I had it in my head to post a Faiza Ahmed CD this weekend that I've been wanting to share with y'all for a while; then, as luck would have it, I had a sudden hankering today for an almond-paste croissant & Americano at this relatively new "French" (actually Lebanese or Egyptian) cafe on Steinway Street, about 15-20 minutes on foot from my apartment. It would of course be pointless to walk all the way down to Steinway when it's this cold just for coffee and a croissant; but less pointless if one were to ad in a quick stop at the Nile Grocery more-or-less across the street from the cafe.
For me, a "quick stop" anywhere that they are selling CDs is no less than half an hour; and that's about what I spent, combing their music racks, until I'd scoped out every inch of product and my hands were sticky with grime. Some of these CDs have been there a while, including tonight's freshly plucked featured offering: Majida El Roumi's second CD, recorded when she was 26 (her first--Wadaa--had been released five years earlier, when she was merely 21).
For some weird reason, at some point last week I had a long, sort of meandering conversation with a co-worker at my day job about the origin of CDs. She was convinced that they hadn't really come into existence until the early 90s; I knew this wasn't the case, as I remember a guy at the SF State University dorms who had a CD player, and I lived in the dorms in the early 80s. It is true, though, that CDs didn't really begin to replace records and cassettes until the 90s--I personally didn't have a CD player until at least 1995 or later, and I don't think I bought any CDs until 1996. (The player was a combination CD and cassette player.)
Why am I telling you this? I mean, other than the fact that I'm obsessed with anything having to do with music burned into discs of polycarbonate plastic. Well, part of it is that tonight's CD, recorded in 1982, but published (in CD form, anyway) in 1989, is one of the physically oldest CDs that I own. Probably I have a few Bollywood CDs from a bit earlier--say, 87 or 88--but there isn't much I've got that pre-dates the 90s. That's not terribly remarkable, except for the very real possibility that we may not be seeing CDs much after this year or next ... at least a couple of friends of mine are convinced that they're on their way out, as early (according to one friend) as 2013.
Though I never intended it as such when I launched it in early 2010, this blog has kind of become a weird or random sort of record of vanishing New York. Almost when I began the blog, the bodegas I had been frequenting since moving here in 1997 began, one by one, to disappear. For instance, though I feel it in my bones that there must be other Arabic music places out there, the Nile Grocery is the only remaining place in the five boroughs that I personally know of that still sells Arabic CDs. The half dozen or so bodegas and media shops in Brooklyn I used to frequent--most in Bay Ridge--closed three or more years ago.
Will the Internet wind up being the only place in the next two or three years where you'll be able to get any of this music? Unfortunately, it's looking very much like that will indeed be the case.
Until then, I'll continue to haunt the few bodegas and mom & pop run media stores here and elsewhere I find, so long as they're still around ... and, of course, I'll share the best of my booty with you. (That sounds like a phenomenally bad line from a disco song; forgive me.)
Majida El Roumi was born to Melkite Greek Catholic parents in Kfarshima, Lebanon. She is credited as being one of the first singers to combine western and Arabic classical music. This rather wonderful live CD was her second album.
Listen to the second track from this CD.
Get it all here.
Get it all here.