Saturday, July 7, 2012

Despite the Sorrow of Syria: Rachid Taha and Tony Hanna

Rachid Taha and Tony Hanna

With all the sad news coming out of the tv about Syria and Libya its time to remember the musical brilliance that resides in the Middle East.

Rachid Taha’s music has an intensity that matches the passions that are currently burning up the streets and villages and cities of Syria. When he sings, you tend to listen. His voice commands authority; like a fist grabbing you by the scruff of the neck. But unlike the paid thugs of politicians, his power makes you dance and be joyful.  I’ve spoken of Taha’s antecedents in other posts on this blog so will allow you to satisfy your curiosity at your own leisure, if you’ve not had the pleasure of this man’s music.

The fine fellows at AMG have this is say about Diwan (1998) the album we focus on today.
This is a stunning album, as Rachid Taha, the Algerian rocker, moves through straightforward rai to blues, rock, and the full spectrum of worldbeat. The album starts out with a song about exile from home, followed by a musical history of rai, covering all of the basic steps in the development of Taha's chosen base-style. An Egyptian film song from the great Farid El Atrache continues the barrage of bouncing Middle Eastern and North African sounds. A more modern version of the ay-ay genre ensues, with fuzzed guitars looped throughout. Some urban Algerian blues and a bit of chaabi follow, on the topics of love and love lost. The album finishes with a stretch of slightly more serious songs, with a number based on the Algerian war for independence and the torture endured by its prisoners, a political song from a Moroccan group, a basic rai number in French pidgin, and a song from the frustrated youth of Algeria. This is something of a North African tour-de-force, as Taha moves from one style to another, always partially based in the rai tradition, but always expanding to other styles in the process. The songs can be backed by a simple flute, or by a group of rock guitars. Either way, the works are held together by the overriding compositions that Taha is dealing from. It's a great album for those that are already knowledgeable in rai for its new directions, and a nice album for newcomers as it displays the full breadth in a single disc. (AMG)

Tony Hanna is a singer from Lebanon who rose to prominence in the 1970s when Beirut was the pearl of the Mediterranean.  I spent several days there in the summer of 1974. The streets around the Phoencian Hotel, where we stayed, were quiet and lined with shops selling carpets and other tourist fare. Shop keepers were never pushy and seemed just as interested in chatting the hours away as making a sale. The blue sea sparkled in the sun. That a full on civil war would crush that same hotel and shopkeepers and fill the shady streets with blood and bullets only 12 months later seemed impossible to imagine.

Around that time Mr. Hanna, left Lebanon and settled in the West. He spent several years in London and many more in America’s great Arab city, Detroit.  His music was loved by the expatriate/exile communities, especially his live concerts, one of which we share tonight.  At the height of his popularity, Tony Hanna gave it all up and disappeared. I’m sure someone knows where he is and what happened, so if you know, let me know!  The music of this grandly moustachioed sultan of song is very different from that of Rachid Taha’s. Different generations, different sensibilities. But both excellent!

            Track Listing:
            01 Ya Rayah
02 Ida
03 Habina
04 Bent Sahra
05 Ach Adani
06 El H'Mame
07 Enti Rahti
08 Menfi
09 Bani Al Insane
10 Malheureux Toujours
11 Aiya Aiya

            Track Listing:
            Tony Hanna
            01 Cherwal Jeddak Ya Jeddi
02 Yssid Sabahak
03 Al Dalouna
04 Ya Khiyala
05 Al Ataba Al Baalbakieh
06 Hala Bi Emm Al Ouyoun Al Soud
07 Inn Lansoub Telephone
08 Abou'l Zilouf
09 Ya Emm Al Foustan Al Nili
10 Ya Moyharati Al Fok Al Jabal
11 Kberet Wi Oumri Kbir
12 Ya Ghzayel Yamm Elheba
13 Cherwal Jeddak Ya Jeddi (Reprise)


Hammer said...

The Tony Hannah CD rocks, very much.

Danke, dawg.


ajnabi said...