khairatKairat Baibosynov (Кайрат Байбосынов) is a folk singer and instrumentalist from Kazakhstan. According Kazakh cultural websites, he was born in 1950 and began singing in the ensemble “Gulder” in the late 1960s. On the album from which this track was taken, Kairat Baibosynov Sings, he accompanies himself on the dombra, a kind of lute common to Central Asian music, and plays traditional Kazakh folk songs. In addition to this album, he also recorded an LP with fellow Kazakh musician Zhanibek Karmenov (1949-1992) in 1988, and appeared on the compilation CDs Music of Kazakhstan (1992) and Dombra Music of Kazakhstan (1995).
According to the Russian translation on the sleeve, this song’s title, Zhez kiik, translates to “Copper Saigak”, referring to a type of critically-endangered antelope found today only in Kazakhstan and Russia.

Кайрат Байбосынов- Жез киiк (Мелодия, 1990)


mohammed rashidMohammed Rashid (محمد راشد) was born in 1946 in the Bab El Bahr area of Tripoli, Libya’s capital and largest city. He began performing in the 1960s under the direction of composer Nadim Kazim (نديم كاظم), who also composed the A-side of this single, one of Rashid’s most famous songs, Baligh Salami (بلغ سلامي). He reached the peak of his fame in the 1970s. One of his songs, La B‘adik Zihina (لا بعدك زهينا), was banned from radio broadcast by the regime of Muammar Al-Gadhafi for its supposed message favorable to deposed King Idris. He also attained some measure of success in Lebanon, where the famous Rahbani brothers adapted some of his songs, such as Anshadta ‘Alik (انشدت عليك). He continued to perform until the 1990s, when he withdrew from music. He was honored for his contribution to Libyan music at the Libyan Song Festival in 2002, and performed some of his old songs as part of the same festival in 2007.

He passed away on the morning of November 20, 2012.

محمد راشد – لوقلتيلك أنسى (Fairuzphone, date unknown)

botbolHaim Botbol was born in Fez, Morocco in the 1930s. As his name suggests, he is Jewish. He is part of the 1960s generation of popular North African Jewish artists that also included Sami Elmaghribi, Salim Halali, and others. I’m not sure if he is still living, but there are videos of him on Youtube that appear to be fairly recent. Judging from the information on the back sleeve of this single (which lists nearly 30 additional singles he recorded for the Musica label), he must have quite an extensive discography.

Botbol – Al Mhayne (Musica, date unknown)

shermatShermat Faizullaev (Шермат Файзуллаев) is a folk singer from Uzbekistan. From the liner notes on the back sleeve, we learn that Faizullaev is the soloist of the “Kaldirgoch” folk song and dance ensemble of Xorazm Province, Bog’ot District. The song title Azhoyib (Ажойиб) apparently translates to “Wondrous beauty”. Like all four songs on this EP, it is sung in Uzbek.

This recording was made and pressed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Obviously it has more in common with the classical music of Central Asia than with the folk/pop sound of more Western-influenced Uzbek artists like Yalla, who have been dealt with on other blogs. If you are interested in more Central Asian folk music, there is an excellent series of CD/DVD releases on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

Шермат Файзуллаев- Ажойиб (Melodiya, 1987)

nourredineNourredine was born in 1954 in the Draâ El Mizan district of Kabylie, in northern Algeria. He studied music at the Conservatory of Algiers and had his first major hit with the song “Chenoud” in 1973. The comparisons to Bob Dylan are inevitable, but the Kayble form of folk music popularized in 1970s by Nourredine and fellow Algerian folk singers Idir and Ait Menguellet is rooted in local Berber musical traditions.

The song featured here is from his debut LP, produced by “Club Du Disque Arabe” in Paris. Several releases followed, though I haven’t heard any of them. He now lives in France, and released a new album titled Avava in 2006 that contains some remakes of his 1970s-era material.

