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."