[Music] Various Artists – Habibi Funk 014: Solidarity With Beirut

I’m sure a lot of you, dear friends, saw the horrifying blast which occurred in Beirut, Lebanon a few days ago. Well over a hundred were killed in the blast, and countless more have been maimed. Our friends at Habibi Funk offer up this compilation of amazing Lebanese artists, with all proceeds going to the Lebanese Red Cross, who are in dire need of both funds and blood donations at this time.

We pray for the souls of those lost in the blast, and we also thank those good people contributing materially.

From Habibi Funk’s Bandcamp site:

We at Habibi Funk have been shocked and saddened by the explosion in Beirut 3 days ago. It was important for us to express our solidarity so we reached out to the network of musicians we have adored in the last few years to put together a release. 100% of the profits will go the the Lebanese Red Cross. All tracks from this compilation come from artists from Beirut, some of them don’t live there anymore but the city was essential for their musical career. Although the process of compiling this release was super rushed in order to help in raising funds as quickly as possible, we truly love how it turned out to be musically.

Rogér Fakhr who contributed 2 tracks was a stable of Beiruts 1970s scene of musicians. He played in Fairouz’s band and while his music might not be remembered outside of an informed circle, we have rarely come across a musician whose outstanding talent has been cherished more by his fellow artists. Whenever his name becomes part of a conversation among the scene of old musicians in Beirut, you hear nothing but adoration for his musical abilities and song-writing.

Ferkat Al Ard is one of our favorite bands ever at Habibi Funk. It was founded by Issam Hajali (whose first solo album we re-released), Toufic Farroukh and Elie Saba. They recorded three albums in which they effortlessly combined jazz, folk, at times Brazilian music, poetry and a political attitude into a unique web of musical beauty. „هجاء“ is the title track from their third and final album.

Toufic Farroukh is not only a founding member of Ferkat Al Ard, but also renowned solo artist. He left Beirut for Paris where he carved his own lane bringing together the musical influences of his homeland with jazz, recording 8 solo albums since 1996. “Villes invisibles“ feels at the same time melancholic and hopeful.

Munir Khauli stems from the same clique of musicians as the aforementioned artists. He also played with renown artists such as Ziad Rahbani and Fairouz, simultaneously releasing solo material. His track “Heik ha Nishtghil?“, recorded in the mid 1980s, had a viral resurgence on social media after people realized that his description of the issues of Beirut have not changed much over the decades and many of his lines from 35 years ago still resonate as adequate today:

“My, oh my, what a Lebanon.

Garbage on the streets, airport closed down, car thefts thriving,

“Is this how we’re gonna work?”

Roadblocks and militias, racial kidnapping, guns and Kalashnikovs,

“Man, is this how we’re gonna work?”

Jobs are scarce, some folks clothed, some barefoot, the dollar rate is rising,

“Where is this leading?”

Violence and ferocity, senators and (parliamentary) seats, massacres and tragedies,

“Is this how we’re gonna work?”

Bombs and explosions, booze and drugs, poverty and downtroddenness,

“What a situation.“

Abboud Saadi is one of the key musicians both behind Samir & Abboud and Force. Both bands were active during the 1980s when similar groups of musicians, including Ziad Rahbani who played on the recordings of both bands, would gather in different bands dedicated to very different musical sounds. „Stand Up“ deals with Beirut during the civil war and the loneliness, the permeant state of conflict brought upon its citizens.

Even before the explosion 3 days ago the situation in Lebanon was dire: Since October 2019 Lebanon’s currency lost 80% of its value, with most people not even being able to access whatever is left of their life savings due to banks’ limits on monthly withdrawal. The costs of basic goods have inflated over 50% for the third month in a row. And while the inflation level would be dramatic for every country, it’s catastrophic for a country like Lebanon, whose economy and public services rely heavily on imports. If all of this was not bad enough, the lockdown associated with the Corona virus reinforced the downwards spiral even more. As a result 65% of the country’s population has slipped into poverty, and starvation is a major threat. A report by Save The Children summarized that “50% of Lebanese, 63% of Palestinians and 75% of Syrians were worried they would not have enough to eat.”

Shout out to Beirut Groove Collective, Chico Records, Sole DXB, Raphaelle Macaron and all artists involved. 

[Music] Azu Tiwaline – Draw Me A Silence Part. I

A very pleasant surprise came into my inbox today.  From Azu Tiwaline’s Bandcamp site:

Azu Tiwaline : It’s a new name for a new spirit. The one of a producer willing to find a new sound in her origins which take root in the Sahara and El Djerid region in the south of Tunisia. A sound from the desert, drawing on berberian and saharan transe music that connects human beings with Nature.

Peculiar translations and spellings aside, this album managed to hold my attention the whole way through. Thanks to being better connected to the world, we are beginning to hear more and more musicians come out of Tunisia and the Maghreb who are of an astounding quality. This is 21st Century Berber Music mixes techno, dub, and native Saharan rhythms. Fourth World music, updated.

