MOROCCO: Al Zman Saib - Fadoul
Funk meets punk in this extaordinary album that came close to never even existing in the first place
This may be a rather bold statement, but before even hearing the album’s remarkable origin story, I thought to myself that of all the hundreds of albums from artists previously unbeknownst to me that I had discovered during this odyssey, Fadoul may be the performer I would most like to see live. This is not without reason. This album is pure funk and yet the album is pure punk – a unique combination that requires an audience. Rarely has it ever been more clear listening to an album that the performer is such a showman, despite having no concept of what the artist looks like, I can only picture Fadoul bossing a stage.
“This was never an album he chose to make, but rather a series of snapshots from different points in a man’s history, doing what he did best – performing.”
The record begins with an Arabic-language cover of James Brown’s Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag which miraculously rivals The Godfather of Soul’s effort for passion and energy. It has to be said, that whilst the album peaks on this track, there are plenty of other goodies in store. Fadoul continues to look westward with the title-track Al Zman Saib which at the start has echoes of The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash before it becomes apparent that the riff which Fadoul plays upon comes from Free’s All Right Now. Once again, it is the rawness of the music that blows me away. To try and cover such iconic songs and make it one’s own is by no means an easy task, yet Fadoul does this and then some.
His unique vocal talent is of course of particular note, with it first truly impressing me on Laylat Al Jadba for its raspinessas he shouts into the microphone with increasing excitability on each lyric. The next song however, Maktoub Lah, sees him take a different approach. At the beginning of the track Fadoul begins with a spoken word piece, which sounds either like he is casting a spell or that he is weary at the end of a long road, perhaps almost like the words on his death bed. Yet, he is reborn as the bluesy guitar comes in, he accompanies the instrument an octave higher than heard previously on the record, with a call and response song, with no response from a backing singer, almost imploring the listening audience to fill in the gaps. His work on the mic is sublime throughout, with his suave and intimate audience interaction on La Tiq Tiq Latiq comes as an antidote to him proceeding to blast the audience away with his shouty vocals, which he somehow trumps with an even more enraged vocal performance on Kalam Al Nass.
Fadoul’s melodramatic theatrics, that one can visualise are of course aided the wonderful musicianship of the trio he plays with. The filthiest bass guitar solo in town features in Tayeh, whilst the aforementioned Maktoub Lah includes a cymbal-led percussion in which the guitar takes a backseat that is to die for, as the pace of the music impressively accelerates. The final track Taarida is an instrumental song, which initially feels more like it is guided by music of the region from which Fadoul hails, rather than looking towards Afro-American music as he does for much of the album which is littered with psych-rock and funk elements. However, the song goes onto closes with a Brazilian carnival samba sound, which one can imagine him geeing the audience up for, even without uttering a single lyric.
Having performed under various monikers, such as Fadaul et les Privileges, when I was first recommended the album, I had to double check to make sure Fadoul was not indeed the same as Faudel, the French-Algerian performer widely considered to be somewhat of legend in circles amongst world music anoraks like ourselves. It was in this research I learnt how the album came about. Its unlikely origins add to the allure of it, though on a musical level the record certainly stands up on its own two feet.
Habibi Funk AKA Jannis Stürtz, a demi-god of our times in my humble opinion, is the reason this album even came to life in the first place. Having stumbled across a vinyl featuring Sid Reddad that was practically hidden in a Casablanca medina back in 2012, the German producer became understandably enamoured with his sound and went on a mission to try and find out more about Fadoul . With such little information out there, it took two years to discover that Fadoul had indeed passed away in 1991 as Stürtz managed to meet his sister to gain more info on the man. Subsequent to this, with the permission of his family Stürtz released the album in 2015 featuring songs from different recordings he had discovered in his search.
This beautiful tale of music and memory thought to be lost to the annals of time making a mighty return is rather astounding and heart-warming. It also further plays into the notion that Fadoul would be a phenomenal artist to see live. This was never an album he chose to make, but rather a series of snapshots from different points in a man’s history, doing what he did best – performing. For me the weakest track on the album by some way is Kalam Al Nass. The reason for this is, though the madcap vocals and musicianship are still impressive, it sounds like a track made in a recording studio, rather than played in a dingy underground club. The song feels over-produced, with the sound of heated discussion taking a place in a café or a queue at the bank at the start, before him and his bandmates clearly jam together in the studio. This is less a harsh critique of what is broadly a good song, but rather a compliment to the rawness of the rest of the album in which Fadoul shows off his one in a million quality to release all the emotion from his being, whilst always keeping the audience dancing.