from other ‘exotic’ countries are very similar in sound, then again very far from the musical traditions of the original country. Crossover styles in an early stage are always unique because different strong traditions can clash abominably but can also blend in a most harmonious way.

The first Egyptian composer who brought striking elements from other cultures into his music was Prof. Mohamed Abdel Wahab. Since the 1930’s his work was punctuated with Western classical music as well as rumba, bolero and tango. Many later composers in the Middle East, especially Egypt and Lebanon, followed his example.
As Cairo and Beirut were flourishing metropoles and beating hearts of cultural life, it’s needless to say that those places boosted the music and record industry. Since more than a century ago European record companies began to collaborate with the Arab music scene to press records, build top notch recording studios and invest in new record labels such as Baidaphon, Cairophon, Misrphon… The latter, which had a partnership with Philips, became nationalised around 1960 and a colonel of the Nasr regime occupied founder Mohamed Fawzy’s chair. Suddenly Fawzy became an employee of the Egyptian state and his salary decreased with 90%.
Sono Cairo, governmental institution, was the country’s national proud and during more than a decade they recorded hundreds of famous Egyptian singers but also artists of varied origin like French, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, African etc.. This big boom of cultural crossover and a sparkling nightlife called for new dancing rhythms and innovative styles. Egyptian movies were hyper popular throughout the Arab world and featured foxtrot, twist and cha-cha-cha. Talented composers were affected by the same craze and started to mix eastern themes and oriental makam with Latin rhythms and jazz harmonies. We tracked down a few Sono Cairo recordings by the great Cuban pianist Luis Varona (Tito Puente Orchestra) playing Exotica sounds à la Yma Sumac and we stumbled on a pair of massive mambo jazz instrumentals composed by Salah Ragab’s tenor sax player Sayed Salamah (tracklist).
We tried very hard to find information about the music and artists in the track list but most of the band members who played during those sessions are long gone and many tracks we selected from 45rpm records seemed to be difficult to identify by several old musicians and producers we interviewed. When we talk about the Sono Cairo archives we are mainly referring to the collection of records we build up during our travels to Cairo in the past 5 years. Upon consulting the digital catalog provided by the staff of Sono Cairo, we couldn’t find any of the selected track titles.

We especially want to use the term ‘Exotica’ because this type of music is so obscure and mysterious in a way to let your mind drift off to wherever it takes you, far away from the normal, the average, off to your own Shangri-la.

Sono Cairo

The songs on this compilation were licensed from the legendary Sono Cairo label, founded by Mohamed Fawzy during the late 50’s and later taken over by the Egyptian state. Sono Cairo was one of the most important record labels in the Arab world, producing records for many artists, among them, the biggest star of the Middle East, Oum Kalthoum. The heritage of this label is enormous and we’re working on several projects to reissue music from this wealthy catalog.


As lounge music and easy listening were massive during the 1990’s, library music seems to be the rage for today.  So many labels are releasing wonderful compilations that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with what’s coming out, and what belongs on the top shelf.  Buried Treasure Records seems to have come out with the year’s best library comp, which also happens to be available on vinyl and CD.  Check out these tracks by no-name artists who deserved a better fate than to be forgotten for so long.  All the material is brilliant!

[Music] Various Artists – Voulez-Vouz Chacha? French Chacha 1960​-​1964

This has to be one of the happiest, most swinging comps I’ve heard in a while.  From the Born Bad Bandcamp site:

Careful, “Let’s not get angry” suggests Spartaco Sax, the famed song accompanying French daily paper FRANCE-SOIR’s campaign against road violence: music isn’t that serious, often times really not. In any case, it is with this not so serious ear that one should listen to this selection of chachacha, mambo and other genres to twist and madison to, as music-lovers pinch their noses and block their ears. And yet, these breezy and light songs under their false airs of effortlessness draw out an astonishing analysis of late 1950s France with its partying baby boomers. Put on your dancing shoes, everyone on the dancefloor, let’s go baby.

The record starts out with an esoteric organ, a guitar straight out of a western, a vibey rhythm section, a speeding saxophone, a glamorous voice, a curious keyboard, a slightly panicky tempo… “Please Mr Hitchock!” calls out a voice from the unknown, on an arrangement that’s about to lose control.

