Samira Tawfik (سميرة توفيق) – Ghannou Ya Hbab (1977)

cover

Lebanon. Its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated a rich history, shaped by a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France.

The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system, confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. Bechara El Khoury (independent Lebanon’s first President), Riad El-Solh (first Prime Minister) and Emir Majid Arslan (first Minister of Defence) are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and are national heroes for having led the country’s independence.

French troops withdrew from Lebanon only in 1946.

Lebanon Independence
Lebanon Independence

Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking. Because of its financial power and diversity, Lebanon was known in its heyday as the Switzerland of the East. It attracted so many tourists that the capital, Beirut, was referred to as Paris of the Middle East. (!)

In the period after WWII, several artists emerged in Beirut, a fulcrum between oriental and occidental, most famously Fairuz, Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Majida El Roumi, Nasri Shamseddine, Ziad Rahbani, and Marcel Khalifa. But when exploring a country’s music, attention must not only be paid to its singers but also to its instruments. Lebanon’s traditional music incorporates the deep and mellow sounds of the Oud, the beautifully decorated Derbake (a kind of drum also known as the Tabla) and the Daff (also known as the Riqq, corresponding to the English tambourine).

Civil War
Civil War

But if you really want to know all about Lebanese music, you will need to dance! Dabke is the national dance and the Lebanese people take particular pride in their skills in it. Comparable to the Irish step dance or the Greek Hassapiko.

In the early ’70s, Fairuz also performed more Western songs, with lyrics that were closer to European traditions such as Habaytak Bi-Sayf (I Loved You In Summer), which catapulted her to fame in the West, opening the gates for many artists!

Dabke Dance
Dabke Dance

Let’s go to our history:

Samira Ghastin Karimona, born on 25th September 1935 at Al Rmayleh district (now known as Jemiezeh), in Beirut, was most famous for portraying the image of the Gypsy Arab girl. She started singing in her early teen years in the famous Ajram Theatre for public gatherings and private parties (haflas) at the age of 13. Then, she went to bigger open-stage ones like the Tanious Theatre in which she sang classical by Layla Murad.

Her family accompanied her in its travels through the country and was known collectively as The Sixth-Fleet. She didn’t get the fame she wanted in Lebanon, especially with competition from big names such as Fairouz, Sabah and Wadih El Safi, the real fame and fortune came from her stay in Jordan where she was invited to sing for Jordan Radio in the early ’60s, with her famous Badawi (bedouin) style.

Samira's Portrait
Samira’s Portrait

Samira’s first hit was Beyn Al-Dawali, she continued launching many songs that were known by Lebanese fans and in the Arab countries (especially Syria), characterized by the Bedouin dialect, singing for many composers like Filmon Wehbi and Tawfiq El-Belouni (that’s where the second part of her name came from) and in front of famous figures, such as the Queen Elizabeth II at the Melbourne Opera House in the 70s alongside Wadih El Safi. She extensively toured throughout its career, to places like Mexico, Venezuela, France, London, and even Africa!

Many famous tabla players like Setrak Serkissian had played for her, with other derbaki masters like Mohammed El-Barjawi. Her music was known as Tabla Fakhar (pottery-made tabla) music, using the real non-plastic derbakis that made such a thumping sound. She starred in more than 15 films, most notably A Bedouin Girl In Paris (1965) at the peak of her popularity and beauty, plus some few Tv series in the 70s.

Beirut Overview
Beirut Overview

Around 2004, Samira met Al Shab Ghabi, a Lebanese businessman. Attending one of her concerts, he gave her a bouquet of flowers, shortly after love started between the couple and they finally got married. Samira Tawfik disappeared from the music scene after breaking a leg in front of its house in London. Samira spends most of her time between its first home in Hazmieh and her other in Faytroun. She lives in Stockholm today visiting Lebanon and Jordan from time to time.

Let’s go to our album:

The culture of Lebanon is the cross-culture of various civilizations over thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon’s diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country’s festivals, musical styles, and literature as well as cuisine.

Live
Live

Samira’s popularity may be considered one of the greatest in the Arab world, the blossom of Lebanon has figured in many films, Tv shows, and series. Nowadays thanks to the net we’re able to see, hear and appreciate these performances, learning a bit more of this beautiful music, exceptional instrumentation and arrangements. His technique combined with the oriental quarter tone division and comas are really impressive to Western ears, here we’re going far beyond rock or the usual harmonic conventions.

The ‘IM’ highlights are for: Ghannou Ya Hbab, the strong opening track that shows us every aspect from the Lebanese music: ethereal flutes, constant percussion pace, the female and male chorus in an atmosphere of celebration and dance. And Al Ain Téoul Lel-Ein, another lively one with strings, pizzicato breaks, and an unmistakable refrain. Unfortunately reading in Arabic isn’t easy, the lyrical content of its music remains unknown, but certainly, these phonemes sound great. Niezła Jazda!

