More beautiful music is out today from the Habibi Funk label – this time it is a true UFO of the Lebanese collector scene. The seldom heard, virtually unknown debut album of Issam Hajali (Ferkat Al Ard) fuses jazz and folk with Arabic and Iranian influences. It’s a deep and engrossing listen throughout. It was originally released in a limited run of 75 cassette tape copies.
Habibi Funk’s sublime tenth release is a reissue of a folk rarity: ‘Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard’ by Issam Hajali
The Habibi Funk experts explain: “Issam Hajali might be most known for being the singer and main composer of the Lebanese band Ferkat Al Ard. They recorded three albums, but only their classic Oghneya saw a vinyl release and is probably the most in demand record among collectors – a copy changed hands in Beirut this year for $5000. Before the band came together Issam recorded a debut album called Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard in 1977 in Paris.”
When Issam had to leave Lebanon for political reasons after the Syrian intervention for political reasons, he spent one year in exile in France and could only afford one studio day to record the whole project. “It’s more of just me, whereas the sound of the band was more of a group effort,” he recalls. Issam dubbed the tapes himself and produced black and white copies at the corner store. Most of the copies of the album were sold or given to friends.
As with other releases, the Habibi Funk team delved into the history of the music to unearth this lost work: “One record shop had them on the shelves on a commission basis, but as the shop owner was no fan of the music, she did little to sell them, hiding the tapes behind other releases. Eventually one of those tapes fell into the hands of Ziad Rahbani, Fairuz’s son and a Lebanese musical institution in his own right. Ziad liked the music a lot and used to play on most of Ferkat Al Ard’s releases. And Issam also played on some of Ziad’s recordings and sessions. Nevertheless, the album was never known outside a very small scene of like-minded individuals and musicians of late 1970s Beirut. Issam is fairly certain that less than 100 copies of the tape were made back then in total and he only managed to hang onto one copy himself, from which this recording was made.”