Middle Eastern Fusions/crossovers/rock presents : 
V.A. : "Waking Up Scheherazade"

45"s 60s-70s->LP (2007)45"s 60s-70s->LP (2010) 
Ali Baba and his 40..Rec.  V.A. : Waking Up Scheherazade (var,comp.2007)***°°
One of the reasons why we hear so little of beat/rock examples from Middle Eastern and Arab countries is not that there exists no examples, because especially in the 60s and seventies more or less the whole world was open to modern experiments, but that many of such scenes quickly closed down in many countries and were replaced by fascist or other extremely limiting-the-freedom-of-creative-expressions Regimes. This happened already once in Europe, in Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece, with very restricting regimes trying to root out to impure influences mostly for intellectual and economic control, before the fifties after the first wave of freedom (twenties and thirties), but it happened also in many places near the end of the seventies, in almost every Latin American country, and in the Middle East where this time America was involved for economic and power control reasons, with a Russian communist influence on the other hand in the far East and some other Middle Eastern countries for the same reasons. The Arab countries distinguished at first from what was associated with the western kind freedom, so traces of rock music were destroyed or kept secret or remained vulnerable, kept away from associations with or interest from the west. Now in a time where extreme opinions are finally getting criticised for the first time, and materialism of Western Society is embraced, it is the right time to show the world again the great possibilities of creative cooperations with standards that not necessary should be related to western standards, but that are creative expressions that is too great not to share with the whole world, or those pockets of intelligent beings in any culture who see culture as a global process.  

Of course there are 2 tracks listed from The Cea-ders (later Ceaders). I still remember how M.J.Coumans from Grey Past Records traced one of the members, hoping for a reissue of their complete works. He found out how more unreleased tracks still existed on reel to reel tape. However, the unrealistic amount of money demanded for a use of the recordings for a reissue (probably learned from Madonna related figures of money making) made such a release impossible. They also never made much money with their songs despite some hits in Lebanon, interest from the UK, and a huge hit from a cover by Mavi Isiklar in Turkey. When they were invited to the UK and didn’t make the amount of money the company expected, they charged them all the bills (so they left all their instruments and fled to Lebanon). Somehow I can try to understand how it still didn't fit in with the general public of beat and psychpop lovers ; maybe the fast rhythm section, for some Western ears, demanded a different kind of listening or comprehension. Some might find this too complex and even a bit nervous when this wild & clear energy is heard. On “Thanks a lot” we hear what marvellous distinguished sounds they had, with their Byrds/Beatle-esque style with a super-fast complexity of rhythms and some use of oud. The second track, “Undecidedly” also shows an inspiration with Middle Eastern rhythms to a beat/psych styled song, and great guitars. 
Many more Lebanese groups are listed. Lebanon is one of those few Middle Eastern countries who kept as far as I know a certain openness, although the tensions in surrounding countries can be felt here too, so that there still remains a restricted protectiveness of what there is. All the listed groups from the late 60s sung in English. These are, in the order of appearance, Simon C.Edwards & His Soul Set, who have one track listed: garagy rock with raw & tough soul vocals, with an additional sax and trumpet arrangement to it, and a second, more rocking track, with fine organ solos. Secondly we have The Kool Kats, with a more typical but still cool mid 60s mod record, The News, with a great and groovy psychpop tune with lots of funky psych electronic and organ effects, and electronically deformed vocals, Tony Franks & The Hippin’ Souls, a fine 60s mod single with ballad-like vocals, rather upbeat rhythms, wordless oo-aa vocal harmonies, and last but not least, Ray Psyah a great early 70s styled psych/rock with organ, great fuzz guitars, and some jazzy flute improvisation. 

From Persia/Iran we have a tune from Kourosh (Yaghmaie), one of my favourite artists from Iran, with a different version from the track also to be found on his highly recommended CD compilation of early works (which I reviewed on next page), a laid back psych tune indeed with beautiful fuzz solos with organ. Second group is Raks, reminding me a bit of Touareg guitar music, with more African kind of handclap rhythms and group singing and electric guitar but also with psych organ to it. 
It must be said that Iranian singles are almost impossible to find because every trace of the period where Western influences were embraced and opened up with likewise trans-cultural communicative visions were completely destroyed by the so called new “social” revolution. 

From the Arab part of Northern African we have two tracks from El-Abranis from Algeria (a country which knew mostly ethno-folk and folk-rock artists that could experiment and record in France). This is true Arab rock (=psych) with electric instruments, drums and organ, using a Middle Eastern feel in the small details of the rhythms. Also the second song is similar, both with Arab vocals. This is followed by the Egyptian Nai Bonnet, a single published in the US ; style : electric garage psych belly dance. 