Tracks Include:

A1 Ghannou Ya Hbab

A2 Wein El Ahd

A3 Ouyouni Aleik

A4 Ya Hasrati Al Wafa

B1 Yal Asmarani

B2 Al Ain Teoul Lel-Ain

B3 Wein Moucharrek

B4 Ya Awlad El Halal

Duniaphon ‎– LPD 212

Manufactured and Distributed by EMI Greece S.A.

Beirut Downtown
Beirut Downtown

Yoshiko Sai – Taiji No Yume (1977)

Born on June 22, 1953, at Nara prefecture, Yoshiko Sai since his childhood demonstrated its precocity and many artistic gifts. During her elementary school days, she loved to paint and read all the classics from mythical writer Edogawa Rampo (The Japanese Poe).

In junior high school, she was a member of the coral, taking his first lessons in music; by high school, she played in a folk-rock group but the music wasn’t in its main plans so far.

Portrait
Portrait

In 1972 she tried to enter the Kyoto City University of Arts but wasn’t accepted, then she tried the Kyoto Doshisha University where she passed the entrance examination. In May of that year, she was caught by kidney disease, having to spend a year in observation.

Over this period she would recall:

‘I read a LOT of books from famous novelists, such as Mushitaro Oguri, Yumeno Kyusaku, Juran Hisao, and Yokomizo Masashi. These dark novels made me accept and relax about the disease, my forthcoming production of lyrics and music was strongly tied with this fact.’

After leaving the hospital, she incessantly started to wrote poetry and in 1974 debuted and won a contest at a local radio program. She then received an invitation to play an opening act for Rabi Nakayama concert. Two record companies became interested in her music and after the show, she was contracted by Teichiku Records.

1978 Promo
1978 Promo

Yoshiko Sai recorded four albums in four years, between May 1975 and December 1978, the 2nd (Mikkō) and 3rd (Taiji No Yume) of her releases may be considered more Progressive than Folk. Unfortunately, she abruptly retired from a career at the age of 25 in 1979.

A story told is that Yoshiko may have doubted her talent in music and lost her self-confidence. In recent years, a revival of interest in his music made her come back to record a new album with Jojo Hiroshige, called Crimson Voyage in 2001. Lastly, there’s been some re-releases from its 70s records, unedited live performances and poetry books.

Let’s go to our album:

In 1977 she moved to the Nippon Columbia company, and on September 25, she announced Taiji No Yume (Fetus Dream). Heavily inspired by the pre-war oddball and ghostly neurosurgeon doctor and writer Yumeno Kyusaku, hence the strange atmosphere this disc abides in. Quite dark in the overall texture, at the time of this she was merely 24 years old. Totally unknown for non-japanese listeners, this album is really a must for people into some more advanced Japanese historical recordings.

Melancholic Breeze
Melancholic Breeze

With utterly beautiful arrangements by the legendary Yuji Ohno, this is certainly my favorite album from her. A kaleidoscope of genres that spring from the depths of the inner mind: folk, jazz, bossa nova, flamenco, prog, rock and so. Yoshiko Sai plays the role of each and invites us to another dimension of reality, the “IM’ highlights are for:

Aoi Glass-Dama, with nice synths and strings, this rock ballad has an interesting crescendo, delivering an amazing emotional interpretation. And Taiji No Yume, a 9-minute epic, simply one of the best Japanese songs of all time, without exaggeration, I’ll let the words and adjectives to you, do not miss Yoshiko Sai’s haunting realms. 良い旅!

Tracks Include:

A1 ヒターノ (Gitano)

A2 アルハンブラの青い壜 (Alhambra No Aoi Bin)

A3 ある晴れた夜 (Aru Hareta Yoru)

A4 波止場 (Hatoba)

A5 春の夢 (Haru No Yume)

A6 海の沈黙 (Umi No Chinmoku)

B1 青いガラス玉 (Aoi Garasudama)

B2 遍路 (Henro)

B3 白昼夢 (Hakuchūmu)

B4 胎児の夢 (Taiji No Yume)

All songs and lyrics by Yoshiko Sai

Blow Up LX-7021A /// 25/09/1977

Musicians

Drums: Yasushi Ichihara

Electric & Acoustic Guitar: Tsunehide Matsuki

Gut Guitar: Kiyoshi Sugimoto

Electric Bass: Kenji Takamizu (1,2,4,5,9,10) /// Akira Okazawa (3,6,7,8)

