East Wing is proud to present this first exhibition showcasing Habibi Funk this May.
Habibi Funk is a record label dedicated to re-releasing the evolution of a musical style that historically never had its own particular genre.
The label, headed by Berlin based DJ, Jannis Stuertz, is dedicated to describing a particular fusion of sounds and a catalog of artists that were created in cities geographically distant from one another in the Arab world. Although produced under very different circumstances, the artists are connected by their distinct musical compositions, which mix local and regional influences with other inspirations from outside their region.
Jannis finds many of Habibi Funk artists through continuous travels to the region – spending hours combing through crates of vinyl records, cassette tapes or long forgotten studio reels left in dusty backrooms, the overloaded storage areas of obscure independent music shops or private collections. Once found, his international team of friends and colleagues in Casablanca, Cairo, Paris and Khartoum share their research to uncover as much background context as possible for each release, including making every effort to contact the original artists, or families of these musicians.
“When we start working on re-releasing music on the Habibi Funk label, we license all tracks directly from the musicians or, in the case of artists who are sadly no longer alive, from their family. As a European label dealing with non-western artists we are keenly aware of our responsibilities to the makers. We split all profits from our releases equally with the artists. Our license deals are limited; after a period of time all rights fall back to the artist or the families. This is vitally important to us in today’s reissue market, where too many shady business transactions happen, we need to be fully transparent about our licensing policies”.
Habibi Funk encompasses more than pure funk, often the influences are inspired from Western popular music such as soul, pop and rock, but it’s more than that. Some of the releases can be described as Arabic zouk (a genre originating from the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe), Algerian coladera (a popular musical style from the Cape Verdean islands), Lebanese AOR or old school hip hop.
All of the styles go beyond just taking Western music as a blueprint and translating it with a local accent. Habibi Funk aims to bridge this gap, making accessible these obscure and sometimes forgotten musicians to a wider audience, connecting younger generations to their eclectic musical history.
Habibi Funk provides insight to the larger puzzle of how musically vibrant this very diverse region was and still is. Their choices are a personal curation of what they love most and not a strict representation of Arabic musical history of the 1970s and 1980s. Their focus is more on the obscure and forgotten and less on recognised musical stars of the region.
Their future aim is to create a public archive where this music can be enjoyed and studied by all. Through a series of future exhibitions and events, East Wing aims to help Habibi Funk attain this goal.
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