Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Friday, September 29, 2006


For AWG...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thinking About Mustafa

Thanks to the comment of an anonymous reader, I found this page by a "Ya Mustafa" fanatic in Switzerland, Messioun.

I now have another CD to track down. Think About Mustapha is a 1994 French album that features nine covers of the song, including (in the words of a reviewer):

"- two silly rock N roll (described in the APC website as psychedelic surf!) or punk rock interpretions by Greg Garrigues and Jean Touitou himself.

"- two versions close to the original single (but less kitsh, perhaps) by Jonathan Richman and french pop-rai star Rachid Taha.

"- a semi acoustic minimalist performance (very hard to describe, in fact) by Pascal Comelade.

"- a slow dark dub track by Solo (with two bonus beats at the end of the CD). Perhaps the most hard to recognize version and the weakest track of this compilation.

"- at last, the best (of course), a beautiful, 10 minutes long version by Skopelitis and Laswell (with others musicians that are not listed in the CD sleeve). This is the most serious interpretation of Mustapha, more close to the traditionnal melody than to the sixties hit. It is fascinating to hear what BL and NS can do with just a nice pop song : a beautiful, ambient jewel, certainly the best moment of this CD."

Bill Laswell resurfaces at an opportune time for me, since his work with Gnawa musicians back in the 1990s was absolutely key.

Additionally, this "chase the covers" game has become a legendary form of sport for UT-Austin graduate students in ethnomusicology. The journey made by a melody and chorus through the winding back alleys of lounge-singer repertoires and throwaway pop singles can be absolutely stunning and yield high-quality grist for the mill of global-culture analysis through music. If you don't believe me, see the terrific example of Steven Feld (1996), "Pygmy POP. A Genealogy of Schizophonic Mimesis," Yearbook for Traditional Music 28:1-35.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shabab ma shi kebab...

Which means, "boys should not be barbecued." Overheard in Tangier over the weekend. For a full explanation, write me an email and I'll tell the whole crazy story...

But in other news, I'm really getting into Muslim's lyrics. Today we translated the lyrics of "Flouss" (off Bghini Wella Krahni) into formal Arabic so I could understand them better. Flouss means money.

The song's main point (worked into the ground on this track, perhaps) is that money is the cause for most bad things that happen in Morocco, which gives Muslim the opportunity to list the various failures of Moroccan social and governmental structures, as well as international failures. In other words, one might say to complicate the matter that dependence on the generally equivalent form of value (money) to the exclusion of other valuations leads to social anomie.

You may be able to get some downloads here. For sure, Muslim's one-time collaborator and the "godfather" of Moroccan rappers, Bigg, is all over the place.

The track sounds dark and heavy, unrelieved growling to a heavy beat, despite a couple of climaxes. But even Muslim can't sustain the bleak tone, and ends self-consciously, even laughing at himself--as much as he ever might laugh--since of course "flouss sabbab album muralbum" ("money causes competition among rappers") and thus his own success, or failure.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Seeking Arabic sha'abi song

Sorry I haven't been posting--too busy! Right now I'm hot on the trail of a track from the 1960s or 1970s, "Mustafa Ya Mustafa." It makes an appearance at the end of one of the tracks I'm working on, mentioned previously, by Barry: "Johnny Walker Bush." I didn't recognize it at first because I didn't know the original.

I've found a cover from 2003, recorded in Belgium by Moroccan pop star Khalid Bennani (pictured), but I'm looking for the original. (You can listen to a 20-second clip at the site above.) My friend says he's sure the original song was Egyptian, but neither he nor the record shop guy can remember the name.

It's not one of the "big" names (Halim, Oum Kulsum, and the like), but rather a sha'abi (popular) singer. Any ideas?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Americans, the People Without History

And American forgetfulness reaches new heights: In honor of 9/11, I reproduce here the month-old story...

According to the Paris pan-African weekly Jeune Afrique, a Washington Post poll found that 30 percent of Americans have forgotten the year in which the Twin Towers fell. It appears that, like computer hardware, recent political history also goes obsolete after three years.

Ninety-five percent of those polled knew that the events happened on “Nine-Eleven,” but

16 percent said they couldn’t remember the year at all,
6 percent gave a year prior to 2001, and
8 percent gave a year after 2001.

The poll was conducted to coincide with the release of Oliver Stone’s film World Trade Center, which I’m looking forth to getting on DVD within the next few days. I hope that somehow Stone managed to get in somewhere the year in which the events took place, since it appears that Americans really only pay attention to entertainment anymore...

(The bright side? Hey, at least we still have the highly respected Prof. Letterman and Dr. Leno to analyze important world events!)