In the beginning of Habibi Funk, our search was focussed on vinyl records. Around a year ago though, we got to the point where we realized that it became substantially harder to discover music, that we enjoyed and hadn’t heard before. It became apparent that it was time to start looking for other formats. Cassette tapes were the obvious alternative. These were introduced in the arabic world around the late 1970s. In some countries they took over a bit earlier, in others a bit later, but eventually they pushed the vinyl format out of the market in the 1980s. In Egypt this trend already even started in the late 1970s.
Al Massrieen was one of the first bands I learned about once I discovered the tape format for myself. They were really popular in Egypt in the 1970s and the more of their music I found on either tapes or Arabic pirate mp3 sites, the more I was becoming a fan. Only very few bands from the region can match the band’s versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the Al Massrieen band. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt’s only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.
Al Massrieen’s sound goes from lush disco like “Sah” to psych rock like “Horreya” or incredible jazz fused pop on songs such as “Ebda Men Gedid”. I was shocked to realize the band seemed to be hardly known outside Egypt, even though I feel they’re at least on the same level as Ahmed Fakroun. An relative obscurity which I largely attribute to the fact that their releases never have been pressed on vinyl (apart from a Greece best of LP which wasn’t a strong compilation of the group’s songs). One way or another it felt like this band and especially their composer, band leader and overall brain Hany Shenoda was in need to get some recognition outside of Egypt. The release is fully licensed from the band and comes with an extensive booklet with liner notes, interviews and unseen photos.