Oussane Ounavdhou (Les Artistes Arabes Associés, 1976)

mosheA great rockabilly cover of this Lionel Hampton jazz/bop classic from way back (1945).

The big question here is: Is it really from Congo? The seller told me that it is, but the record itself does not yield any conclusive evidence. It was pressed in France by Pathé, like a lot of African and non-African records were, and the original composition on the flip (a bongo and organ instrumental) is credited to “Essous-Stein” – not exactly helpful one way or another. I wouldn’t guess there are too many Steins in the Congo, but who knows. I thought I might have been duped, but according to Gary Stewart’s book Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos (Verso, 2004), there was in fact a Stenco label operated by a Frenchman by the name of Stein (originally a clothes salesman), who also ran a bar called Super Jazz in the Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Brazzaville). The mysterious “Essous” is Jean Serge Essous, clarinet player and leader of the popular 1960s group Orchestre Bantou. So there you have it: not only is it from Congo, it’s apparently from the much less productive of the two Congos. I suppose this fits a certain niche as Congo-Brazzaville’s first (and only?) rockabilly record. Iraq has its lone folk-rock record (Ja’afar Hassan’s Let’s Sing Together), India has its lone pair of garage rock comps (Simla Beat), and Congo-Brazzaville has this record.

Now, with that solved…who the heck is Moshé?

Moshé- Hey Ba Bare Bop! (Stenco, date unknown)


jamahiriyaThe excellent UK-based African music website Natari says of Libya:

A bit of a musical desert (excuse the pun) with very little home grown musical output. Relies mainly on Egyptian music. I did ask the Swiss Embassy some years ago (they were looking after our interests at the time) if they could help source some music from Libya but they said all that was available was “Egyptian or Ghaddaffi sings the Nolans” beat that for a reply from an Embassy if you can.

When I first read this a few years ago, I found it hilarious. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized that it is also quite true, though a few months ago I found my first Libyan 7”s from the 1960s, which are so good that they may someday end up on this blog. But first I feel compelled to post something else that is no doubt more emblematic of modern Libya – or at least what passed for Libya until recently. This album is dedicated to Col. Muammar Qaddafi and his Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Like Qaddafi, this album is bombastic, stylish (in a dated, 1970s way), committed to people’s revolution, and absolutely freaking insane.

Today’s album fits the Swiss embassy’s reply to a T. It is a thoroughly unhealthy but delicious mixture of catchy disco-pop cheese and pro-Qaddafi socialist zeal. I laughed so hard when I first put this on that I nearly shot boha out of my nose. It is so pro-Qaddafi, so pro-Libyan socialist revolution…I was shocked to find that virtually nothing about it is actually Libyan. A fairly quick Google search revealed that Joe Cutajar is actually a famous Maltese singer, who even performed on that country’s 1972 Eurovision song contest entry. Bayzo is also Maltese, and likewise represented Malta in 1993’s Eurovision contest, with music much like what’s on this LP.  The song performed at that contest was composed by Alfred Sant, lyrics authored by Ray Agius. That same songwriting team wrote the majority of the songs on this LP. Additionally, the album was recorded and pressed in Italy (albeit under the direction of the Overseas Broadcasting Department of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya). One of several quotes from Qaddafi’s “Green Book” reproduced in large print on the bottom of the gatefold sleeve reads “Partners, Not Wage Workers”. Does that mean that the army of Maltese musicians that apparently propped up the Socialist Disco Department of the Libyan government didn’t even get paid?! “Revolution”, indeed!

Various Artists- Jamahiriya (The Voice of Friendship and Solidarity, 1980)

Joe Cutajar – Jamahiriya
Bayzo – Young Men Say (It’s O.K. In Libya Today)

tonytawaThe history of Greek music produced in the United States dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, accelerating in the post-WWI years as a number of independent labels were founded by Greek immigrants, such as Panhellenion, Olympus Hellas, Electrophone, and others. This early activity was based around New York City, where many famous names of Rembetiko were recorded, such as Rita Abatzi and Marika Papagika.

