19 July 2015

Libya #1: Two veteran artists

Africa is the continent that has in percentage gained least attention in this blog. So it is about time for a new blog post from Africa. In my recent Ethiopia post, I mentioned that I asked my friend to name a random African country of which music I would next search into. She named Ethiopia and Libya. Well, the Ethiopia part I obviously already did and, as I promised, today is the turn for the Libya post.

Wikipedia: Libya

The first thing I found out about Libyan music scene was that it is barely non-existent. Which was quite surprising to me, since Libya has a population of over 6 million people. Which is not per se that much, but I have found much and much music from far smaller countries too. I suppose it is a cultural thing then? This obviously made it very hard to find Libyan singers (since they barely even exist) and my lack of Arabic skills did not make it any easier. Perhaps since I have been so in love with Arabic music this year, I could someday study the language. Someday.

Even though Libyan music industry is tiny, there is still few good names to be discovered. I even managed to find enough music for two to three posts already. In this post I will feature two singers, two songs from each. Both of these singers are very experienced and very well known in the Libyan music scene. Though I am not sure how much that is saying with such a grueling competition. Anyway, they are both highly talented, though their music is not something that is commonly heard in this blog.

So, let's take a look:

The first of the two artists is Ahmed Fakroun, which is written أحمد فكرون in Arabic. Ahmed was born 1953 in a city called Benghazi, which is located by the coast and is the second largest city in Libya (the capital city Tripoli is the largest). Ahmed studied music already as a young child and learned to play many instruments ranging from piano and guitar to traditional instruments like mandola and oud. His professional music career he started back in early-70s. He has a major discography and decades of experience behind him, and his music is very well known in the Arabic world. His Wikipedia page even calls him "a pioneer of modern Arabic World Music".

The first song from Ahmed is called Soleil Soleil. Doesn't the title already sound fun and bright! This song was released in 1983, so it is kind of old already, but as if it is not obvious in this blog: I love music from 80s! Soleil Soleil is no exception. The story does not tell who provides the female vocals. The song is very fun sounding (I was about to add -ny at the end of fun, but let's go with fun) and funky. I do not know what the lyrics say, but the music and singing make it sound like a happy song. The bright colours of the music video fit perfectly to the song.

Ahmed Fakroun's style is varied; From a young age he had an interest towards music from all corners of the world, particularly European music. He has taken influence from many different types of music, as well as having both traditional and modern elements in his music. (Sounds like something I would do if I were a singer: mix different kinds of music styles from around the world, old and new. Just like in this blog!) Along with Arabic music, one of Ahmed's main genres is raï. Raï is folk music, originating from 30s' Algeria and mixing music styles of Spanish, French, African and Arabic music with traditional Algerian elements.

The second song is called عيونك, which means 'Your Eyes' (do not ask me how to pronounce the Arabic name). Unfortunately I do not have any knowledge on when this song was actually released, but it sounds very timeless whatsoever. Again, I do not know what he is singing about, but the song sounds calm and romantic. The word wistful comes to my mind. With the title, I would go assuming it is in fact a romantic song. The music is particularly nice here; I especially love the flutes in the background.

Like I said, I do not know when or where Your Eyes was released, but for my understanding Soleil Soleil is from an album of the same name, Soleil Soleil.

The other artist is Nasser El Mezdawi. But before moving onto Nasser more, let's take a moment to announce a milestone reached in this blog: The song above is actually the 300th song to be featured in this blog. Oh, how the time goes by... On a funny note: I realised that the 100th song was from Venezuela and 200th song from Finland, meaning all the hundreds so far have been from different continents! This I have not done on purpose, but now it get me thinking that perhaps I should make sure that the next 3 hundreds are also from different continents. Just for the fun of it!

But about the 300th song itself: It is called شنطة سفر, which means 'Travel Bag'. (All the translations are provided by Google Translate, so they are the be taken with caution.) I believe the song was released in the 90s, though I could be wrong, since this kind of information seems to be hard to come by without knowledge on the local language. This time I made sure it was my favourite song of the post that was the 'hundred song', so obviously this is my favourite song from this post. The beginning of the song reminds me of something, though I can not put my mind on what exactly. The song sounds very positive and catchy. Yet again I do not know what the lyrics are saying, but with the sound like this it can not be nothing but happy!

And now about the artist himself. Nasser El Mezdawi, whose name can also be written as Nasser El Mizdawi with and without hyphen between El and his last name, was born in the capital city of Libya aka. Tripoli in 1950. Nasser started his professional career in 1975 and he has studied music in a music school. With such a long career, Nasser is a big name in the Arabic music and he has been very successful, and still is. Besides being a singer himself, Nasser also composes songs to other Arabic artists (including Amr Diab, who I featured in this post as this blog's very first African singer). Nasser too has gained fame in the Arabic world and beyond, and is taking influence from here and there, so his music too is an interesting mixture.

This other song from Nasser is called مشينا, which means 'We Walked'. Again I do not when this song was released, but to me music is timeless anyway. There is something surprisingly soothing in this song. I hear a strong Arabic sound in it, which of course makes it exotic sounding to me (even though I have listened so much Arabic music lately that I am getting very familiar with it). I can picture Nasser singing this song with his band behind him, although there seems to be some interesting instruments in the music, so I am not entirely sure what exact instruments the band is playing in my vision! Something that sounds very lovely at least.

My apologies for not being able to provide information on which albums these songs are available on.

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