Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

4. Warda Al-JazairiaLaw Saalouk

In that past couple of years I have been getting into Algerian, Lebanese and Egyptian music. A lot of people into Turkish psychedelia, but then Andy found a 7" at a Turkish car boot sale, which turned out to be an Egyptian orchestral piece from a film. I was obsessed with the song, but we couldn’t identify it from the catalogue number, which was in Arabic. Anyway, that was like my gateway drug and led me to want to learn all about that type of music. I want to take my time to understand as much as I can about Algerian, Lebanese and Egyptian music in the time I have at my disposal.

I started to listen to Fairouz and Saba and a few other artists. However, my favourite is Warda Al-Jazairia. I sent Andy to a record fair in Utrecht and even swapped my Kate Bush Aerial vinyl for a load of records. I felt odd letting my Kate Bush record go, but now I had found this little niche and I was really into it. This Warda album was one of the albums that also came back from the Bush sale. It’s just a glorious album. I have only had it for about a year. Many of these records are recorded live with an audience. You can hear people shouting and joining in the chorus. So, the recordings can be pretty shonky in places, but they are really mystical. It’s my new thing.

It influenced the new album in that it is a new discovery for me. Initially, when I started working on the album, I have a friend who works with a lot of Middle Eastern orchestras and we did talk about trying to replicate some of the sounds. However, there wasn’t enough time to work it out, but it is definitely something I am looking at doing. It is as if this type of music has awakened something in me. I don’t know why I like it – it’s almost a nostalgia. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t sound quite like anything I have heard before, although I do listen to quite a lot of foreign language music.

If had to try and describe it, this album sounds appears to combine folk music with traditional songs. When I have been able to translate the lyrics, it’s very poetic and simplistic. It’s very lovely and innocently written. Plus, the instrumentation is pretty out there and many of the sounds are made by instruments not normally used in Western music. I love the intonation in Warda’s voice. I cannot sing like her as I don’t have that inflexion in my voice. I also think there is something hymnal – some of it sounds like a call to prayer. I grew up as a Catholic and would go to Mass quite a lot, so maybe there is some deep-rooted nostalgia in my love for Warda.

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