The result of this early establishment of a vibrant Greek (and, around the same period, greater Mediterranean) immigrant community in the United States led eventually to records like today’s offering in the 1950s and 1960s, which recast traditional melodies and songs in the popular styles of the day – including rock’n’roll.

The song “Arapina” (Greek for “Arab girl”) is certainly quite old. Popular singers like Marika Politissa and Roza Eskenazi recorded versions of it in the 1930s. Armenian musician Mike Sarkissian later recorded a very spirited version with his Café Baghdad Ensemble on their Grecian Holiday LP in 1958. However, the version on today’s featured single is definitely the most “rock” that I’ve heard, fitting in quite well with the 1960s Arab-rock (or “Amer-abic”) sound pioneered by its arranger , Lebanese-American violin virtuoso Fred Elias. While I could not find any specific information on either Tony Tawa or vocalist/guitarist George Manis, what I did find related to the Tawa name in the USA suggests Antiochian roots, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that Mr. Tawa is likewise probably of Syrian or Lebanese descent.

Tony Tawa and his Near East Caravan – Arapina (Georgette, date unknown)

copticchantsToday is Christmas day according to the calendar in use by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Recordings of the traditional hymnody of the Coptic Church can be quite hard to come by outside of academic settings. The first such recordings to be made widely available in the West were made by famous Coptologist Aziz S. Atiya in the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo and released under the title Coptic Music in 1960 on the Folkways label. Since that recording is still available on CD-r directly from the Smithsonian Folkways website, here is a different recording that appeared on a 7”EP sometime in the 1960s. It was released by Philips in the Netherlands as volume 27 of their “Song and Sound the World Around” series of world music EPs. I’ve never seen any other volumes, but the back of the sleeve advertises volumes from Turkey, Iran, Bengal, and India. The excerpt of the liturgy featured here was recorded by famous Bengali ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya, who also featured segments of the Coptic liturgy on his great Religions of the Middle East compilation LP on the Argo label.

Sunday Mass (Philips, circa 1960s)

langsxmasAmong many music blogs that I follow, I have noticed a tendency to create a category for religious music and fill it with nothing but the wackiest southern preacher stereotypes and/or goofiest cover art imaginable. That’s fine and I enjoy those entries on a certain level, but ultimately it is aural/visual junk food. I don’t have any haughty point to make; I don’t post that stuff here for the same reasons that I don’t do a single-genre blog: Lots of other people are already doing it much better than I could, and besides, there’s so much more out there that doesn’t fit that description that is worth hearing. Here is an example of one of my favorites.

Languages of Christmas combines a few of my favorite things: Language-focused presentation, raw recordings, and Christmas music that isn’t maudlin. Not all of the material is from the field, however; the Mandarin selections were recorded during a live television performance of the Choir of the Lutheran Voice in Taiwan, and the Amharic selections (not included here, as they are sadly not representative of Ethiopia’s Orthodox tradition) were recorded at a radio station in Addis Ababa. A good deal of the music is Western in origin. In addition to the versions of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” posted here, the record also includes renditions of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in the English-based creole Tok Pisin from Papua New Guinea; “We Three Kings” in Arabic from Lebanon; and “Joy To The World” in Amharic from Ethiopia. The too brief liner notes mention the indigenous character of the remaining material. One of the two Yoruba tracks on the album is apparently a traditional anniversary song, rewritten to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. Only one song is devoid of explicit religious content, the Japanese “Joyful, Joyful Christmas”, while the other Japanese entry is almost impressively religious given the fact that only approximately 1% of Japanese profess adherence to Christianity in what is one of the most irreligious societies in the world.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday.

Various Artists- Languages of Christmas (Augsburg Publishing House, 1973)

Christmas Has Come (in Yoruba language, Nigeria)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (in Mandarin language, Taiwan)

Oh Come All Ye Faithful (in Arabic language, Lebanon)

The Wise Men Adored (in Telugu language, India)