Also the US, in the 60s and 70s, some local groups afforded freely to embrace on their turn their Arab influences and cooperations (until the Munich Olympics 1972). Most known is Khareem Issaq & Middle Eastern Rock, with their Devil's Anvil’s LP (reviewed on next page), of which this label found an off-LP single. It has a different, and much more fuzzed version of one of the best LP tracks, Arab ethno-rock/psych. Arab members came from Armenia and other Arab countries. Another Armenian/American mix can be heard on the single track “Morocco” which says is arranged and conducted by John R. Argypoulos (Greek or Armenian?) and produced by Russ Miller. It is a fantastic short wild psychedelic track with North African belly-dance rhythms, crazy lilililil vocals in the breaks. Also the second side is great psych with electric bouzouki??, belly dance rhythms.

I hope that this is the tip of the iceberg and that some countries finally will show their treasures like Ali Baba and his cave. I truly hope time is right for this ambitious task that could open up doors to different societies in a creative way once more.

Info : http://www.soundflat.de/shop/shop.cfm?artnr=12092

Ali Baba and his 40..Rec.  V.A. : Waking Up Scheherazade vol.2 (var,comp.2010)***°'

Obviously lots of research (and money perhaps) went into this release with possibly lots of previous misses before having the right suitable tracks for this compilation. I know people will be sceptical if someone presents them a compilation of Arab garage, everybody knows most sellers call something psych or garage a little too easily. But this is the real thing. I gave it a few listens and there is in fact not one track that should not have been included.

The Wrong Noise immediately is a winner. This is really garage psych from Egypt (!!), defined with a crossover element. There is a repetitive Northern African Area music element on one hand, but this is definitely played by a garage band. 

Also Shar Habeel's track, from the biggest Arabian African country, Sudan (lying underneath Egypt) is from this nature. This is a mixture of post-rock'n roll garage with a singing sax, twingling guitars, the song itself is sung in Arabic. Also this is a perfect crossover. 

Abdelhadi's track (from Morroco) starts like a garage track with electric rhythm guitars and lots of congas before an Arab orchestra comes in as a surprise too with a far eastern Ali Baba effect. Then a short while later near wordless vocals are added too. This is Arab music with a clear rock'n roll influence. 
Once more surprise was the real psych winner from Feridun Foroughi from Iran, a waltz led by what we call “psych organ” and with smooth drumming. It has several rhythm changes and parts, some of these with more clear drummins and some soft electric guitar, some of which has wahwah effects. It is a beautiful for-all-the-world instrumental. 

The band News from Lebanon has a mod track included without crossover elements and sung in English. 
Dorid Laham's track (Syria) also starts like a rock'n roller with a sort of African touch and some joyful approach accompanied with harmony backing vocals, before it switches towards a belly dance rhythm, switching once more to the rock'n roller with vocals in Arabic. 

This is followed by another early sixties Moroccan garage song by Les Freres Megri with strong electric bass, drums, electric guitars and dual vocals with a heavenly dreamy female vocal overdub. After a short while and a break it has a psychedelic instrumental middle with improvisation, with the female colouring vocalist leading before the full band before the dual male vocals takes over the song swing again. A real surprise, because I didn't expect or think tracks like this from Morroco existed. 

We heard already one Soli track (Iran) before on a previous compilation. Here is included the instrumental B-side. It has Indian tabla percussion, an orchestration with brass arrangements and Indian flute mixed jazzier style, and a lead electric guitar with wahwah effects for the song part. Another must-have! 

Tony Franks and The Hippie Souls comes from Lebanon and is again more mod-styled, with English vocals. It has a repetitive r&b rhythm and some trumpet improvisation on top of the rhythm guitar. 
This is followed by another garage/belly dance crossover from Egypt from the Wrong Notes again, played with psych organ, drum, percussion and bass and a brass band section, with the vocalists counting and shouting numbers in Spanish. 

Also the next track from the Shar 'Habeel (Sudan) comes from the same area of styles, from the late rock'n roll period with organ, electric swinging guitars and sax solos, with a clear crossover mix and with Arab vocals. Some very swinging guitars can be heard here and a nice energy interaction between the different guitars and the sax. 

Another surprise was the near off-beat organ madness of free improvisation with a couple of strange effects of sort of electronic nature with complex percussion on drums and belly dance percussion instruments on a Moroccan single by Naïma Samith. This improvisation turns a couple of times to a more recognisable Arab tune with high shrill lillililing female backing vocalists. Brilliant, inspired, and original. 

Back to Tony Franks and the Hippie Souls with a very western sounding swinging mod-styled song played by a rock band.

The LP ends with a last English styled 60s psych ballad by the Armenian based Jo and The New Magnifici based in Lebanon, a track with dozens of overdub layers of vocal harmonies, to an almost classical baroque degree within this psych rock context, an attractive hit-sensitive winner.

I can't think of a better introduction to the Arab's own garage psych period.

Audio : Feridun Foroughi : "waltz"(see also other track here
& on http://www.honestjons.com/...
Shop descriptions on http://www.dustygroove.com/...
& (with audio track) on http://www.weirdorecords.com/... & http://www.cargorecords.co.uk/...
Info on Iranian Soli : http://www.iranian.com/Nostalgia/Singers/soli.html

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