MAURITANIA: Noura Mint Seymali - Tzenni
Tzenni is a Hassaniya Arabic word meaning to spin or turn. It is also the name of the rotating dance performed to the music played by Moorish griots across the desert region of Mauritania. And on top of that it is also the title of an excellent new album by a preternaturally talented singer called Noura Mint Seymali, which is coming out via Glitterbeat on 23 June. Give the title track a spin and you’ll hear a vigorous and highly enjoyable clash of temporally and spatially diverse influences. Noura may come from a very long family line of griot artists, but she is patently also a modernising, transformative force in Mauritanian music. It is fair to say that she’s probably a fan of some Western pop and rock, but she uses these influences on her own terms.
ALGERIA: Abranis - Chenagh Le Blues
Abranis were a trio of young Algerian men who met in the late 60s and bonded over a shared love of the Who, the Doors and the Grateful Dead. The fragile melancholy of their biggest hit, Chenagh Le Blues, released in 1977, and the other tracks featured on the excellent 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop LP released on Sublime Frequencies (out this week) is, according to DJ and writer Omar Zelig, a direct reflection of the political situation of the day. As he says in the liner notes: “Why do our pop culture pioneers appear so gloomy today while we found them transgressive back then? They may have felt like walking on eggs; between a military coup hailed as a revolutionary surge and the shady militants that were supposed to represent the image of Algeria in its irreversible march towards progress.”
EGYPT: El Madfaagya - Demagho W Hor Fiha
El Madfaagya, meaning the Gunners, are a pop-leaning chaabi collective containing vocalists Diesel, Shindy, Dolceka and Kanaka and producers Weza and Mezo. I’ve watched this YouTube clip about 25 times in a row and I can’t work out what the hell is going on. The In-Betweeners meets Dead Poets Society narrative is incomprehensible. Why is Shindy dressed like Gok Wan? Why is Dolceka’s mother visibly younger than he is and made up to look like the front cover of Aphex Twin’s I Care Because You Do? I don’t know. All I do know is this song is awesome and deserves to be listened to 25 times in a row, video or not.
YEMEN: Fatimah Al-Zaelaeyah - Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa (saBBo remix)
Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa, or Hey! Who Enters the Sea of Passion? was a track featured on the tough but intriguing (and eventually rewarding) Qat, Coffee and Qambus anthology of Yemeni 45s compiled by Chris Menist for Dust To Digital in 2012. The fact that it was one of the few tracks on the album which was just rhythm and vocals and not featuring the oud, made it ideal for remixing. This version is by saBBo, who lives in Israel but whose maternal family is Yemeni, meaning he grew up familiar with this style. The strident rhythms played on a copper tray or a sahn suhasi make a suitable framework for this muscular industrial bounce reworking.
IRAN: Porya Hatami - Kani (Day)
Porya Hatami is an experimental electro-acoustic artist from Sanandaj, a mountainous, mainly Kurdish region in the north-west of Iran; and this environment is the primary location for all the audio recordings which make up the base of his music. He has amassed a body of work that utilizes field recordings, live sampling, Harold Budd and Brian Eno leaning ambient and electronica, all of which borders on the new age but still possesses a rigorous sense of structure and harmonious balance between components.
Thanks this month to Joost Heijthuijsen, Pejman Pabarja, DJ Umb and Ilka Schlockermann.
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