Forward In All Directions!
Back in the late 1980s, prompted by the famous meetings at the Empress Of Russia pub, the original HMV shop re-vamped their old “International/Ethnic” vinyl selection and put up brand new “World Music” signs. In the racks, nestling between Paul Simon-endorsed Ladysmith Black Mambazo LPs and newly hip Hungarian and Bulgarian vocal albums, there was a small handful of records under the unpronounceable heading of “Szegerely”. I know because I put them there. I’d been given the task of unpacking the crates that turned up from the warehouse and putting the records on display in some semblance of order. (I’d previously been in charge of HMV's African cassette section which consisted of four imported Youssou Ndour tapes, whichever King Sunny Ade albums Island had issued at that point, and three-and-a-half shelves of Oum Kalsoum cassettes with nothing but Arabic text and interchangeable photographs on the front.)
I’d picked up one record and looked, puzzled, at the cover - six sombre looking blokes wearing fezes and holding strange looking instruments stared back in baleful black and white. Another featured a roughly coloured collage making up a scene which I was sure depicted a typical Szegerelian scene: a town square with a camel and – look closely – a wallaby jostling for space between the hotels, shops and restaurants, with minarets and mountains behind. These men in fezes were the 3 Mustaphas 3 and I eventually discovered that they were from Stoke Newington and Balham rather than Szegerely or the Balkans. Some of their number have gone on to entertain me as members of Yat-Kha, Triaboliques, Yiddish Twist Orchestra and many more, and have also backed the likes of Billy Bragg, Jah Wobble and Natacha Atlas.
Most recently, Sabah Habas Mustapha (aka Colin Bass) produced the very wonderful Sambasunda Quintet album Java for Riverboat. He also produced Etran Finatawa's Tarkat Tajje/Let’s Go!, and he’s just finished the forthcoming Krar Collective recording.
Here’s a clip of the 3 Mustaphas 3 in full Szegerelian effect, filmed for short-lived Channel 4 arts programme Alter Image:
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