Every now and again a great compilation comes along that whisks the listener away into a newly discovered world, a hitherto unknown garden of delights blooming delightfully before your very ears. Before you know it, you’re firmly ensconced in Alice In Wonderland territory, except this time round its music that`s making you ‘curiouser and curiouser’ – as Alice wisely notes: ‘It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.’
Sharayet El Disco (‘Disco Cassetes’) is precisely this sort of compilation. Lovingly put together by Moataz Rageb (Disco Arabesquo), it`s nine slices of 1980s underground disco first released on cassette form in Cairo, now brushed up and remastered for today’s global dancefloors.
The whole collection is an absolute delight, a heady mix of familiar grooves and licks transformed into lost treasure by local musicians putting their own mark on the established patterns. Its joyful, smile-inducing – a perfect tonic for these dark days and nights. There is an innocence here, a cultural melange that works breathtakingly well – Western and Egyptian instrumentation entwined under the groove – feet don’t fail me now.
Try Al Massrieen’s Hazeny for starters: propulsive, bass driven, ESG-type vibes, switched up and relocated to downtown Cairo – a complete party-starter, look out for the guitar break a couple of minutes in. Complete with a deep-vocalled spoken word intro, this will light up any room lucky enough to be rocking to its beat.
Afaf Rady’s Tany Tany comes trailing clouds of Brian Bennett and Alan Hawkshaw: its disco meets easy-listening with a beautiful lead vocal that melts over the music, a warm, inviting concoction that sits right on the line dividing the cool from the kitsch. Egyptian percussion sprinkled over the 4/4, strings and keys, providing a perfect sound bed for Afaf’s stunning voice. A lost classic.
Firkit Americana Show transform The Girl From Ipanema into an electro-shocked beatdown boogie on Yom Wi Lilah: again, it`s the kind of tune that you could play at any party worth its salt and the dancefloor would instantly find itself full: it’s a very cool spin on the Brasileiro vibe, poppy as hell but funky with it – a killer version for sure.
Having not long released the equally brilliant Ziad Rahbani album, Houdou Nisbi, it looks like Wewantsounds have dug in and discovered another fertile gold mine of ultra rare boogie business. Who could resist the swirling soulful syncopation of Eman el Bahr Darwish`s Mahsobko Endes (El Arwam) – a true meeting of east and west, Egyptian scales repurposed for the club – an absolute stormbringer. There is not a bad track in sight in fact, leading the listener to hope fervently that Moataz and the WWS crew have volume two bubbling away as we speak. A perfect summer soundtrack: a genuinely brilliant compilation.
Sharayet El Disco: Egyptian Disco & Boogie Cassette Tracks 1982-1992 will be released, care of Wewantsounds, on June 3rd.
You can hear some damn fine soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here.