Friday, August 31, 2007

'Adawiya, "Qalaq"

'Adawiya is the undisputed king, the Elvis, of Egyptian sha'bi music. Although he was massively, massively popular in Egypt from the 70s to the 90s, he is considered rather 'vulgar' by the Egyptian educated and literati, and therefore, has not received his props. Little scholarly work has been done on 'Adawiya either, with the exception of Walter Armbrust's marvelous work, Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt.

I know next to nothing about this song, "Qalaq" (anxiety, worry, pronounced 'ala'), the title track from a cassette release. When I can find the cassette cover I'll scan it. It shows 'Adawiya sitting on a couch, dressed in brown velvet jacket, looking like he's put in a long night. On the table in front of him is an ashtray overflowing with cigarettes. Here are a few lines from the song, "Worry (qalaq) in the morning, worry in the evening, sleeping and waking, coming and going." One of the most enjoyable elements in the song is when, about half-way through, it starts to sound, for a moment, like a disco song. The bass really grooves throughout. (I apologize for a few skips, due I guess to the elasticity of cassette tape.)

Here's a good article on Adawiya from Al-Ahram Weekly. And a couple videos from youtube. One (of inferior video quality) is of Adawiya in nightclub gear, singing one of his hits, "Bint al-Sultan," while Suhair Zaki bellydances. The other is from the 1976 film, Al-ghatna wa al-sa'luk, featuring Adawiya this time in a sha'bi outfit appropriate to his social origins, and singing "Kullu 'ala kullu." Mervet Amin is the dancing brunette, and Hussein Fahmy is the guy who comes in on the scene.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Al-Bilabil, "Al-byis'al mâ bitûh"

Here's a song from the great Sudanese female vocal trio (composed of three sisters) called al-Bilabil ("The Nightingales.") The title of the track (which seems to be a live recording) is "Al-byis'al mâ bitûh," and it's from a cassette I purchased in Cairo in the early nineties, from a cassette shop near the downtown Post Office, near Ezbekiyya, that specializes in Sudanese and Nubian music. The cassette title is simply al-Bilabil. There are several Bilabil videos available on youtube, including one in black-and-white of them performing this song (it tells us that the lyrics are by Ishaq al-Halnaqi and the music by Bashir 'Abbas). And there is this great one in color, of them performing "Al-sahr al-layl," apparently in 1974. Two of the three members of al-Bilabil, Amal and Hadia Abdelmageed, performed at the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival in Central Park on July 22.

I can only find fragments of information about al-Bilabil, who have been described as Sudan's version of The Supremes during the 70's and 80's. Here's a sketch from Sudan Reports, which I believe is lifted from The Rough Guide to World Music Vol. 1 (1999):

"In the early 1980s [sic, 1970's] three gifted teenage Nubian sisters with a supportive father formed the group Balabil. Trained by oud player and songwriter Bashir Abbas, who also found lyricists and musicians for them, they found an avid audience around the Horn of Africa. In the uncertain climate of Sudan's sharia law, however, their yearning undertones were sometimes sufficiently sensuous to get them banned from television.

Balabil got back together for the first time in ten years to play in Eritrea in 1997 - and made a recording for Rags Music - and Hadia Talsam, the ablest sister, has made a solo album in Cairo entitled Kul' al-Nujum ("All the Stars"), on the Hassad label."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

DJ Abu Yousef

A bit more on DJ Abu Yousef's "Abu Yousef" that I've managed to dig up--see post below.

This song was a hit in Jordan in the early '90s--and the usual English spelling seems to be Abu Yousef and not "Abu Yusuf" as I've written it below. The photo is of Abu Yousef and Jordanian singer Rania Kurdi, who recorded a duet, "Zgurt"--not sure when that was released, which you can download here. (It's mistakenly identified as "Rakeb Hal Suburban").

And here are some of the lyrics of "Abu Yousef":

'Amman Irbid Baqa' Sawaylih [these are all Jordanian cities]
Everybody talk about Abu Yousef...

Mashi fi al-shari'
Shuft hilwa btirkud
Ruht irkud ma'ha
Qultilha yalla nuq'ud
'Aalitli ka'ka bi 'ajawi
Qultilha ma'aki?
'Aalitli la, qultilha laysh?
'Aalitli mish zaki

Walking in the street
I saw a pretty girl jogging
I went and jogged with her
I told her let's sit
She said a cake with dates
I told her do you have?
She said no, I said why?
She said, it's not tasty

If you know Arabic (mine isn't 100% by any means), it's hilarious. Download it here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Libyan 1980's pop: Nasir al-Zimawi wa al-Nusur

"Shanta Safar" by Nasir al-Zimawi wa al-Nusur (Nasir al-Zimawi and the Eagles). From Tripoli, very important in the 1980s.

(Updated, 6/6/11)