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Global Music Column – June

Ahmed Ben Ali – Subhana

From Maha’s 80s Egyptian orchestral pop to Fadoul’s 70s Moroccan psych-funk, independent label Habibi Funk has spent the best part of the last decade platforming fascinating, cross-cultural music from the Arab world. Their latest niche is Libyan reggae, a popular genre in the country since Bob Marley’s music arrived in the 70s and local acts honed their own takes on the sound. The label previously released 2021’s dub-laden single Tendme by Tripoli-born Ibrahim Hesnawi; their latest record, singer Ahmed Ben Ali’s Subhana, showcases the full breadth of the music’s ingenuity.

Ali draws on rhythmic similarities between Libyan folk and reggae’s offbeat, and its call-and-response vocal, and then uses synths to create his yearning melodies. Yarait and Subhana are the clearest examples of his fusion, replacing dub’s dilatory echoes with a slightly faster tempo, mirroring the bounce and pace of Libya’s zokra music, while adding a punchy combination of synth horns and clavinet bass: a funky and propulsive foundation that allows Ali’s melismatic vocal to soar.

Read the review in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 23/06/23]

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