Dar Disku 004
Cheb Mimoun — ‘Abdel Kader (Dar Disku edit)’ b/w
Azzie Kamal — ‘Maadna Bukra (Dar Disku edit)’
Dar Disku Records/Rush Hour/All-City Worldwide

Dar Disku literally means ‘home of the disco’ and the label takes its name from a 1970s Egyptian magazine of the same name.  The label was founded last year by Mazen Al Maskati and Vish Mhatre, two young DJs from Bahrain, now based in London.  Dar Disku, though, bases itself in both places.   Al Maskati and Mhatre grew up less than a mile apart in Bahrain and bonded over crate digging and mixtapes for friends and strangers.  They dug left field music.  They left for London, but they did not leave the music of their childhood behind.  It was more than nostalgia, but the beats their parents spun during their childhoods, the art and culture of the Arab disco era, they immersed themselves in the music of the Middle East and India, learning about it, not just the music, but the theory of the beats, the way the music was structured, and so on.  And so, Dar Disku seemed like the next step.

The label releases what they call edits of classic middle eastern music ‘flipped’ for the dancefloor.  This is Dar Disku 004, their fourth release, and, as with the first three, it finds them deep in the music of the MENA region (as in The Middle East and North Africa).

Dar Disku 004 finds them editing a classic track.  ‘Abdel Kader’ is a traditional Algerian track, and many have found fame with this track, from Khaled, Faudel, to Rachid Taha.  This version is a cover by the North African superstar, Cheb Mimoun.  And by ‘edit,’ we mean that Al Miskati and Mhatre remix the tracks, and here they create the thump of an old school Yamaha SX7 bassline and the quarter tone scale of a Roland synthesizer.  And they create this nostalgic soundscape for an era that is unfamiliar for so many, though not for anyone from the Middle East of their vintage.  I have to say, as I play this track over and over, and then over and over again, it’s got everything the imaginary Egyptian discotheque of 1977 has, the one in my head, and I find myself listening in this framework of the best hybridized music of the past few decades, from the UK’s Cornershop to Dmitri from Paris and Daft Punk (also from France), though so deeply based in their ancestral cultures.

The same feeling goes to the b-side, which sees Dar Disku favourites Moving Stiff (from Dublin via Saudi Arabia) and Tjade (from the Netherlands).  Moving Still and Tjade are big names in dance music these days, and here they collaborate to create this insane Italo-esque feel from Egyptian popster Azza Kamal’s classic.  Moving Still found the original tape on a visit home, which he then sampled to make the track, keeping the call and response of Kamal’s vocals, which are partnered with the signature drum bit of Tjade.  The results are flat out amazing.  As with the a-side, I am finding the b-side to be a great listen.

The work of Dar Disku here is brilliant, not just in bringing this music to us, but in the manner in which the tracks are edited, sampled, re-recorded, remixed, and given the backbeat.  I’ve since been digging through the back catalogue of Dar Disku records, with 001-003.  The revival of this lost soundscape, its re-introduction to a wider audience seems to me to be a vital move.  And this is certainly part of what Al Maskati and Mhatre are doing here, reminding us of the importance of equality, diversity, and community, now perhaps more than ever before.  And they remind us of the power of music in this process.  And, in agreement with both Moving Still and Tjade, 50% of the profits from this single will go direct to Middle Eastern charities.