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Date: 22/08/16

Saber Al-Reba´ - "Sidi Mansour (Allah Allah Ya Baba)" (2000)

Time to cross cultures again, folks, as I throw another little exotic titbit your way to remind you that the musical world isn't confined to whatever some coke-addled parasite sitting in an office in LA, NY or NFU might want to sell you.

However the starting point of our journey comes from the first flush (as in 'lavatory') of the disco craze of the mid-to-late 1970s. One of the most proficient purveyors of that metronomic mindlessness was Boney M, who had a number of huge hits between 1976 and 1980. The man behind them was German producer Frank Farian and, for their second LP, Love For Sale, in 1976, Farian's sidekick Hans-J÷rg Mayer had heard a popular Tunisian folk song called Sidi Mansour and decided to re-jig it. Along with lyrics by Fred Jay based loosely on the story of the 1930s US outlaw 'Ma' Barker, Ma Baker (the name having been changed because "it sounded better") was another big hit for the group.

I was completely unaware of this connection until reading a comment on Ma Baker on the very wonderful (I'm a mod. there) 45cat site. Curiousity suitably piqued, I went in search of the original and - having sampled one or two - I came up with what (in the Arabic-speaking world at least) is probably the best-known version, by the Tunisian singer Saber Al-Reba´ from his 2000 album which takes its title from this song.

It's in Arabic, natch, and the translation I found confused me a little, until I realised that the song must have originally been intended to be sung by a woman. Were Tunisia not one of the more enlightened and 'liberal' states of the Arab world, I suspect that Reba´ might have had serious difficulties with the more literal-minded and inflexible of his co-religionists.

Given that the subject matter of the song appears somewhat sad and tortured, the tempo and brio of his performance seems somewhat incongruous (and there's an official video of it out there as well which shows a similar joie de vivre - and a lot of scantily-clad young women), but it's a great little mover, and I warmly recommend it.

Update: that clip has now been pulled, so I'm afraid you'll have to watch Saber cavorting with some shameless houris in the back lanes of somewhere:

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