Friday, November 24, 2017

Orchestra Djamal | Mazhariphone Cassette


Confession: I went *back* to Nassem Halal Meat and Mediterranean Grocery here in Astoria, and, after a long conversation with Houssain, found another 40 grime-encrusted cassettes hidden in Nassem's nooks and crannies. Well, technically 38, as two of them were duplicates of a Zehouani tape I'd already picked up, but which was too old and worn to play. These cassettes come from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. As you've already suspected: Today's offering is from that last haul.

Thanks to the supercollector known as Mehdi J Blige, we know this is by Orchestra Djamal (or Jamal). Thanks to the J-card, we know the publisher is Mazhariphone. Thanks to our ears, we believe this might be the single most psychedelic cassette we've ever heard from al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah. 

It's possible that this is the same Orchestra Jamal as in this video:


The sound is vaguely similar and the lead vocal is in the same youthful ballpark as on the tape. Speaking of which, let's talk about the tape in depth.


Side 1 kicks off with a plaintive, haunting string solo, aching and bending upward, until it opens a window for the lead male's voice, and a guitar that lays down a soft-strummed, spider-web thin scaffolding reminiscent of Omar Korshid at his most subtle. The kid's voice, as you'd gather from the cover above, is youthful, almost feminine. He starts off reciting and, as the track develops, begins to sing. At which point, any concern I had that this might be some kind of novelty or vanity project evaporates. The kid has soul. Deep, lived soul.

Just shy of the two-minute mark, the percussion and some sort of barely perceptible keyboard kick in. The drums -- which are nearly isolated in the mid-to-left-hand channel -- sound like a Moroccan Jaki Liebezeit is taking them out for a test drive. I have never, never-ever, heard a kit being played like this on a Moroccan recording. (If we're lucky, Tim might let us know whether they strike his more acutely trained ears as unusual.) The guitar lopes along, breaking out into occasional fuzz-toned fills.

The second track is where things start to get mind-melty. I don't know the specific instrument that opens the track, but it's some form of keyboard or synthesizer, and very trippy. The strings and Jaki Liebezeit kit kick in, followed by a sudden trill of mechanized ululation that swooshes across the sonic landscape. The kid and an adult male chorus trade phrases. 

This is not psychedelic in the normative sense. The architecture feels rooted squarely in Moroccan chaabi; it's in the fills and trills where things get freaky. 



And it's on Side 2 that the psychedelia gets turned up, especially the second and final track. I'm not going to attempt to describe it, other than to note that the synthesizer and guitar do things in this 11+ minute scorcher -- and we're still *technically* talking fills -- that make my head spin. 

And perhaps, dear reader, your head as well?

Link to the cassette rip in comments. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BYFOR&WITH CHRISTIAN MARCLAY


TONIGHT, from 7-10 PM ET, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio celebrates Christian Marclay with three hours of Solo recordings, experimental / altered records, compositions, collaborations, homages, and live performances by the artist / turntablist, his friends, and fellow travelers

Listen to the show and join the conversation

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Moulay Omar | Shikhat el Haouz


A recent find at Nassem Halal Meat & Mediterranean Grocery, an Algerian bodega in Astoria. Opened by Noudine Bahri several decades ago (I'm assuming 1980s, but not sure), the place is now managed by a Mexican-American guy who told me his name is Houssain and who began working there about 1997, the year I moved to New York.

I had no idea who the man pictured on the J-card was, but assumed Moroccan, based solely on the djellaba he's sporting over his button-down shirt. Tim and Hammer confirmed my suspicion.

As Tim wrote: "Don't recognize him, but he's certainly Moroccan. The label on the J-card and the tape shell denotes Sawt el Mounadi, an imprint out of Marrakech. Some of the most bitchin' tapes in my stash are on that label. The card reads: 'Shikh Moulay Omar and Shikhat el Haouz,' so this ought to be some fine Aita Houzia!"



Hammer: "You got it all right, Tim. This is Moulay Omar a singer from Ahwaz Marrakesh who saw some mediocre fame in the late 70s in Morocco. The Sheikhat who sang this style in Morocco (Aita Houzia), were very few."



The sound quality on this cassette may not be pristine, but the energy is off the charts. Thanks to Tim and Hammer for translation and context.

Link to cassette rip in comments.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mohamed el Marrakchi | Fassi Disque Cassette


Hey, kids; here's our second cassette-to-digital offering, plucked from the shelves of Nassem Halal Meat and Mediterranean Grocery in Astoria, Queens. Super Bodega Pop thanks to hero blogger and musician Tim Abdellah Fuson for translation, transliteration, and context.



This is a beautiful and hypnotic recording, as you can hear for yourself on last night's Bodega Pop Live program, where I played يا عشقين نبينا (Ya Âshqin Nabina) in the penultimate set. 

Here's what Tim has to say about the cassette:

"Side 1 sounds like Aissawa-style religious songs, while Side 2 are melhoun-style songs in honor of the Prophet. Nice textures -- it's a modern chaâbi orchestra from the time before keyboards intruded into the texture. I can hear what sounds like electric guitar, bass, and drum set, along with the strings."



As Tim also noted: while someone named Mohamad el Marrakchi sounds as if they are from Marrakech, the music is "hella Fassi"; in polite English, from Fez. (Not surprising, considering this is a Fassi Disque tape.)

