Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boppin' in Beirut: Ziad Rahbani, Salma Mosfi and Ilham Madfai

Ziad Rahbani

There is quite a bit on at the moment in the Middle East.  Lest we conclude that in Arabic speaking lands nothing but mayhem and disorder can exist, the Washerman's Dog has decided to offer up some powerful evidence to the contrary.

Ziad Rahbani is a Lebanese playwright, composer and iconoclast who began writing poems at the age of 13. Son of the famous Lebanese singer Fairuz, Ziad has used his music as a platforms to critique and satirise political events in the Middle East. A proud fellow traveller and sympathiser of the communist Left Rahbani has managed to carve a respected artistic reputation for himself in Lebanon while at the same time irritating all sides of the delicately constructed  Lebanese political landscape.  In 2001, a year of momentous political developments across the globe, Rahbani composed a set of jazzy Bossa Nova tracks which were recorded by the singer Salma Mosfi. Monodose is an album that blew me away when I first heard it soon after its release.  It is sophisticated, accomplished and polished jazz. Salma handles the material with confidence and joyfulness, her voice seems to be made for singing jazz.  The only off-putting aspect of the album is the title. But perhaps it is one of Rahbani's satirical digs at the powers that be and the need to immunise ourselves from the viral political winds that were starting to blow at the time of the album's release.  But this is a minor complaint. This is lovely, surprising and unique music, plain and simple. Enjoy it.
     Track Listing:
     1. Mish Bas Talfinly (So Danco Samba)
     2. Un Verre Chez Nous
     3. Ma Mneeha El-Risali
     4. Ma'am A'rif Leh (Gingele)
     5. Black & Why (1)
     6. Ass'ada' illahou Masa'akom
     7. Walla't Kteer
     8. Da'wa Dodd Majhoul
     9. Ma Bitfeed
   10. Black & Why (2)
   11. Instrumental

Listen here

Ilham Madfai
Ilham Madfai, is an Iraqi, but hugely popular throughout the Middle East. Indeed, throughout the world. He's probably the most well known Arabic pop star in the West thanks to his best selling albums, a recent interest in his homeland and festivals like WOMAD. But this would suggest that he is a recent 'flavor of the month'. Far from it. Madfai has been making pop music since the 1960s and is credited with being the father of Iraq's first rock n' roll band, The Twisters.  As a university student in the UK he continued to make music at London's Baghdad Cafe where  he jammed with contemporary stars like The Beatles and Georgie Fame. Ever since he's been known as the 'John Lennon' of Iraq.  As an exile in the Gulf and later in Europe Ilham Madfai has kept on making some of the most real and exciting music in the world. His blend of traditional Arabic instruments and singing styles with Spanish guitar runs and rock n roll beats are absolutely addictive. He is one of the Washerman Dog's all time favorite artists.

This collection, released in 1999, is from a number of performances at Beirut's Hard Rock Cafe. The record captures the atmosphere, the fine performances of Ilham and his band and the appreciative audience very well. You'll be up and clapping yourself by the end.

Track Listing:
  1. Bint Al Shalabla
  2. Ya Azouli
  3. Ya Qlaibi Sil Wo Dood
  4. Dizani Wa Arif Madami
  5. Mali Shughul bil Souq
  6. Chobie Pt 1
  7. Chobie Pt 2
  8. Khuttar
  9. El Rail wa Hammad

Listen here

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