Salah Ragab (صلاح رجب) & The Cairo Jazz Band – Egyptian Jazz (1968-73)
At the time of the fall of the Egyptian monarchy in the early 1950s, less than half a million Egyptians were considered the upper class and rich, four million middle class and 17 million lower class and poor (!). Fewer than half of all primary-school-age children attended school, and most of them being boys. Egypt’s second president Gamal Abdel Nasser led Egypt through a victorious revolution in 1952. He was a proponent of cultural nationalism as a means of political independence.
Land reform and distribution, the dramatic growth in university education, and government support to national industries greatly improved social mobility and flattened the social curve. From 1953-54 through 1965-66, overall public school enrolments more than doubled. Millions of previously poor Egyptians, through education and jobs in the public sector, joined the middle class.
Doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, constituted the bulk of the swelling middle class in Egypt under Nasser.
Famous realist director, Kamal Al Sheikh became known for making compelling thrillers such as House Number 13 (1952), a film noir about a psychologist who tries to use his friend to commit a murder; Life or Death (1955), which unusually for the 50’s was shot on location in Cairo, and The Last Night which was nominated for the Golden Palme at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964!
The ’50s and ’60s saw the appearance of accomplished realist films from Youssef Chahine, most notably The Blazing Sky (1954) nominated for the Grand Prix at the Cannes. It’s the second film, Son of the Nile (1951) showed an early work of Social Realism, that started his international fame. The film focused on relations between traditional classes and elites, depicting the hard lives of peasant classes. Previous representations of peasants had used them largely as romanticized symbols of national identity.
Let’s go to our album:
Born Salah Eldin Ahmed Ragab (25/07/1935 – 03/07/2008) in Cairo. A Major in the Egyptian Army through the ’60s, and an avid jazz fan and drummer, Ragab first attempted to form a jazz band in 1964, with American saxophonist Mac X. Spears. The group didn’t get very far, then, on December 1966, Ragab met Hartmut Geerken and Eduard Vizvari at a reception following a Randy Weston Sextet show. The three hit it off and decided to form the Cairo Jazz Band (القاهرة الفرقة موسيقى الجاز).
The year that he became the head of the Egyptian Military Music Department, in 1968, The Cairo Jazz Band began to take-off. They were Egypt’s first big band, mixing American jazz with North African music, combining jazz instrumentation with indigenous melodies/instruments, like the Nay (flute) and the Baza (ramadan drum).
Such musical cross-fertilization was not unusual in itself; American musicians from Sun Ra to Yusef Lateef had long been fascinated by the music of Islam and North Africa, incorporating both the instruments and musical forms into their work. But Salah Ragab’s music presents a view from the other side of the musical equation of West meets the Middle East. Aligning himself with the compelling currents of American jazz music, to later be revered as the Godfather and pioneer of Egyptian jazz music!
Let’s go to the pinnacle of Egyptian instrumental music, beyond the barriers of jazz and folk, the refinement and creativity here is frightening! Enjoy this superb voyage, with luxuriant arrangements and also 5 (unmissable) bonus tracks present on the 2006 CD edition, without further ado the great master Salah Ragab.
The ‘IM’ highlights are Egypt Strut and The Kings Valley – Upper Egypt.
1 Ramadan In Space-Time
4 Oriental Mood
7 Egypt Strut*
8 The Crossing (Oubour)
9 Calling You
10 The Kings Valley – Upper Egypt
11 A Farewell Theme
12 Kleopatra (Alt. Take)
- Alto Saxophone: El Saied El Aydy, Farouk El Sayed
- Baritone Saxophone: Abdel Hakim El Zamel
- Bass: Moohy El Din Osman
- Bongos, Drums (Ramadan – Baza): Sayed Ramadan
- Conductor, Piano, Drums, Congas: Salah Ragab
- Drums: Sayed Sharkawy
- Flute (Bamboo Nay): Abdel Hamd Abdel Ghaffar (Toto)
- Piano: Khmis El Khouly
- Tenor Saxophone: Fathy Abdel Salam, Saied Salama
- Trombone: El Sayeed Dahroug, Mahmoud Ayoub, Sadeek Basyouny
- Trombone (Bass): Abdel Atey Farag
- Trumpet: Ibrahim Wagby, Khalifa El Samman, Mohammad Abdou
- Trumpet, Flute: Zaky Osman
- Tuba (Bass): Mohammad Abdel Rahman
* Bass: Esmat Abbas / Electric Guitar: Mohammad El-Tobgy
Mizmar (Mozmar): Aly Abdel Mohsen, Aly Hassan, Hany Awad
Piano: Alaa Mostafa
- Reissue Producer: Peter Dennett
- Remastered By: Peter Beckmann
Recorded in Heliopolis, Egypt between 1968 and 1973 (tracks 1 to 7).
Egypt Strut was originally released on the Sono Cairo record label as a 45 rpm single.
Art Yard – ARTYARD CD006