The tone is set. Eins Zwei Drei, cries out Spartaco Andreoli, creator of the Chachacha for tunas, lyrics that are absurd accompanying music that isn’t so much so. And this is just the beginning. I can already see those making fun of it, and yes, I admit it does sound a bit comically-tragic, but more often than not, a persistent riff or melody will get stuck in your head, a chorus that you’ll start unintentionally humming, your foot that starts beating unbeknownst to you. “C’est bon ça dis donc !” (This is pretty good), suggest the Los Goragueros, at the start of their Mambo Miam Miam (Yum Yum). A smooth sax, a double bass that sways and shattering percussions, this song anonymously written by Alain Goraguer (there is often an “os” (bone), added to the band name for a little authenticity, i.e Los Chiquitos and Los Albinos) is actually quite tasty. This arranger and pianist who went on to write the indispensable Planète Sauvage (Wild Planet) is not the only one to have advanced half-masked in these tropical times. Just as Michel Legrand devoted himself to rock music, for better or worst.

Tropical music and France go way back. Indeed, this tropism for exotic music, not without the mannerisms that go with it, has been around. Just think of the period between both world wars, when the Paris of the roaring twenties fluttered to the sound of Latin-American orchestras. The influential Brazilian musician Pixinguinha came through in 1922, the charismatic Cuban singer Rita Montaner triumphed a few years later at the famed Palace and the brilliant clarinettist Stellio from Martinique had everyone dancing through the night to the beguine (a dance style from Martinique)… Seedy cabarets and fishy clubs mixing up different peoples and music until the early hours. From Montparnasse to Montmartre, dancing clubs bloomed throughout the capital while the World Exhibition sold a rather uncertain idea of the other tropics: a discounted and fantasized exotic dream of island life. It’s in bars like Jimmy’s, by La Coupole, or the Melody’s nestled in the heights of Pigalle, where Don Marino Barreto’s (Cuban pianist and singer who emigrated to Paris in the 1920s) orchestra made the heyday of a surreal and carefree Paris. Parisian Ray Ventura and his band Les Collégiens, quite the breeding ground for funny songs, at times almost delirious, were always a big part of the party.

And after the Second World War, it started all over again. Rico’s Creole Band was one of the great Creole orchestras to sway all of Paris, the Blomet Ball brought together the Afro-Caribbean communities, L’Escale became an essential dancing ground for lovers of Latin music, the pianist Eddie Warner was one of these pillars, accompanied by his “rhythms”, a “witty orchestra with 85% of French musicians, only the percussionists were South American”. Another jazzman, Henri Rossotti, also navigated in the warm waters of these gentle tropical shores. They covered sambas and mambos, adapting Benny Moré and Pérez Prado. Hot, like the hard-hitting Benny Bennett and his orchestra of Latin American music, which ended up being the training grounds of many apprentice improvisers. On the menu: calypso, merengue… and of course chachacha. Shortly after, the Los Machucambos, a South American band created in the Latin Quarter performed music between guajira and flamenco and its song Pepito marked the start of the trio’s success.

At the time, Latin-style combos were all the rage in France such as the chachacha which was officially invented in the early 1950s by Enrique Jorrin, soon followed by the pachanga, becoming a staple of black-and-white films. In the long run, this music has become a sort of French standard, adapted by many: Boris Vian oftentimes, Bourvil, Bob Azzam, Gainsbourg, Carlos (jokingly), Louis Chedid, Vanessa Paradis… Taking it a little far, you could even detect the beginnings of the french touch. This Chachacha affair is emblematic of the atypical history of popular music, that of back-alleys, far from the paths and furrows of glory. Music, raised from the grave and dusted off by the Born Bad record label. In terms of latin music, these records that were patiently found in flea markets are becoming a rarity, even if most are worth three euros and six cents: this low cost hobby is underestimated by licensed collectors, who run like lunatics towards triple-zero rarities.

