Sunday, January 08, 2017

Neta Alkayam covers Jacob Abitbol, "Khoti Khoti"

The great Moroccan Israeli singer Neta Alkayam covers a song from Jacob Abitbol -- father of the much better known Moroccan Jewish singer Haim Botbol. On Haim Botbol, please check out this post from the invaluable blog Jewish Morocco Jukebox. Jacob, the post says, was a respected vocalist and violin player who released a number of 45s in Morocco during the 1950s. I've not been able to find much else about Jacob. The video is, it's not surprising, drenched in nostalgia. 

Update, January 11, 2017. Here is the original, Jacob Abitbol's "Khoti Khoti Ghadroni," posted on YouTube by the inimitable toukadime.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Old photos of Cheb Khaled

I'm in the middle of trying to finish off an article about pop-rai, and hunting for photos of Cheb Khaled and his first band, Les Cinq Étoiles (Ennoujoum El Khams). It was modeled after the Moroccan neo-folk bands like Nass El Ghiwane that were so popular in Morocco, and then were disbanded after Morocco invaded and occupied Spanish Sahara in 1975. Khaled formed the group in 1971 or 1972, performing Moroccan neo-folk material, but by 1974 he was already doing his own material, with "Trig Lycée."

In the course of my research I came across this photo:

I found it here -- a YouTube video created for the posting of a Cheb Khaled song called "Rayha Ghaydana." 

The posting suggests the recording was released in 1979. A Khaled discography that I found (where? I now can't remember) states that this song is from Cheb Khaled's second cassette release, with the name Deblet Galbi. Khaled's first recording (Trig Lycée -- a cassette with four songs) came out in 1974, so this seems like a long gap, as "Trig Lycée" was a hit, but...I just don't know. The musicians shown here could be the ones who played on the Deblet Galbi recording. On some of the tracks, you also hear a guitar. Khaled, of course, plays accordion. Were these guys in Les Cinq Étoiles? Did they also appear on the Trig Lycée release?

Still hunting...I do love the fact that people post photos with YouTube vids.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

kufiyaspotting: "Logan"

Logan, to open in March - 20th Century Fox 
I had actually seen the trailer for Logan in the movie theaters last week, but this scene flashed by so quickly that I don't think I noticed the kufiya. Today's New York Times has a short article by Michael Gold called "4 Trailers That Have Us Excited for 2017." One of the four trailers the article features is Logan, starring Hugh Jackman, and it's accompanied by this photo. In the trailer, this scene is to be found at 1:20. It appears, based on what I can deduce from the trailer, that the Logan character is being chased down, in the US, by military types. The kufiya on the soldier would appear to reflect that he had done service in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the wearing of kufiyas by soldiers has been quite common over the last 14 years, and I've documented several instances on this blog. I own a military issue kufiya, khaki colored, that is flame retardant, given to me by someone who served in Iraq.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

kufiyaspotting: Earth Wind & Fire

thanks to Marc for pitching this to me

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, January 01, 1970

I think it's Philip Bailey (who shared lead vocals in EWF with Maurice White) wearing the kufiya, but I'm not certain.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Shows I've been to: Jefferson Airplane & Big Brother & the Holding Company, August, 1966

Early August 1966. I was 16, on "home leave" from Beirut with my family, staying with friends in Los Gatos, where we had lived before moving to Beirut in January 1964. I had friends in Los Gatos who played in a rock band (for the life of me I can't remember their name). The drummer was Randy Ritchie, who passed away in 2012. They took me along to the club, Losers South, in San Jose, on a few occasions, because they performed there on occasion. This was the first live rock show I ever went to in the US (I'd seen bands in Beirut, of course).

I don't remember whether it was the first night I went that I saw Jefferson Airplane perform. I was really blown away, I'd never heard anything like it. This was when Signe Toly Anderson was the female lead singer. She was to leave the band shortly thereafter, doing her last show in October 1966. The Airplane's first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released in August as well, and I grabbed a copy and took it back with me to Beirut. Wish I still had it!

The opening band the night I went (not sure which of the dates) was Big Brother & the Holding Company. I have to admit that they were too loud and intense and I was not into them. This was less than two months after Janice had joined the band -- she first performed with them on June 10, 1966. Of course when I returned to the US in 1968 for college, I had seen the error of my ways, and I went to see them live that fall.

The one thing I remember about the show was that there was a go-go dancer onstage with the Airplane while they were playing. This was a common feature of shows in the early to mid-sixties but it went out of style with the rise of psychedelia. I think the presence of the dancer must have been something that the club management put on the program. I have to say that at the San Jose there was no flavor of the emerging psychedelic scene that was emerging 60 miles away in San Francisco. Check out this footage of the Airplane playing at the Filmore in 1966 -- there was no light show in San Jose, that's for sure. (The sound is not live, it's from the record, but you can see Signe Toly Anderson onstage.)