Acoustic Piano: Masahiko Sato

Electric Piano, Solina, Spinet & Synthesizer: Yuji Ohno

Percussion: Lary Sunaga

Arranged (strings, brass, instrumental) by Yuji Ohno

Credits

Directed by: Shun Ohki

Produced by: Akira Sakajima

Engineer: Tomiji Iyobe

Art Director: Kazuhiro Saito

Cover Illustration: Yoshiko Sai

Illustration: Tsuyoshi Takigaito

Photography by: Jin Komine

Layout: Takashi Eakabayashi

Taiji No Yume Illustration
Taiji No Yume Illustration

C and K Vocal – Generace (1977)

Cover

Czechoslovakia. With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of WWI, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed, encouraged by, among others, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The Czechs and Slovaks were not at the same level of economic and technological development, but the freedom and opportunity found in an independent new country enabled them to make strides toward overcoming these inequalities. However, the gap between cultures was never fully bridged, and the discrepancy played a continuing role throughout the seventy-five years of the union.

The first republic led by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (politician, sociologist, and philosopher), a rationalist and humanist, lasted until the German occupation and settled the country in the 10th position of world industrial production. The second and third republic was shortened by the beginning of the communist era, after WWII in 1948.

Prague Nazi Occupation
Prague Nazi Occupation

Then, the economy was committed to comprehensive central planning and abolition of private ownership of capital. Czechoslovakia became a satellite state of the Soviet Union; it was a founding member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in 1949 and of the Warsaw Pact (URSS’s response to OTAN) in 1955. The attainment of Soviet-style command socialism became the government’s avowed policy.

Although Czechoslovakia’s industrial growth of 170 percent between 1948 and 1957 was impressive, it was far exceeded by that of Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany (almost 300 percent). The 1960 Constitution declared the victory of socialism and proclaimed the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

De-Staliniziation had a late start in Czechoslovakia, in the early 1960s, the economy became severely stagnant, the industrial growth rate was the lowest in Eastern Europe. As a result, in 1965, the party approved the New Economic Model, introducing free-market elements into the economy. The KSČ (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) ‘theses’ of December 1965 presented the party response to the call for political reform.

Alexander Dubcek
Alexander Dubcek

Democratic centralism was redefined, placing a stronger emphasis on democracy. The leading role of the KSČ was reaffirmed but limited. On January 5, 1968, the KSČ Central Committee elected Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak reformer, to replace Novotný as the first secretary of the KSČ. The most turbulent period since the war had begun, amongst the wanted reforms were the press freedom, the end of political monopoly (from Communist Party), the free party organization, religious tolerance, amid other measures that pointed to a radical democratization of Czechoslovakia.

The massive support from intellectuals, the society and countries like Yugoslavia left the URSS fearful with the end of their hegemony and on August 20, 1968, after refusing to attend a meeting at the Warsaw Pact.

These same troops from the alliance invaded the city of Prague, Dubcek was arrested and brought to Moscow, along with other Czech leaders.

Prague Spring
Prague Spring

The following months were marked by the peaceful resistance to the occupation from the population. Local radio broadcasts were brief stimulating resistance. Days after the seizure of Prague has triggered a general strike. The USSR tried unsuccessfully to arrange a collaborationist government, but the solidarity with the old leadership had become widespread. Dubcek returned to Prague and still remained for some time in office. But the reform plan was dropped in exchange for the withdrawal of troops.

In January 1969, a young man immolated himself publicly in the Czech capital, restarting a wave of demonstrations. But by that time, the hard-line Communist Party had recomposed. The favor of rapprochement with the USSR again took control of the party. The election of Gustáv Husák, in April 1969, which succeeded Dubcek, ended the short but significant movement known as the Prague Spring. The reforms would come just two decades later, with the crisis of the socialist bloc. (!)

21 Srpen 1968, Praha
21 Srpen 1968, Praha

Let’s go to our history:

In 1969, long-time collaborators Jiri Cerha and Ladislav Kantor had the idea to get together talented vocalists for a multi-timbered vocal ensemble, and so was born C&K Vocal. At first, their style was folk-based and they often participated in folk and country festivals. By 1973 though, with their new concert repertoire, they started exploring the rock. The line-up included Lubos Pospisil, Zdena Adamova, Milena Cervena and Helena Arnetova besides the two co-founders.

In 1976 they released an English Lp called Generation, which was mostly comprised of unique covers of rock artists such as Uriah Heep, Flamengo and Marek Grechuta. The Czech version was released a year later containing a considerable number of originals as well. The style was hard prog, quite similar to Flamengo but with voices replacing saxophones and strings/synths replacing Hammond.

