Various - Choubi Choubi! Folk And Pop Sounds From Iraq Volume 1 2xLP+7"
Label: Sublime Frequencies
Originally released way back in 2005, the first volume of Choubi Choubi!, a collection of folk and pop music from Iraq, remains one of everybody's favorite Sublime Frequencies releases. All of these tracks were made almost entirely during the reign of Saddam Hussein, which might have you envisioning the typical Middle Eastern story, of people forced to make music in secret, fearing for their lives and their livelihoods. But strangely, as we mentioned in our review of the first Choubi Choubi! release, Hussein was in fact an avid supporter of the arts, starting cultural centers for both art and music throughout Iraq. Sadly, performers, artists and musicians who were not commercially successful were deemed to be of a lower class. The idea of Choubi - an Iraqi style of music that features rapid fire beats, buzzing oud melodies and wild fiddle playing - was considered by most to be a province of the seedier side of Iraq, dingy nightclubs, prostitutes, criminals, etc. In fact, many female performers would wear masks to hide their identities. While the music was encouraged by the government, music by its very nature is rebellious. So this music of the people had a power that made Choubi essentially the 'national dance of Iraq.' As the liner notes explain, even with Choubi's stigma and reputation, Choubi is the music of choice at parties and weddings with people whipping out their best Choubi moves.
With the songs culled from the same era and time period, sonically, it's more of what we loved about the first one - wild, chaotic beats, flurries of percussion, super passionate vocals, dramatic and intense, lots of strings, the oud playing distorted and truly psychedelic. These recordings are lo-fi, in-the-red, far out tracks with the drums and rhythms slathered in cool primitive FX, reverb and delay. While some of the tracks are freaked out and energetic, others are moody and minor key. Some have an almost Bollywood vibe. Others still others sound almost liturgical, while others are distorted and buzzy and hypnotic. Really all of the tracks here incredible.
The story of the music and the musicians in Iraq at the time is super fascinating, and is gone into in more detail in the liner notes by Sublime Frequencies' Mark Gergis. Those extensive liner notes are accompanied by tons of awesome photos, as well as notes on each track, all on a super heavy full color gatefold sleeve.