We are happy to announce our partnership with the Bucharest record shop, Two Side Records. Every month, we will recommend ten releases from the record shelves. From jazz and funk to world music, and from reggae to electronic, each selection will be divided into two parts. Focus On will present a label, taking a look at its history and the first steps in the business. Inside Focus On we will talk about four records of the label that you can find on the Two Sides Records shelves. We continue our presentation with another six records who complete July's soundtrack.
We begin the July selection with a focus on Habibi Records, followed by the other six releases we consider a proper soundtrack for the mid-summer.
Habibi Funk is a sub-label of the Jakarta structure, a cradle mostly for hip-hop artists like Suff Daddy, or Blitz the Ambassador. Established in 2015 by Jannis Stürtz, Habibi Funk takes its name from a comment posted by a listener to an online mix. In an interview for Pan African Music, Jannis talks about the sub-label name:
”We were never good at finding names. Jakarta records got its name because of the holidays I spent in Indonesia. I am aware that the name “Habibi Funk” is not super deep. It obviously doesn’t mean anything because it’s the Arabic word for “darling” mixed with a genre name. But then again, I think that the topic and the music is so special that I think that the introduction to it by a name that, right away, catches your attention and that you can remember, makes perfect sense.”
Habibi Funk is a reissue label focusing on eclectic, stereotype-busting sounds from the Arab world, specialized in Arabic funk, jazz, and other organic sounds from the 1970s and 1980s. With each release, the label digs deep in the foundation of the Arab complex musical rhythms and emotions.
For July we have selected four records from the label catalog that you can find at our friends from Two Side Records:
When I first heard the release it seemed as the city was moving along with every sound. It is something in Ahmed’s music that relates almost to any state of feelings. The musical record comes not only as a collection of superb soundtracks of some of the movies he worked for but also as a soundtrack of the listener’s emotions. Each track has a powerful rhythm and a melody that evolves in such a way that's not dragging you but rather follows your footsteps.
Born in 1932 at Bordj El Kiffan, Algiers, Ahmed Malek gained recognition for his craft from an early stage. He won several prizes and medals nationally and internationally (The Premier grand prix des arts et des lettres de la composition in 1972, the golden medal at the Panafrican Festival in 1976, and the Prix du mérite national pour la composition musicale in 1987). He was the conductor of the Algerian Television Orchestra for many decades and represented his country at international events such as the Expo In Japan, Canada, Cuba, and Spain. During his time as an active composer, he wrote the music for dozens of movies, television shows, and documentaries.
The band was really popular in Egypt in the 1970s. Only very few bands from the region can match the band's versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the Al Massrieen band. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt's only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.
Al Massrieen's sound goes from lush disco like 'Sah' to psych rock like 'Horreya' or incredible jazz fused pop on songs such as 'Edba Mn Gded'.
The 16-track compilation features some of the most entertaining moments from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. A Moroccan take on Beethoven’s Für Elise sounds like Ennio Morricone’s lost blaxploitation movie theme; a wobbly disco number from Sudan resembles Madonna’s Holiday. Meanwhile, one of the two instrumentals by Algeria’s Ahmed Malek would make a great theme to an Africa-set James Bond film. The tracks are arranged chronologically, and the flirtations with funk and garage rock at the start are the most fun, but even some of later R&B pastiches from Tunisia and Egypt are pleasingly odd.
Habibi Funk proves, once again, that is a record label that digs deep in the music of Arab world, bringing upfront all sorts of gems, no matter the music influence, or the artist name.
We finish this month Foucus On, with another great re-issue from Casablanca. A completely unreleased album was recorded in Morocco in 1973 by a three-generation family band. A unique blend of Gnawa, funk, and rock, forms the connection between traditional Moroccan music and electronic guitars, by a band that used to run in the same circles as Fadoul (who wrote one of his songs). The dense layers of percussion you will find on top of every track feels like a motor that will never stop. Every track explores incredible energy. Highly recommended.
