Saturday, December 21, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Early Um Kalthoum Publicity Photo

Um Kalthum, early in her career. 
Publicity photo from Odeon. 
Courtesy Akassah, Center for Photography, NYU Abu Dhabi.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Raïna Raï at SOB's in New York City, February 1991

I had not known until yesterday that the rai band Raïna Raï had toured the US. (I found this posted on a FaceBook group I belong to.) According to wikipedia, this was in 1991.

The ad is somewhat curious, I'd never heard of the band described as the "sultans" of rai. Plus the claim that they were "direct from Algeria" is somewhat misleading. The members of the band were originally from the Algerian city of Sidi Bel-Abbès, but the band was started in Paris in 1980, where it has been based ever since. The most prominent member was guitarist and leader Lotfi Attar, and what was distinctive about their music in the eighties was the strong guitar element. The band is apparently still active.

On the other hand, they may have arrived in New York "direct from Algeria," as they did do concerts in Algeria. They appeared, for instance, at the first rai festival organized in Algeria, in Oran in 1985, and their performance there can be heard on the album Le Raï Dans Tous Ses Etats, released in 1986 (and very expensive used!).

Raïna Raï is probably best remembered for their 1985 track "Ya Zina," based on the song "Ya Zghida,"
-->originally recorded by Boutaïba Sghir and Messaoud Bellemou. Check out their official "Ya Zina" video below, featuring Lotfi Attar's very strong and distinctive guitar work, and at the end, percussion from qaraqeb, borrowed from the Gnawa tradition.

You can check out Boutaïba's "Ya Zghida" here.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cheikh Raymond, Mustapha Skandrani, Meriem Abed, opening of television station, Constantine, 1959/1960

My apologies to whomever I grabbed this from off the web. It was over a year and a half ago and I can't remember where I got it from.

According to the post, this is who is in the photo:

First row, left to right: Abdelhak Benabbes (known as Tcheka), who played naghrat (percussion) in Cheikh Raymond's group 
Cheikh Raymond Leyris
Mustapha Skandrani (the great pianist who accompanied Reinette L'Oranaise, Hadj El Anka, Amar Ezzahi, and El Hachemi Guerouabi, among others)
Sylvain Ghrenassia (violinist in Raymond's group and father of Enrico Macias)
Alexandre "Judas" Nakkache (Jewish Algerian singer from Constantine)
Second row left to: Haddad Djillali (composer and conductor who worked with Meriem Abed, Rabah Driassa, Fadila Dziria, Leila El Djazairia, and Latifa, among others)
Meriem Abed (singer, active in 50s and 60s)
Hadjira Bali (singer from Oran, 1928-60)
Saim El Hadj (maybe; composer and playwright from Oran)
Khelifi Ahmed (singer, noted for Bedouin songs)
Nadjat (maybe; singer)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

October 17, 1961

It's the anniversary of the Paris police massacre of two to three hundred Algerians. Great article in The Funambulist on the event, and the efforts of female activists to inscribe Paris with reminders of this horrific event.

"On October 17, 1961, a few months before the final victory of the Algerian Revolution, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in France organized a massive pacific march in Paris to show their determination against the curfew that the Prefect of police, the infamous Maurice Papon, in agreement with the French government, had taken against their sole persons a few days earlier — during the 1961-1963 state of emergency in France. 20,000 Algerians joined the march which was met with systematic and deadly violence by the Paris police. Between 200 and 300 Algerians were killed by being shot, beaten to death, or thrown into the Seine river; 10,000 were arrested and detained for several days; hundreds were deported to Algeria — some of these deportations were used to hide the deaths."

"Last night, a few hours of the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the massacre, a small group of female activists visited several of these spaces to graffiti or glue the names of some of the Algerians who were killed that night. In a particularly intense policed and fascist militant environment, they succeeded in paying an homage to the history of Algerian resistance (one that continues today through the antiracist and anticolonial activism) that goes beyond the authorized (yet very important, of course) setting of the 6PM annual gathering on the Saint-Michel bridge. This is crucial as the very discreet official efforts of acknowledgment of the massacre from the Paris municipality and the French state never target those who are responsible for it (Papon, of course, but also the De Gaulle-Debré government, and the police officers themselves)."