I found a blog post which has this to say about the Losers South club: "The venue never caught on, both because of the terminal unhipness of San Jose and the fact that Losers South was apparently notorious for not paying its acts (and no doubt, unlike the Avalon would not even give unpaid bands a kilo of weed)." Well, at least it was hip enough to book the Airplane and I got exposed! [Added 23 August: Another thing that was great about Losers South was that I was allowed in as a teenager, aged 16. There was no checking of ID. I didn't have one!]

The poster -- which I now of course wish I had snagged -- was apparently designed by Stanley Miller ("Mouse") and Alton Kelley, whose most famous psychedelic poster work was for the Grateful Dead.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Simsimiyya in Egyptian Popular Culture: El-Gizawy in "Fatat al-Mina (The Harbor Girl)"

In the very fine documentary Nuh el-Hamam (Wailing of the Doves), 2004, directed by Amir Ramsis, 2006), we learn that the Port Said singer and simsimiyya player El-Sayed Abdou Mahmoud, known as El-Gizawy, appears in the 1964 film, Fatat al-Mina' (The Harbor Girl), which is set in a village on the Suez Canal. (That's him on the left.)

He tells us that he worked as an ironer (mikwagi) and that he used to sing at parties in the street -- the traditional way that simsimiyya music, known as damma, was performed at the time. He says he was contacted by director Hossam el-Din Mustafa to appear in the film, which stars Farid Shawki, Mahmoud El-Meleigy, Nahed Sharif, and Nagwa Fouad. He says that he sings on two songs, but I can only find one. The song starts at about 31:45. Check it out.

When the group El Tanbura was formed in late 1988 under the leadership of Zakaria Ibrahim, el-Gizawy was one of the veteran artists recruited to join the project of reviving the Port Said musical tradition that seemed to be dying out. He appears as a singer on all four of the group's albums. Sayed Gizawy passed away in October 2015. Allah Yarhamu.

Blanca Li, Gnawa, Nana et Lila, Abdenbi Binizi (allah yarhamu)

In a previous post I wrote about Spanish dancer Blanca Li's connection with Hassan Hakmoun and Safia Boutella. Here is a bit from an article about Blanca Li by Luke Jennings that appeared in The New Yorker, April 28 & May 5, 1997, entitled "The Days and Nights of Blanca Li." The Etienne in question is Etienne Li, Blanca's partner, a Franco-Korean mathematician and graffiti artist who was posted to teach in Morocco in 1986.

Screen shots of the relevant sections:

Here's a video of excerpts from "Nana et Lila." It looks and sounds quite remarkable. Damn it, I was at the 1992 Avignon festival, missed it by one year! The Gnawa who perform are Gnawa Halwa from Marrakesh, led by the terrific singer and guinbri player, the late Abdenbi Binizi, who I had the privilege of meeting in Morocco in 1999.

Nana et Lila from Blanca Li on Vimeo.

Here's a video clip of Abdenbi performing by himself:

And a photo of him with Gnawa Halwa. 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Mahraganat's march into the mainstream

I'm doing a lot of reading and video and movie watching on the topic of mahraganat for a writing project, and I thought I'd share this nugget.

In 2012 mahraganat artist Sadat was asked to compose a song for the mainstream film Game Over, released in June, a remake of the Hollywood release Mother-In-Law (starring Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez). The song, “Haqqi Bi-raqabti” (my right to my neck? -- help, please!)  appears in a scene where Egyptian film stars Yousra and Mai Ezzedine lip-synch it. The scene looks pretty fairly ridiculous, especially Yousra (at age 61) dancing and singing to the autotuned vocals of Sadat. 

Here's the scene:

Sadat’s name does not appear in the movie credits. I learned this from watching Hind Meddeb's 2013 documentary, Electric Chaabi, which you can purchase from Amazon. I highly recommend it. 

Very soon thereafter it would be hard to imagine mahraganat artists not receiving credit or anyone other than the artists themselves performing their own songs. 

As a footnote, I love Yousra, especially in Mercedes and Al-Irhab wa al-Kebab.

Ben Ehrenreich, Palestine and the Bendaly Family

Ben Ehrenreich's new book about Palestine, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, has been receiving rave reviews. I finally ordered it, and just started reading it. Only a few pages in, it's terrific. What really struck me on the first page was his description of how "Palestine has a way of enchanting people." He goes on to describe what hooked him. 

Yes, it was seeing and hearing a Palestinian kid singing that great number by the Bendaly Family, "Do You Love Me?" that captured Ehrenreich for Palestine.

Back in 2007 I did a post about the song called "Is this the best clip of Arab music ever?" Tongue in cheek of course, because the song is sung almost entirely in English, but also heartfelt, because it is great Arab music. And since then, a couple more posts, one with a bit more info about the Bendalys, and links to videos I particularly like, and another about a re-fix of the song by Dub Snakker. 

Great to know that the Bendalys continue to be loved. And finally, go read Ehrenreich's book.