LIBYA: Aghany El Thawra El Libeya - Salah Ghaly
Updated: Mar 22
This album of good Arabic pop songs may provide an easy entry point into the wider world of this rich genre
When I first listened to Libyan musician Salah Ghaly’s 2013 album Aghany El Thawra El Libeya, I enjoyed it, and it seemed to me like Ghaly was a competent musician who aspired to occupy a similar space in the Arab pop sphere as Algerian pop master Khaled, who made his name taking the popular Algerian genre of rai and using it to create gloriously catchy, smooth, yet distinctly Algerian pop songs, all the while ably helped by his wonderfully clear voice. Ghaly has something of Khaled’s clear tone to his voice too, and his voice may be the most impressive single thing on the album. You can hear it on the opening track, Libya We Bas, and throughout the album it is hard not to hear the influence of Khaled’s chart-topping album and single of the same name C’est La Vie, which became a global multi-language hit, not in the least due to the many covers of the song in languages such as English, Spanish, Dutch, and even Hebrew. That’s not to say Ghaly is ripping off Khaled here, merely that Khaled’s music is so totemic that he has influenced many musicians who came after him. While Ghaly could do well to try and break free from the mould, he nonetheless has crafted a fun and catchy pop album that potentially shows great promise for the future.
“There is not one moment of filler on here. As with any album, there are songs I enjoy more than others, but they are all good songs.”
The album itself is rather short, running at only 24 minutes long, which in my view works in the albums favour. There is not one moment of filler on here. As with any album, there are songs I enjoy more than others, but they are all good songs. Libya We Bas is a patriotic song that mourns the loss of those who died in the Libyan Civil War of 2011, and expresses hope for the future of his country. The song itself however is remarkably upbeat, perhaps expressing the hope Ghaly may have had in 2013 before the long and bloody second civil war that would erupt in 2014, and has an almost anthemic quality with a catchy chorus that has stuck in my head ever since listening. The album stays comfortably in this ‘pop anthem’ vein throughout the album with little variation, but since its so short, and its Ghaly’s clear strong suit and comfort zone, you barely notice. While a whole hour or even 45 minutes of this could be tiring, it is to his credit that he knows when to stop. That’s not to say its without any more adventurous songs. Shohadana sees Ghaly and his collaborator Ibn Thabit turn their hands to rap with surprisingly effective results, and Tarablos El Asema has a rhythm that is inspired by Spanish flamenco music, and though it’s not as catchy as Libya We Bas, it may be my favourite on the album.
While Aghany El Thawra El Libeya does not reinvent the wheel, it is nonetheless a breezy album with solid songs that entertain. It is quite nice to just let the album wash over you while you’re working or in the middle of some activity, and as such it is good passive listening, and while it is unlikely to induce a musical revelation on an active, close listen, it is nonetheless of good enough musical quality to stand up to scrutiny. While the album may not have much to offer those who are not already fans of Arabic-language pop music – it may not be of such sheer quality that it could draw in converts to the cause – I think his voice is certainly a selling point for the album, and perhaps an entry point for those who are unsure about the rest of the album, and it is certainly enjoyable enough to maybe provide an easy way in to wider Arabic pop listening. I would recommend one takes a listen. After all, it is only 24 minutes long.