[Music] Saulius Petreikis – Negirdėta Lietuva

Saulius Petreikis is the lynchpin of the Lithuanian ethno-folk music scene.  This is a good survey of ethnic music preserved and reinterpreted from the villages of the country.  For Saulius’ Bandcamp site:

Unheard Lithuania – is a collection of musical sounds that were heard long before we were born and will exist long after we are gone. It gathers hundred-years-old stories about our ancestors and the forests and fields they used to live in. Acquaintance with this music began one spring morning in Barstyčiai, Lithuania. I was still a little boy (four years old or so), when my grandfather made me my first flute. Its’ sound still haunts me to this day.

Unheard Lithuania is the melodies and stories rooted deep into our very being. It is young shepherds playing molinukai and skudučiai flutes. It is a child with a jaw harp between his lips and an old man in the field, mourning for his loved one. It is the sound of a horn at the edge of a forest announcing the arrival of the herd. It is a little girl talking to the birds with her lumzdelis flute.

Special website with videos (in english and lithuanian languages) – www.ltinstrumentai.lt

[Music] The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble – The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble

If you are patient, you will indeed run into a charmingly freaky (or freakishly charming) release on Bandcamp.  Today, I want to introduce you to The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble.  They hail from North Korea, of all places, and they have a catalog of at least 85 CDs available.  This compilation, release by the Manchester-based Maybles Labels, put a lot of care into curating these tracks.  From their Bandcamp website:

Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble – 보천보전자악단 is North Korea’s best known musical group. The group has been active for over 25 years and has released close to 200 albums. It is a household name in North Korea and also enjoys recognition in Japan and China. The ensemble’s recognition in Japan was celebrated with a tour in 1991.

The ensemble is famous for its’ inspired use of electronic instruments including bass, guitar, synthesizer and drums. Additional electronic effects are often created and edited in a sound studio following live recordings in order to achieve the hallmark synth-pop sounds.

The ensemble has written and performed marches, polkas, waltzes, bossanova, cha-cha and ballad pieces during its long history. It has also interpreted countless traditional and revolutionary folk songs from Korea and China as well as several Russian and European tunes.

P.E.E’s music is frequently on the themes of love of ones’ country, ideology and loyalty towards the political leadership of North Korea. Friendship, love and the beauty of nature are other common themes.

Former members of the ensemble have included iconic Korean singers such as Hyon Song‑wol, Ri Kyong Suk, Jon Hye Yong and Comrade Ri Sol-ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

It’s best known melody outside of North Korea is “Whistle’ from 1990, which was covered and released in South Korea by Kim Yeon-ja, to great acclaim and success.

Totalitarian countries have a good reason to release nothing but happy music. If their people actually figured out that their situation wasn’t normal, there would be a lot of officials whose heads would be mounted on pikes, so the need to appease the masses is of critical importance.

[Music] Abdel Karim Ensemble – Joyas de la Música Culta Árabe

As I spent Chinese New Year’s Eve in the company of a friend and watched in amazement as to how empty my part of town was, I decided to call it a night and spent a bit of time enjoying some music.  This was the first result of a healthy list of music I indulged in.  This was my first exposure to the Abdel Karim Ensemble.  I’m looking forward to finding more albums, as they play great traditional music from Syria, Egypt, Morocco and pre-Reconquista Spain.  Magnificent listening.

[Music] François N’Gwa / Ogooué / Into The Deep Treasury — Ban Ban Ton Ton

Ban Ban Ton Ton is an amazing blog worth following, and today’s subject material is fascinating:

This quality compilation / retrospective – 180g, fine original artwork by Lea Morichon – comes care of new French label, Into The Deep Treasury. The reissue arm of Arthur Lastmann and Step Daw`s house / techno imprint, Into the Deep Records. Ogooué focuses on the work of West African musician, François N’Gwa, and collects recordings […]

via François N’Gwa / Ogooué / Into The Deep Treasury — Ban Ban Ton Ton

[Music] Ginger Baker Band (with Bill Laswell and Foday Musa Suso) – Kagaribi

The late Ginger Baker was one of the most powerful and innovative drummers to ever grace rock music, especially since he never truly considered himself a “rock” drummer, but rather a jazz drummer.  You can hear it in this release where he collaborates with legendary bassist Bill Laswell and Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso for this 20-minute EP.

Suso and Baker play their instruments off of each other beautifully, while Laswell anchors the chaos.  Recommended.

[Music] Theodosii Spassov & Milcho Leviev – Raga Todor

In 1995, I was approached by the owner of MA Recordings (a kind man whose name I have since forgotten) to sell some of his CDs on consignment.  Among the releases was an album performed by Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev.  He had several releases on this imprint because he was living in Los Angeles at the time, and it is one of my life’s regrets not having the chance to meet him.

Milcho passed away this week, and we bid him a fond farewell and a pleasant afterlife.  Here he is collaborating with Bulgarian multi-instrumentalist and a friend of this blog, Theodosii Spassov.