flyThe popular music of Angola is heavily influenced by Latin American music, particularly the music of Cuba and fellow Lusophones Brazil. Afro-Latin music is not a specialty of mine, though I have heard enough Congolese rumba and related music to become very selective about what I’ll buy. So when I was told by the seller of this single that it is “a bit of a different sound for Angola”, I was intrigued and decided to take a chance on it. I’m glad I did, because this is pretty great. A nice soulful ballad with the guitars mixed up front and a nice organ solo. What’s not to like?

It is possible that the label is not Telectra but in fact whatever the large white letters on the sleeve say (Baluave? I can’t read it), because that same logo appears prominently on the center label. Telectra is an apparently still existent electronics import-export company based in Luanda, and were the Angolan imprint of RCA in the 1970s according to an ad in the January 27, 1973 issue of Billboard magazine. Other than that, I could find no information outside of some advertisements for a possibly-related electronics company based in India and a few E-bay auctions for other records on the label.

Fly- Noivinha (Telectra, 1972)

Advertisements

namibiaProlonged contact with record traders in the former East Bloc countries has led me to amass a small collection of political propaganda records, usually in the form of pleasant but sterile pop or operatic tunes about the greatness of the Party, the Leader, and the Homeland. Since receiving my first commie agit-prop vinyl from a friend in Bulgaria about a dozen years ago, I’ve found similar recordings from Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, India, and elsewhere. I tend to prefer these non-European political recordings, as the state orchestras that dominate the catalogues of labels like Balkanton and Melodiya are a bit too reserved and bland for my taste.

Political music from Africa, however, is another matter. There are the big names like Fela Kuti and Thomas Mapfumo who certainly paid dearly for their boldness in addressing political topics, and made wonderful, vital and energetic music in the process. There are also a plethora of other recordings connected to various specific political movements, particularly during the period of decolonization of Africa that arguably ended in the 1990s. The first successful decolonization movement of that decade on African soil led to the liberation of the southern African country of Namibia, which won its independence from apartheid-ruled South Africa on March 21, 1990 following the end of the 22-year long Namibian War of Independence in 1988.

The belligerent on the Namibian side of the conflict was a guerrilla organization known as the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), formed in 1966 after decades of Namibian resistance organized around the Lutheran Church (brought to Namibia by the country’s original colonial occupier, Germany). A choir composed of SWAPO partisans is heard on today’s recording, taken from a 4-song EP called Freedom Songs of Namibia released in Belgium. According to the back sleeve, the songs on this EP were recorded in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and used as the soundtrack to the film SWAPO Fights to Liberate Namibia (Politifilm, Brussels). Searching Google for that title brings up several SWAPO posters from 1974-1975 bearing that slogan, so I’m guessing these recordings were probably made around that time.

As in the case of other former guerrilla organizations in Africa (like the MPLA in Angola or the EPRDF in Ethiopia), since independence SWAPO has transformed into the country’s dominant political party.

SWAPO- Freedom Songs of Namibia (Agitat, date unknown)

Charley ItchnerToday’s track is taken from the four-song EP Eddie Lund Presents…Jumpin’ at the Bar Léa. From the liner notes:

“Without doubt, Bar Léa is the busiest and most colorful jive joint in the South Seas. Patronized by socialite and stevedore alike, favorite rendezvous of movie stars on location, it is found in the very center of Papeete’s native quarter. The orchestra bursts into a tamuré (Rock ‘n’ Roll à la Tahiti), the tiny dance floor fills with stomping feet and swinging hips, and Bar Léa demonstrates that it’s the noisiest, goingest joint in the South Pacific, where hilarity hits a new high.”

“Rock ‘n’ Roll à la Tahiti”? It sounds more like a crazed country hoedown to me, but what do I know.

I couldn’t find a whole lot on Charley Itchner outside of some French internet radio playlist that features a different song from this EP, but it turns out there is a lot of information out there about the presenter of this EP, Eddie Lund. He even has his own Wikipedia page, and the Hip Wax Tahitian discography lists a ton of records that he is associated with, though this EP is not listed there.

The Tahiti Records label was based in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, though the address on the center label is of a Hollywood, CA. distributor.

Charley Itchner et l’Orchestre Bar Léa- Tamuré Bar Léa (Tahiti Records, 1959)

fatatleb

For the inaugural post of this blog, I can think of no better place to visit than the ancient land of the cedars: Lebanon.

Lebanon is by many accounts the most cosmopolitan of all Middle Eastern countries. Prior to its 1975-1990 civil war, it was also the #1 producer of domestic vinyl records in the region. The only other Middle Eastern country that might compete with it is Egypt, but if you omit the ridiculously huge discography of Umm Kulthum there can be little doubt that Lebanon comes out on top. If you are new to collecting Middle Eastern vinyl, chances are you’ll run across many titles by Fairuz, Sabah, and other famous Lebanese artists on EMI’s Greek-pressed “Voix De L’Orient” series, as these seem to be the most common of all Middle Eastern records from the post-78 RPM period.

And then there are records like this one, on tiny labels probably financed by Lebanese immigrants or other people from the region looking to make a little dent in the local record market. From my one year of Arabic in college I can tell you that the record label name means something like “Immigrant Nights”, but I could find no mention of this record label even when searching using an Arabic search engine. As for the group, “Fatat” means “girl”, so it’s probably best that I don’t go into detail about what came up when I searched for “Fatat Lebanon”.

Based on web searches, composer Mehsen Mouawad may or may not be related to several people in the Zgharta district in North Lebanon who bear that family name, including a major in the Lebanese Army who was married in September of 2010 at the church of Our Lady of El-Hosn in Ehden. Whoever he is, he’s written a catchy little tune. Enjoy!

Fatat Lebanon- Asmar Ya Bou Al Shami (Layali Al Mohajer Records, date unknown)