Cha-Cha au Harem: Orientica - France 1960-1964


2022 restock; LP version. Includes printed undersleeve and download code; liner notes in French and English. France, which welcomed Omar Sharif's first feature films outside of Egypt, produced a delirious amount of music of Latin or Middle Eastern inspiration, grouped behind the genre named "typical". This "typical" production is enough to scare away the most motivated and adventurous of listeners: overabundant and often blurry versions, anonymous performers, and only a few noteworthy songs. Venturing into the moving waters of orchestral music undoubtedly causes disappointment, but one can find a few cha-cha-cha pearls played in a Cuban or Middle Eastern style. The Cha-Cha au Harem compilation offers a tender vision of pre-sexual revolution Gaullian France. Including all the stereotypes on exotic countries; culinary specialties, sensual oriental dances, exaggerated accents, bewitching chants performed on minor Hungarian scales by European instruments accompanied by percussion of an unknown origin. Bob Azzam, an Egyptian singer of Lebanese origin, made it popular in 1960 with "Mustapha" and "Fais-moi du Couscous, Chérie" (Make me Couscous, Darling). Léo Clarens the French-born Caliph of Francophone oriental Cha-Cha-Cha is omnipresent in this compilation, under his various stage names. In Paris, he recorded his first records for the Philips label in the 1950s thanks to the famous Jacques Canetti. Apart from his recordings under various pseudonyms (Kemal Rachid, the Kili-Cats), the Marseille musician became a popular arranger, in particular for Michel Sardou. Clarens was not the only one to give in to oriental cha-cha-cha. A number of musicians threw themselves to the task, most often with mediocre results, but with a few nice surprises such as Benny Benett or Los Cangaceiros. Benett is a jazz drummer, he discovered Cuban music through his first wife Cathalina. From then on, he recorded mambos, calypsos, boleros and cha-cha-cha including their oriental variations with the excellent "Couscous" and "Ismaëlia". Los Cangaceiros were a Paris based band led by Yvan Morice. The omnipresence of percussion and drums on "Oriental Express" gives us some indication of Roger Morris's favorite instrument: the drums. He published half a dozen EPs, mainly for the Homère label, as well as two albums, one typical of the early sixties (Surprise Party 2) and a second, Library at L'Illustration Musicale. Raymond Lefèvre's career was much better documented. Present on this compilation thanks to his reinterpretation of the Lawrence of Arabia theme written by the great Maurice Jarre (father of Jean Michel) in a Bolero style. Also features Zina Nahid, Fred Adison Et Son Orchestre, Kemal Rachid Et Ses Ottomans, Staiffi Et Ses Mustafa's, Los Matecoco, Trio Joroca, Mohammed Ben Abdel Kader, and Ali Baba Et Son Ensemble.