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Habibi Funk Habibi Funk 015

For their latest compilation, celebrated reissue label Habibi Funk forgo geographical focus for cultural diversity, unearthing an eclectic collection of discoveries from the forgotten world of Arab funk.

Released: 6 August 2021
Habibi Funk 015

Designed not as a historical overview of Arabic popular music but as a personal mixtape of favourite tracks, Habibi Funk 015 sets hidden gems beside the crowning jewels of north African and Middle Eastern funk, allowing all to shine brightly.

Songs such as famed Algerian soundtrack composer Ahmed Malek’s ‘Casbah’ and Egyptian pop sensation Hamid El Shaeri’s ‘Reet’ present the silkiest of western-inspired funk, playfully distorted through the musical lens of their homelands, but at the exploratory edges of this compilation lies its most engaging music.

Moroccan band Fadoul mimic the gritty funk of James Brown on ‘Ahl Jedba’, accompanied by the bold squawk of a Moroccan reed instrument, while Libyan artist Najib Al Housh, co-founder of the Free Music band, offers a lively cover of the Bee Gee’s ‘Stayin’ Alive’ with lyrics sung in Arabic. Reaching outside the bounds of funk, Ibrahim Hesnawi’s ‘Tendme’ offers an enchanting example of Libyan reggae, evocatively exploiting the natural similarities between the rhythms of reggae and those of some Libyan folkloric musics. It is with these cultural cross-pollinations that the music flourishes most vibrantly.

As an unfortunate result of their outspoken political beliefs, many artists featured here had to flee their countries, and this musical hybridisation is a result of their subsequent travels. Moroccan singer Douaa captures the seductive lilt of French darling Brigitte Bardot on ‘Haditouni’, evoking the lovesick psychedelia of Grace Slick in the song’s chorus, and Algerian singer Ait Meslayene sings in French, a result of his political exile to that country in 1976.

With this compilation, Habibi Funk have demonstrated the power of dismissing geographical boundaries. Just as western artists of the sixties and seventies looked east for inspiration, western music proved rejuvenating for many eastern acts in times of hardship. While their music formed no fixed scene of its own, it stands to show the universal reach of popular music and its ability to unify musical cultures the world over.

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