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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)