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Old reviews for PopMatters: dZihan & Kamien, Refreaked

Another one from 2001.

dZihan & Kamien
(Six Degrees)

by Ted Swedenburg
PopMatters Music Critic

e-mail this article
Refreaked is a collection of remixes of tracks from dZihan & Kamien's successful Freaks & Icons from last year. The remixes, mostly by artists who are personal friends of dZihan & Kamien, do not range too far from the originals. But even if you've already got the original, it is still worth your while to get re-freaked. 

Based in Vienna, dZihan & Kamien produce a brand of Eurodance that is chilled-out, down-tempo, and very easy on the ears. For the most part, the tracks on Refreaked will work just fine as velvety background music. But repeated close listenings reveal a level of complexity, and even subversiveness, beneath an apparently glossy sheen. 

A large portion of both the intricacies and the understated resistance of Refreaked can be traced to dZihan and Kamien's intense interest in Middle Eastern, and particularly Turkish, music. Vlado dZihan hails from Sarajevo in Bosnia, home to a substantial Muslim population, while Mario Kamien, raised in Switzerland, has a Turkish girlfriend. For several years the duo have been recording percussion tracks from musician friends in Turkey, and many of these were used to construct Freaks and Icons. Once they had composed the basic tracks of Freaks and Icons, they then went to Turkey to record live musicians on top. The remixed versions on Refreaked manage to preserve the Middle Eastern feel of the originals. 

But what is truly impressive is how these songs are so subtly given an "Eastern" tinge. Unlike so many "East-West" musical hybrids, where you can immediately hear the discrete "Eastern" and "Western" elements working, and often grating, together, on Refreaked the Turkish drumbeats and Oriental flutes blend together seamlessly with all the other musical ingredients, to create a lush, integrated texture. You really have to listen carefully to hear those "foreign" components.
Take, for instance, "Homebase", a tribute to dZihan's natal home of Sarajevo, the scene of obscene (and for the most part, anti-Muslim and anti-multicultural) violence in the '90s. Remixed by UFO, it opens with a vaguely Eastern-sounding, moaning sample, which is later joined by a simple and melancholic "Western" keyboard riff, repeated over and over. The song builds slowly, adding bass, and then the rhythms of the Middle Eastern derbouka. It continues for over eight minutes, achieving a kind of chilled intensity, as other samples, some recognizably Eastern, others Western, others unidentifiable, weave in and out. All in all, a very low-key yet effective tribute to Sarajevo's multi-ethnic, Euro-Levantine heritage, and an understated lament for the heavy blows it has suffered. "Carta de Condução", as remixed by Butterkeks, is another standout. Opening with a lush and dreamy keyboard sequence, it commences to kick ass with a funky, fuzzy bass and drum riff. A couple of minutes in, the bass and drum are joined by the Eastern derbouka, and then those dreamy keyboards chime in. Then it's chill-out time, no percussion, a moment of repose with bubbly, reverie-inducing keyboards. The bass-and-derbouka kick up another storm, and the number ends with those soft, dreamy keyboards. 

What makes this all so subversive is that dZihan & Kamien simply insinuate all these Eastern elements into downtempo Eurodance without you hardly noticing. It's an insistent, insidious infiltration of the Levant, a resurrection of the spirit of Sarajevo. Coming from a country where an ultra-right, racist, fascistic-leaning and anti-immigrant party (Jörg Haider's Freedom Party) is a partner in the national government, dZihan and Kamien offer an alternative vision of a tolerant, cosmopolitan Europe, one that honors rather than vilifies its Islamic and Levantine elements. And it goes down smooth, like the perfect martini. 

Time to get re-freaked!