Track List:

Side A: Hali ma yekhfaq yal wahed Rbbi (حالي ما يخفاق يالواحد ربي), Ya Âshqin Nabina (يا عشقين نبينا)

Side B, Track 1: Nta Lâziz ya Muhammad (انت العزيز يا محمد)
Side B, Track 2: Lhorm ya Rasul Allah (الحرم يا رسول الله)

As I mentioned a few days ago, I picked up somewhere around 40 cassettes at Nassem; now, I don't want to startle you, but I went back today and picked up at least another 30 -- I thought I had gotten everything, but ... no. 

So? 

So, there's going to be a lot of cassette digitizing going on at the Bodega for the foreseeable future.

Link to cassette rip in comments.

Please leave a comment of your own if you like what you hear. Your comments -- or lack thereof -- will make or break this blog's second wind.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Awesome Tapes from Everywhere


On Wednesday, November 15, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio celebrated the reopening of the bodega and our first cassette series with 3 hours of killer tracks from cassette rarities from Algeria, Egypt, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, Myanmar, Norway, Poland, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and beyond

Listen to the show now in the archives

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ali Salhien | تلاعبنى الاعبك


The bodega has reopened for business! 

Those of you who have been following us know that, a year or so after we joined WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio, our posting of new music here slowed down until we ceased offering new rips at all. I'm not going to bore you with the reasoning; it doesn't matter. What matters is that we're back, and -- inspired by fellow travelers Tim Abdellah Fuson and Peter Doolan -- we're going to kick off our reboot with a series of newly discovered cassettes.

First up, a live recording on cassette by Ali Salhien (على صالحين), with thanks to the aforementioned Tim for translation, transliteration, and most of the context below. 


According to a posthumously created Facebook memorial page, Ali Salhien (also transliterated Aly Salheen) was considered The Star of Mawwals and Star of Maghagha, an Upper Egyptian city about 120 miles south of Cairo. The page was created on March 13, 2011, presumably not long after the singer's untimely death. We've not been able to determine his birth date. 


This is the sole live video of the performer I was able to find -- fair warning that the sound quality leaves much to be desired. That said, it gives you a great sense of Salhien's energy and magnetism; near the end of the video you'll see a succession of audience members, all male, leaping onto the stage to dance together.


The cassette retains all of that energy, but with superior sound quality -- considering that it's a live performance, most likely in Salhien's hometown. I've ripped it at 320kbps and separated out distinct mawwals into individual tracks. It sounds something like a grungier, less electronic version of Islam Chipsy.


I found this cassette at Nourdine Bahri's Nassem Halal Meat & Mediterranean Grocery in Astoria, Queens. 



I've been visiting this particular bodega for at least 15 years. Long before I moved to the neighborhood, I made frequent trips up here from Brooklyn, visiting Nassem, the Nile Deli across the street, and a no longer extant Lebanese market run by a poet who seemed to have a story about at least one song on every single CD that I bought. 



Astoria is home to more than 75,000 residents; the population of this single neighborhood dwarfs that of the approximately 15,000 Algerian Americans spread across Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, and New York City. Yet, there are somehow enough in the area to support Nassem, which up until 2010 sold hundreds of original CDs and cassettes. (Most of my Algerian CDs -- my entire Cheb Hasni collection, for instance -- were bought at Nassem in the aughts.)



The few CDs that remain are pirated copies with paper labels that you risk destroying your player or DVD drive playing, let alone taking the time to rip. Last year, when Peter Doolan came to visit, we took a tour of the neighborhood, stopping by the bodega, where each of us picked up a couple of cassettes. 



I went back last week and, after talking briefly with the Latino guy who has managed the butchery there since 1996, convinced him to pull out all of the remaining tapes for me. There were about 40 titles left. Spoiler alert: I bought them all. 

As I make my way through these Algerian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan, and Syrian rarities -- some of which have been sitting on Nassem's shelves since the late 1980s -- I'll be posting those of special sonic interest here. Expect a new one once a week or so for the foreseeable future. If you know anything about the music (or at the very least, the language) I strongly encourage you to share your insights in the comments or by email.

This Wednesday's Bodega Pop Live show, by the way, will be focused on cassettes from around the world.

Link to Ali Salhien's تلاعبنى الاعبك in the comments.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

MEXROCKSAMPLER


On Wednesday, November 8, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spun 3 hours of abstract, avant-garde jazz, electronic, experimental, funk, garage, hip hop, home recordings, musique concrète, progressive, psychedelic, punk, and good ol' rock 'n' roll from the United Mexican States. 

Listen to the show now in the archives


Monday, October 30, 2017

My Jamaican Gal


On Wednesday, November 1, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spun our favorite mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, dancehall, and disco by Jamaican-born women, mostly from our personal collection, plucked over the years from the shelves of VP Records in Jamaica, Queens. 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Radio Ethiopia | 5 Hour Special Show


On Wednesday, October 25, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio celebrated one of the greatest music cultures on the planet. We spun a few early 20th century sides, several field recordings, a bit of Amharic rap, and a few 21st century tracks recorded in Amsterdam and Washington, DC, as well as a generous selection of cuts from the golden age popularized by Francis Falceto's legendary Éthiopiques series.


Listen to the show now in the archives!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bodega Pop's Jukebox 45s


On Wednesday, October 18, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio took a cue from Peanut Butter Wolf and filled a jukebox with some of our favorite 45s from around the world. 

Listen to the show now in the archives!