Chachacha Transistor, predicted the unlikely Jacky Ary, known for his less digestible Mange des tomates (Eat tomatoes). With the approach of the 1960s, typical music styles were found all over the country, from the northern plains to the southern sea. Never failing to cheer up dances, nor to whet the appetite of a burgeoning industry, which often seized it by opportunism, not without a tinge of cynicism. After all, one must sell records to the desolate youth, at all costs and any price. These 7-inch vinyl records were therefore recorded at Barclay, Vogue and co. Low-consumption products intended to supply the shelves of budding suburban supermarkets. The idea was to convert a North-American trend in the studio, by summoning old geezers (Paul Mauriat under the pseudonym of Eduardo Ruo, at the top of the list…) who would play young and interpret these rhythms with a distorted vision. All for just one season and all this before summer hits were a thing. It was already the same idea though, but in more of a D.I.Y fashion. A quick fix, just enough time for the producers to get some juicy revenue, the same ones who recruited teams to perform these “inferior” works. Most were flops, but a few made it big such as Jean Yanne answering to Henri Salvador for Allo Brigitte, a classic of the “comic-musical” genre. It’s author Norma Maine went on to write quite a few of these quirky songs.

Most had improbable dialogue, as well as senseless adaptations such as the Marchand de melons (The Melon Merchant) distorting Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, a result of automatic writing in order to come up with ridiculous lyrics. What can be said about Tarte à la nana (Girl Pie), and how about Ça c’est du poulet ? (This is Chicken?) Or the terrible Soukou Soukou, on the limit of bad taste, words of a colonist… When it comes to reappropriating foreign know-how, the results can turn out strange like a surreal shock of cultures. Improbable mixes, like chacha bebop, latino tempo and scat jazz… It all definitely swings and is sometimes even quite impressive. Because magical loose moments are to be found in these records made to order, records that were just trying to recreate a successful pre-existing North American formula. They recorded them on the line, in the original spirit, or inconspicuously modified them, not only for fun, but also for the pleasure of adding on a chorus which would take the song a little further, or a well adjusted rhyme that would denote a touch of derision, a French tradition that was to be repeated in rock as in punk, and even bossa nova. The key often being explosive arrangements, occasionally beautiful choruses, radiant mishaps, confusing mistakes, not necessarily off-topic, all in all some sweet musical trips that always have an effect on the dancefloor when it’s time to boogie. Try it out, you’ll see, it works every time, if you don’t abuse of it. Moderation is recommended for this music that should be served either at cocktail hour or after midnight…

[Music] Various Artists – The Library Archive: Funk, Jazz, Beats and Soundtracks from the Vaults of Cavendish Music

Though I’m enthralled with library music at the moment, thanks to my friend Chris, who has served as a bit of a guru for me, I’m disappointed to see that there isn’t much in the way of literature documenting how these classic discs came to be.  Thankfully, through the work of labels like BBE Music, we’re being treated to some remarkable compilations, giving a synopsis of the brilliant music we managed to miss out on.

From the Bandcamp site:

Join two of BBE’s most prolific artists and compilers, Mr Thing & Chris Read on a voyage into the mysterious, strange and wonderful world of Library Music, courtesy of Cavendish Music. Founded in 1937 and originally known as Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library, Cavendish Music is the largest independent Library Music publisher in the UK and also represents a host of music catalogues across the globe.

During the Library Music heyday of the 60s and 70s, thousands of original instrumental tracks were produced across a broad range of genres for companies like Cavendish, who then created vinyl and tape collections, often arranged by theme or mood, for their customers in radio, television and film. Cult British TV shows such as The Sweeney and The Professionals as well as documentaries and feature films relied heavily on these catalogues, and companies like KPM, De Wolfe and Boosey & Hawkes went a long way toward defining the sound of British popular culture at the time.

Never commercially available, music created for these libraries that never made it to the promised land of TV or Radio was destined to languish in Cavendish Music’s vast London vault; only recently unearthed by a new generation of DJs and producers searching for rare gems or a perfect sample.

Mr Thing & Chris Read were first invited to examine the contents of the Cavendish Music archive in 2014 as part of WhoSampled’s ‘Samplethon’ event in which producers created new tracks against the clock using sample material mined from the catalogue. Whilst digging through box upon box of records and tapes looking for interesting sounds, the pair also discovered a host of 70s library music which has not only stood the test of time, but deserves to be heard in its original form.

From dramatic big band numbers reminiscent of Lalo Schifrin’s film scores to atmospheric proto-hip hop instrumentals produced before the genre’s existence, right through to fairly straightforward jazz and funk cuts; this amazing collection of music is sure to inspire and delight DJs and beatmakers the world over.