[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:

Exotica

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.

[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.

[Music] Félix Blume – Death in Haiti: Funeral Brass Bands & Sounds from Port au Prince


French sound artist and engineer Félix Blume produces something voyeuristic and creepy, yet engaging and life-affirming at the same time.  This album is a collection of brass music played at funerals in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

According to the website, there are featured in these ‘performances’ 15 dead, 15 funerals, 16 funeral processions, 1 procession with no dead, 5 churches, 1 cemetery, 1 wake, all recorded, including the wails and sobbing of those who lost their loved ones.  There is a feeling that death has been conquered and mocked, however, in the same way New Orleans funerals tend to be.

This is field recording at its most engaging, at least for me.

[Video] Mickey Hart / Diga Rhythm Band – Razooli (Studio Version)

Mickey Hart made his fame as a drummer for the Grateful Dead, whom I enjoyed greatly (at least in their live settings). He was also a big fan of Indian music, and really did a lot with his Diga Rhythm Band project to promote it. In this track, it sounds like exotica, innovative Latin percussion, and a touch of India deep inside.

He is joined in this track by Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain.