Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mohammad Abdul Muttaleb | Best of 1 & 2

Listen to "Ma Bes Alsh Alayya" from Vol. 1

Listen to "Is 'Al Mujarreb" from Vol. 2

Grab Vol. 1 here and make off with Vol. 2 here.

Yet another find at the Nile Deli (2512 Steinway Street, Astoria); I believe I picked these two up back in April.

I think of the shop keep, who is always behind the counter and who may well be the owner, as The Sphinx--which, yes, I realize is a potentially offensive bit of culturalizing, if we can make that a word. Nevertheless, I do think of him this way as, nothing I ever say or ask him ever seems to register. He's unreadable, and I worry sometimes that my combing through his CD racks for no less than an hour ("Can you see!? They are the same CDs that were there last time you were here!") secretly, profoundly irritates him.

No, of course he's never said anything remotely like the quoted bits in parentheses above. He's never said--to me, at least--anything. Not even the day after Warda's death, when I made a special trip to find albums by the late great Algerian panarabist singer. I remember handing a couple of items to him that day, including the one Warda CD I didn't already own, and noting, to my amazement, that he didn't even seem to register to himself who it was--Warda! and she had just died! OMG!--that he was mechanically stuffing into the black plastic bag with my other, equally unremarkable, purchases.

It isn't, mind you, that he's mean. Nor have I ever picked on up any anger, repulsion, hatred, loathing, hostility, enmity nor even minor annoyance vibes. He is, quite simply, the definition of sphinx-like.

In addition to knowing nothing whatsoever about the Nile Deli's shop keep, I know equally little about Mohammad Abdul Muttaleb, other than that he was an Egyptian singer. I don't even know if he composed his own songs, though I like to imagine so. The fact that I don't know anything about him is a testament not just to my own ignorance--which is as vast and as dry as the Sahara--but to the egregious deficit of 411 in English about expressive culture outside of our own sinking corner of the world.

I do know this, though: on a scale of "no mental or emotional response to stimuli" to "pleasure center overheating and in danger of shutting down," these two volumes are "extremely download worthy."


Hammer said...

Mohammed Abdul-Muttalib - محمد عبد المطلب:

Real name: Mohammed AbdlMuttalib Abd-Aziz Al-Ahmar. He's an Egyptian singer (of some Syrian decent) who's probably the least appreciated (and, know...) among that generation of so-called 'A'amalikat Al-Fann': Art Giants; most notably, Mohammed Abdul-Wahab, Farid Al-Atrache, and Muharram Fouad.

Muttalib was born in Alxendria, Egypt on the 13th of August, 1907 (some sources say it was 1910, but it isn't sure). His family wasn't a merchant one as that city was known at that time for its active trading route between east and west.

He was born in a rather poverty-stricken family at Shubra El-Kheit, in the Buheira district south of Alexandria and took his first lessons on how to read and write at a 'kuttab' (pre-school quranic kids' gathering), where his 'shiek' discovered how Mohammed's voice was beautiful, so he taught him how to perfectly recite the Quran's verses so he can listen to his voice for his own pleasure.

Sadly, though, Mohammed's father couldn't afford to keep his young son there and took him out from kuttab to work with him, especially when WW-I started and the economical situation in the whole of Egypt was seriously degenerate.

Throughout working stints as a 'coolie' and in the early 20's, he started to listen to the first Gramophone records cooing from the local coffee-shops, and took a liking to most of those early masters like, Abdul-Lateef Al-Banna, Saleh Abed Al-Hay among many more.

In a starry night where most of the locale was gathered around the coffee shop after a hard-day's work, he started singing one of Banna's songs 'Qhadi Al-Gharam' (Lovers' Jury) and took everyone by a storm as they knew for sure he could sing better than the master himself.

Upon their insistence and encouragement, Mohammed moved to Cairo to try his luck at bigger venues. Around the late 20's (some place this exactly at October, 1925), he managed to get an approval from one of Cairo's most prominent musicians, namely Daoud Hussni who taught him the seven-hundred-year or so art of Maqamat and trained his voice to be part of a larger tarab orchestra called in Egypt at that the 'Takht', or the 'bed'.

In Cairo, and as he went to class he got lost once and as he tried to get back to his small apartment riding the tram (old commuter trains in Cairo), he slipped and fell down to the floor hurting his head. At hospital, he angrily decided to go back to his village at Alexandria. But, then he rethought this whim and rented another apartment at Al-Outhmaniyah Lukanda (The Ottoman Hotel) for 5 piastres a night.

At one of his errands as a student of Hussni he walked past the Higher Institute for Music where one Mohammed Abdl-Wahab was holding rehearsals for one of his musical films there.
Abdl-Wahab took a liking to this 'boor' kid from Alexandria and asked him to come to the rehearsals. Abdl-Muttalib's finances weren't getting any better, so he went straight to Mohammed Abdl-Wahab's office asking for help, only for the great singer to give him 10 Egyptian Pounds (a small fortune at that time's standards) and secured for him a place as a chorus singer (Korus Saneed: backup singer) which was very audible in songs like 'Lamma Inta Nawy'/'Mann Athabak'/'Leilat Wed'a'/'Bulbul Hayran'/'Ahib Ashoufak Kol Youm'.


Hammer said...

