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10/10 Mike Staff review, 31 January 2014
The first of these Choubi Choubi compilations on Sublime Frequencies is widely regarded as one of the label's best, so it's exciting to see that there's finally a second instalment, and it's exciting to hear that everything on it is great. I wish I could afford to buy one of these for myself. Over the course of the two LPs you get a broad selection of music recorded in Iraq during the Saddam years, giving the listener a mouth-watering glimpse at a culture which has since been left the shadow of its former self with the country gripped in turmoil for years with little sign of life improving for the Iraqi people. See the press release for some words written by someone with something to say about that, it's interesting and enlightening.
The music contained on this collection is without exception intoxicating and really well recorded. One thing that's very distinctive about it are the drum sounds which run through it, in particular a small hand drum called the khishba, which sounds like an electronic drum sound to the untrained ear. I had to look up a video on youtube to check, they sound so electronic. There's also a lot of bowed strings and reed instruments and vocals high in the mix and full of character.
It's hard to pick highlights, but I am instantly a bit obsessed with Kathim Al Saher's 'Helwa Ya 'Em Oyoun Al Soud', which opens with some dusky percussion and echoed string scraping which unexpectedly morphs into this really laid back sort of half-sung, half-chanted vocal line before dropping back into another increasingly frantic instrumental section, and then returns to the chorus bit but with more energy. I love how the fiddle snakes around all meandering like it doesn't know where it's going but it's tricking you and it knows where it's going all along. Oh, the opening track by Sajida Obeid is amazing too, it makes you feel like you're in a film. This is an exceptional compilation regardless of its turbulent historical context.
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