Fuckin' A, it was in the mid-eighties today, and the ocean water temperature is in the high seventies (record breaking, thanks global warming) so all logic would point to surf music. I wasn't in the mood for Egyptian jazz. I didn't even know Egyptian jazz existed. But one cut by Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band has sidelined me for the last hour.
Apparently this guy Ragab started the first jazz band in Egypt. He met a guy named Osman Kareem who had played with Bud Powell and moved to Cairo to study Islam. Kareem turned Ragab onto jazz. After Kareem split from Egypt, Ragab decided to put together a jazz orchestra. He had plenty of musicians to pick from. He was the head of the military music department and, according to this biography at Bandcamp (a good one by the way), had thousands of musicians to choose from. He picked twenty and they started to learn jazz, or their version of it, from scratch If he picked you, and you didn't like jazz, tough shit. Now this is where the guy starts to sound like an asshole. According to his long time friend, Rashad Fahim (source: bio mentioned above) “He ordered all the soldiers to play those jazz tunes, and if they don’t do it, he told them that he would put them in prison.” What a fuck. But you know what? The music holds up. Somewhere between Sun Ra (who he played with) and Mulatu Astatke, that sort of stuff. Exotic. Distant.
~ NOTE: ALL MEDIA IS HOSTED BY THE BLOGS & SITES NAMED BELOW ~Listen:
Sala Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band - Dawn mp3 at For the Sake of the Song Go there to get it.
Sala Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band - Cleopatra (steaming) at YouTube
The whole LP:
Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band Presents Egyptian Jazz (1968-73) (streaming) at YouTube
How Salah Ragab Became an Undisputed Icon in Egyptian Jazz at Bandcamp