Grab it here. I have wanted to post this -- one of my favorite Arabic records of all time -- for years, but I was convinced I had lost the disc. The jewel case, which I fortunately held onto, was empty and it was not until last weekend while doing a massive spring cleaning that I found it, slipped in between a couple of other CDs. I first found this album, a good decade + change ago, in cassette tape form, in one of the half-dozen Arabic music stores I used to frequent in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I was still on the fence about digital media, continuing to buy mostly Arabic, Turkish and South Asian music on cassette (and Bolly- and Lollywood films on VHS) well past 9/11. Speaking of which, right before 9/11 -- and I swear on all that is holy that I am not making this up -- I remember seeing, in South Asian media stores on Coney Island Avenue, references to "Terrorist Rap," which I assumed might be the bhangra equivalent of "Gangsta Rap." They disappeared shortly after the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, although it was around that time that I found a copy of what became one of my most treasured cassettes: DJ Aps's Got the World in Fear.
I just assumed that the album was a response to 9/11, and quite possibly an example of this "terrorist rap" I saw here and there, though I'm guessing this is a (fortunate or unfortunate) coincidence. According to this page (where you can also listen to each track), GTWIF was released in 2010, but that's obviously wrong, as I picked up my copy in late September/early October 2001. Alas, I no longer have any of my cassettes, not even this one. (That image above is from the Internet.) But, back to Eyoun El Qalb. From the moment I loaded Nagat's 1980 Soutelphan-published cassette and crunched the PLAY button into gear, I was in love. The first song, "Bahlan Maak," was sweet and wispy, but with a slight almost ironic edge -- think Velvet Underground & Nico's "Sunday Morning" -- at least that's how I felt after hearing the next two songs on the tape. "Fakra" and "Ana Bashak El Bahr" are unlike any Arabic music I had ever heard -- then, or since. At the time, I remember getting a whiff of Their Satanic Majesty's Request off of the two bass-heavy psychedelic plodders; but Nagat's breathy voice gave them an even more dangerous-feeling edge. Years later, after I had finally upgraded to digital media (and perhaps there ought to be scare quotes around that word "upgraded"), I brought Nagat's cassette into Rashid Music Sales at its last incarnation on Court Street and asked the woman behind the counter (who I just assumed was the wife of one of the Rashid brothers) if she could help me find this music on CD. Not only did she find a copy, but when I explained that I was mostly getting it for the three aforementioned tracks (which appeared first on the cassette, but last on the CD), her eyes lit up. It turns out that the composer of "Fakra" and "Ana Bashak El Bahr" was unlike any other in Egypt at the time -- Hani Shanouda founded two of the first pop-music bands in Egypt, including Les Petits Chats, with Omar Khorshid, Omar Khayrat, and Sobhi Bedeir, and, in 1977, Al Masriyyin (The Egyptians), which reunited briefly in 2010. The other two songs on this album are fabulous live recordings of more traditional Arabic classical pop, although -- and I don't mean to disparage these other two tracks -- it almost feels like two distinct albums. "Hani Shanouda is unique in Arabic music," the woman told me. "But unfortunately, this is all that I know of in print by him now. I am so happy this is going to someone who will really appreciate it," she said, smiling at me.