Early C&K Vocal
Early C&K Vocal

The prog influence was likely brought to the band by guitarist Ota Petrina, who was a co-writer and producer and also the leader of the instrumental segment which included top Czech musicians such as Pavel Fort, Guma Kulhanek, Jan Kubik, and Anatoli Kohout. During the late ’70s and early ’80s, the band focused on audiovisual programs, combining music with photography, visual arts and film. They also recorded a considerable amount of singles and another English-sung Lp Growing Up Time.

During the late 80’s they recorded two more albums, Balada o Zemi (1985) and Causa Krysar (1989), the latter of which had a modernized 80s new wave sound but also abundant symphonic elements. Ladislav Kantor left the ensemble in 1990, but despite this, they have still been sporadically active.

Multi-Arts Ensemble
Multi-Arts Ensemble

Let’s go to our album:

Today’s record will leave the fans of choral and vocal techniques much impressed. With a large range of influences such as rock, prog, soul, jazz, Latin tinges, ballads, and an incredible backing band this is one of the musical gems that the Iron Curtain hid in those days. The Czech Republic has also a distinct mark in terms of arts: the Czech new-wave cinema, Franz Kafka, Gustav Mahler, Antonín Dvorak and many Cubist, Abstract and Surrealist painters, are just a few names of this underestimated society.

The ‘IM’ highlights are for: Rám Příštích Obrazů, a fantastic opening track, delivering complex harmonics in a carrousel of voices and soulful breathtaking conclusion, just brilliant! And Doky, Vlaky, Hlad A Boty, with resemblance of Flamengo’s sound (a dedicated post of them will be held), this brass-rock got some psychedelic riffs, sweet breakbeats, and a wholly tuned vocal performance.

Enjoy this commie rock act and Boa Viaxe!

Night Overview
Night Overview

Tracks Include:

A1 Rám Příštích Obrazů (music: V.Misik, lyrics: J.Kainar)

A2 Na Kraji (music: J.Cerha, lyrics: L.Kantor)

A3 Lásko, Lásko… (music: O.Petrina, lyrics: L.Kantor)

B1 Doky, Vlaky, Hlad A Boty (music: J.Kubik, lyrics: L.Kantor)

B2 Generace (Životopis) (music: J.Cerha, lyrics: L.Kantor)

B3 Vteřiny (music: J.Cerha, lyrics: L.Kantor)

B4 Chorovod (Korowód) (music: M.Grechuta, lyrics: L.A.Moczulski, L.Kantor)

Supraphon 1 13 2023

Credits

  • Alto Vocals – Helena Arnetová (tracks: A1, B2, B3), Milena Cervená
  • Guest, Soprano Vocals – Zdena Adamová (tracks: A2)
  • Mezzo-Soprano Vocals – Petra Janu (tracks: B2)
  • Tenor Vocals – Lubos Pospisil (tracks: A3, B1, B3)
  • Baritone Vocals –  Ladislav Kantor (tracks: B1, B4)
  • Bass Vocals (Bass-Baritone) – Jiri Cerha (tracks: A2, B1, B2)
  • Arranged By (Vocal) –  C & K Vocal (tracks: A1 to A3, B3, B4), Jiri Cerha (tracks: A2, B1, B2, B4), Ota Petrina (tracks: A3, B3)

Leader (C&K Vocal) – Ladislav Kantor

Backing Band – Labyrint

  • Bass Guitar – Vladimir Kulhánek (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B4)
  • Drums, Percussion, Congas – Anatoli Kohout (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B4)
  • Electric Piano, Organ, Piano, Percussion – Pavel Vetrovec (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B4)
  • Guest, Bass Guitar – Vladimír Padrunek (tracks: A3)
  • Guest, Congas – Jiri Tomek (tracks: A2, B4)
  • Guest, Drums – Vlado Cech (tracks: A3)
  • Guest, Flute – Jiri Stivin (tracks: B2), Libor Mikule (tracks: B3)
  • Guest, Organ – Petr Dvorak (tracks: B3)
  • Guest, Synthesizer (Moog) – Jan Neckar (tracks: B2, B4), Martin Kratochvíl (tracks: A3)
  • Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Jan Kubík (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B4)
  • Arranged By (Instrumental), Electric Guitar – Pavel Fort (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2)
  • Arranged By (Instrumental), Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar –  Ota Petrina (tracks: A3, B3, B4)
  • Leader (Labyrint) – Pavel Fort
  • Photography By – Vladimír Merta
  • Producer [Umělecká Spolupráce] – Hynek Zalcik

Notes

Released in collaboration with the Mladý Svět magazine, Discotheque of Mladý Svět edition series. Recorded at the Supraphon studio Dejvice, Prague, from December 16, 1974, to September 3, 1976.

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