Found this totally kick-ass rap/hip-hop CD at the mighty Rashid Music on Court Street in Brooklyn, what I believe is the only surviving Arabic music store in Brooklyn. (There used to be at least half a dozen in Bay Ridge and Carroll Gardens I used to frequent.)
According to this article, Rayess Bek was one of the first artists to rap in Arabic, ca. 1997. According to his Web site, he just completed a doctorate in France and is working through the U.N. on an anti-war campaign with Frank Fitzpatrick.
I don't take the current situation in Thailand lightly. I had long ago planned to upload this CD, which I found in the previously mentioned Thai store in Manhattan's Chinatown--on Mulberry? Elizabeth? Below Canal, at any rate.
It is, to me, one of the oddest CDs I've ever picked up. Half of the songs--every odd numbered song, beginning with #1--is a Bob Marley cover, but sung in Thai. Every other song--the even numbered songs--are what I believe are original songs, also in Thai.
Surprisingly--or perhaps not so surprisingly--it's actually exceptionally well done. Having spent my formative years in the 80s in San Francisco and Berkeley, I was pretty sure that I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to hear Bob Marley again. That was admittedly before I knew there was a band in Thailand covering his songs.
It would feel crassly hand-wringingly holier-than-thou to dedicate this upload to the Thai protesters, so I won't.
In September 2008, I went to Minneapolis to do a reading with a couple of others in the Flarflist Collective at the Walker. The day after the reading, we wound up on a street that housed nothing but Vietnamese restaurants and video/CD stores.
After a great lunch, I popped into the video place next to the restaurant and combed the stacks as quickly as I could, finding, among other things, this fabulous collection of songs Hoàng Oanh recorded from 1960-1975. Of the 20-30 Vietnamese CDs I have, this is one of my all-time favorites, largely owing to Hoàng Oanh's voice, which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She's amazing. I think, although I'm not certain of this, that she's still alive and living in southern California.
When Linh Dinh stayed with me last year during a neo-benshi festival that Brandon Downing curated, I pulled out my stash of Vietnamese CDs, begging him to please please please contextualize some of it for me. Which, graciously, he did.
Apparently, Hoàng Oanh was extremely popular in Vietnam, but largely outside of Saigon, where she was considered a bit unsophisticated or "country." I was very surprised by this, but assume it's true and that sophistication, like humor, doesn't always travel well from culture to culture.