Their collaboration didn't last because Abdl-Wahab went to Paris to develop his last black-and-white film ('Al-Warda Al-Bhieda': The White Rose) and didn't take Abdl-Muttaib with him as he's promised. From there, he decided to sing at halls accepted as a 'Math'habji' (higher back-singer who leads the entire chorus) and casinos (among which was Casino Bade'a Musabni (shortened to just Casino Bade'a that's known as a talent factory in Immad Al-Dien Street, which gave us Farid himself, his sister Asmahan, Ibrahim Hamouda, Mahmoud El-Cherif, and Mohammed Faouzi), and started to sing Mohammed Abdl-Wahab's own songs and numbers. Few doubt how his own renditions of Abdl-Wahab were better than the Maestro himself, but all in all Muttalib at last had enough money not to go beg anymore from anyone.

In 1933, and at the same casino he met with Mahmoud El-Cherif and a deep friendship started between the two singers. He was interested in how he can sing the Mawwal Shaabi (Popular Folkloric Songs) in a simplistic voice, so they decided to put together a song which was originally written for Ibrahim Hamouda, but Cherif changed his mind and gave it to Mohammed Abdl-Muttalib. The song which took him to popularity was 'Bitesalni Bahibak Lieh' (You Ask Me, Why Do I Love You, recorded by Baidaphon) and it was pinned down to gramophone making him the king of all shaabi musicians at that time. Together they made many songs, naming here but a few: Wad'e Hawal Wi Insani', 'Isaal Marrah A'alia', 'Baya'a El-Hawa (Rah Feen)', 'Yali Sa'itni El-Hawa'. Solidifying this artistic conglomeration they both decided to marry each others' sisters.

Muttalib's fortune got bigger and bigger and in no time around the late 30's he wanted to try his luck in the movies, but alas his first film (A'l-Siet Wala El-Ghena': Fame And Not Fortune) produced by his wife's (Narjis Shawki) company was a huge flop and he lost all his money in producing it along with her. Saddened by such a defeat, he decided to quit singing alltogether, but Hussni urged and convinced him not to.
He went back only stronger after getting wounded in what was a turf not suitable for small-town Egyptians like Muttalib; the film industry, which was a ripe fodder for conspiracies and many political shadowist agendas in the 30s and 40s. Mohammed Abdl-Wahan himself went back to work with him again and so did Kamal Al-Taweel, Riyad Al-Sunbathi, Hussein Juneid, Abdl-Azim Abdl-Haq, Izzat Al-Jahli, Mohammed Faouzi, Mohammed El-Mouji, Sayyed Mekkawi, and Ahmad Sedki. Abdel-Wahab gave him a song entitled 'Kan Lieh Khisamak Wa'yaya', or asking him 'What Was It That You Got Mad At Me?' written by Shukri Hassan. This song signaled them coming back to better terms in their relationship as artists and fellow countrymen.

He died in 21st of August, 1980.


Hammer said...

His Musicianship:

The first who wrote him songs was Daoud Hussni who took the young Muttalib and taught him how to basically sing. Among the many songs that Hussni has written for him were, 'Ana Fi Gharamak (Shuft El-A'agayeb)' - (I Saw Wonders in Your Love), 'Wadeeni Balad El-Mahboub' - (Take Me to My Lover's Place), etc. He didn't take any money from Muttalib as Hussni was well-to-do back then. One of the biggest names in the history of modern Egyptian music also took an interest in Muttalib. So-called 'Shiek Al-Mashaiek' The Maestro of All Maestros Zakariyah Ahmad who wrote for him 'Ah Min Jamal El-Eioun' (Oh The Beauty of Those Eyes) which is considered like a symbol of admission into that now-gone world of 'Giants'.

Also, worth mentioning how Baligh Hamdy himself gave Muttalib many of his tunes like 'Ya Habibti Ya Masr' (Oh, Egypt The Beloved), 'Min Nasr Li Nasr' (From One Winning to Another), 'Naqsh El-Henna' (The Henna Tattoo), 'Ya Abou Kalb Dahab' (You of The Golden Heart), and 'Wala Alf Gawab' (And Not A Thousand Letters)

Among the multitudes of composers who wrote for Mohammed Abdl-Muttalib were:
-Ibrahim Rafat.
-Sayed Ismael.
-Abdl-Wahab Karam.
-Mahmoud Kamel.
-Mursi Al-Harriri.
-Helmi Bakri.
-Ahmad Abdl-Qader.
-Riyad El-Bandak.
-Farid Ghusson.
-Fouad Helmi.
-Mohammed Omar.
-Mohammed El-Kahlawi.
-Mahmoud Ismael Jadd.

His singing wasn't constricted to just popular songs. No, he sang in a dozen or so styles varying from the Nationalistic (Watani), to the religious-themed (Dini). For example, one of his most popular religious-themed songs was Ramadan Jana (Here Comes Ramadan) and there isn't a single Arab (not even today in 2012) who doesn't sing this very song over and over when the time of Ramadan comes.

He acted and costarred at many films (mostly black and white), naming here but a few:
-Ali Baba And The 40 Thieves (1942).
-Kidb Fi Kidb (Lies, Lies) (1944).
-Taxi Hantour (Horse-Driven Taxi) (1945).
-Al-Jiel Al-Jadeed (New Generation) (1945).
-Al-Siet Wala El-Ghena (Fame And Not Fortune) (1948).
-Beni We Beinak (1953).
-Sharae El-Habayeb (1971).
-El-Siet Wa La El-Ghina (1948).

Hope this has helped clearify who's Mohammed Abdl-Muttalib for you all. Dig.


Holly said...

Love this post Gary! You made me smile broadly in a very un Sphinx-like manner - though probably mysterious & somewhat irritating to the very grim,earnest(& most likely wildly hungover) new college freshpeople surrounding me at my favored cafe :-)