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The Spy From Cairo

Arabadub

(Wonderwheel; US: 29 May 2012; UK: 18 Jun 2012)

Ever since Lee Scratch Perry and King Tubby pioneered dub, the genre (itself a sub genre of reggae), has been taken up by all manor of musicians and across all types of music. It really came to its fore in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s dance/techno/crusty scene that was big in the UK and on the international backpacker circuit. The Spy from Cairo aka Zeb, a veteran of the downtown New York music scene has also been experimenting with dub, but fusing it with middle eastern, or if you prefer, Arabian sounds. Zeb’s mixed heritage—Italian, Gypsy and American—can be understood through his music. A restless quest for new sounds, the desire to master exotic instruments, he plays the Oud, Chifteli and Saz himself on this album (and does so expertly, too).


Arabadub kicks off with strings and lovely dub echoes on “Alladin Dub” which gives way to the more club friendly “Taksim Square”, which has a sweet string and accordion vibe. “Sons of Hannibal” is the standout track, most closely marrying the Middle Eastern sounds with a heavy-ish dub skunk and a hypnotic Arabic vocal chant. Overall, the album flows and holds together well, but is more suited for a bar/lounge environment or in the choice of individual tracks to be played out over big sound systems and large dance floors.

Rating:

Founder of the Birmingham Popular Music Archive and Exec Producer of the documentary Made in Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra (you may discern a common theme here!) I get way more pleasure than is acceptable from uncovering obscure facts and stories about music from my home city. The sight of some long forgotten band performing on stage, captured in a crappy in 1970's photo, is likely to send me over the edge! In my spare time, I work with some fellow popular music and radio fanatics in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University in the UK.


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