Yak Bezaf Felas
Lamari Said Yak Bezaf Felas 7" (Bel Air, 1960)
This is a recent favorite. I picked it up at a flea market in Paris for one euro. Taking a very shallow, self-interested view, one of the benefits of French imperialism is that there are some terrific Algerian records floating around France and they tend to be cheap. I am not going to lie to you and front that I knew who Lamari Said was before I got this record. I do have a healthy stack of records of Middle Eastern music, but aside from a few artists, most of my vinyl came from blind buying. Price is right, cover looks okay, Arabic writing = Time to take a chance. Lamari Said was another chance that was worth taking.
Yak Bezaf Felas starts with some piano riffs backed by a subtle drone. The drone mellows the piano into melancholy. Said sings a bit and then the song kicks into a faster rhythm. On the surface the song isn't much different than a lot of Middle Eastern songs, but listen close and the oud and piano are doing strange things in the background. They go on quick runs and strike odd notes. Said's voice also develops an almost punk-like sneer. The whole of Yak Bezaf Felas is fantastic.
The little I know about Lamari Said is what I can decipher from the sleeve notes. He was born in Tizi-Guzou, Algeria in 1918. He was a singer on Radio Alger and also performed on television. Other than that he is a mystery to me.