We continue our selection of music from Two Side Records with another 6 releases that we consider a must listen in July. Remember, that every record we present is available for purchase in the record store. They have a warm atmosphere and you can enjoy digging their crates while taking a break from the daily rush.
Released by the reggae and dub specialist Tokio based Dub Store Records, the compilation is reaching out to the real roots of the Jamaican sixties musical explosion. Some of the originators of the genre, including Ernest Ranglin, Lennie Hibbert & Cecil Lloyd, playing in their element and demonstrating just where they're coming from.
Amadjar tells the story of several journeys: the one undertaken to prepare the album, and the one that Tinariwen take between two worlds, theirs and ours, with that constant need to pass from one to the other before coming back to the roots. “I’m in a complete solitude, where thoughts frighten me, and lost in their midst I arose and noticed that I was thirsty and wanted water,” sings Ibrahim on Ténéré maloulat, the first song on the album; a return to the source of Tamashek poetry. In the middle of other more political songs, through always desolate, these words express deep distress and survival, but also movement. Amadjar means ”the unknown visitor” in Tamashek, the one who seeks hospitality and who’s condemned to an inner exile, within a territory or within himself; just like the members of Tinariwen, who feel at home on the journey, around the fire with a few immutable songs. The best Tinariwen album will never be. But Amadjar is more essential than all the others. Released by Anti-Records, the album is a must have for any musical explorer.
Meditative to the very last bone, Atlas sees a perhaps unlikely union of two bands from different parts of the world with quite different musical approaches. Tapan come from Belgrade and play a blend of industrial, techno and tribal music. Generation Taragalte are of the nomadic Tuareg people and play amped-up desert blues. Released by Soundway Records, Atlas is a one-off collaboration that can only be described as a collision of droning, electronic jazz, and psychedelic guitar riffs. This one is a personal favorite.
HILA was born from a spontaneous and intense creative impulse between Artyom Manukyan, a Los Angeles-based Armenian celloist and his partner, David Kiledjian aka Dawatile, a French multi-instrumentist of Armenian descent. This project is proving to be a true master stroke given that it only took 21 days for the duo to make it a reality.
Released by Underdog Records, "21" is the well-crafted and sharp. The combination of jazz, Los Angeles beat-scene and the vibrations of 80s and 90s Soviet Armenia make it a striking fusion. These kind of nostalgic and unconventional references forcefully shake the codes of mainstream culture to create a sincere, raw and intimate expression.
Four Flies Records released at the end of last year a 21 tracks gem from the golden era of disco. 13 tracks never published before on any format, taken from the finest original soundtracks of the genre. From groovy disco bangers and charming jazz-funk, sleazy-listening and rock blends, to analogue electronic experiments, these iconic sounds embody the essence of the Italian movie industry at the end of the 70s. Pure “aerobic groove" that spells out the melodic action of female starlets
We end up the list for July with a classic record released in 2014 by Soundway Records at the initiative of Adaptr, and with the support of Goethe-Institut.
TEN CITIES is a compilation of electronic music originating from Africa and Europe.
Between Autumn 2012 and Spring 2013, the TEN CITIES project brought electronic music producers and musicians from five cities in Europe (Berlin, Bristol, Kiev, Lisbon and Naples) to five cities in Africa (Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Luanda and Nairobi).
They were invited to collaborate and create, spending an intense time together making music in sticky studios and blacked-out rooms across the African continent. A selection of the outcome of these cross-continental experiments can be heard on this record. It's no surprise that the results are far from what many would term 'World Music' and its often generic mixture of aural clichés.
As a result, hip-hop from the squats of Naples; bass music from Bristol; experimental techno from Berlin or jazz-tinged deep-house from Kiev are thrust upon the pumping kuduro of Luanda, the free-thinking crackled electronica of Cairo, afro-jazz from Lagos or the Sheng street-slang of Kenyan rap.