Known as the “Captain” or (later) “Godfather” of Nubian music, Ali Hassan Kuban was a Nubian singer, band leader and self-taught musician. His compositions never strayed far from his Nubian people’s musical roots, but as his popularity grew in the early 80’s and he went global, his songs began to integrate the modern sounds of pop into their colourful formations!
Ali Hassan Kuban served as one of the founding fathers of the musical breed which closed the gap between Global underground and Western pop. He was able to draw from his roots and bring them into a modern world, thus merging the old and the new! Ancient Nubian melodies began swirling with pulsating Western beats and into this mix also came influences from American jazz and international pop! During the 1950’s, Ali began experimenting with Western instruments such as the saxophone, electric guitar, bass, organ, trumpet and accordion and by the 1990’s he was performing for international audiences at events such as Midem (1993), WOMAD (1994), the Montreal Jazz Festival (1994), and Central Park SummerStage (1995).
When Ali Hassan Kuban actually laid-down his legendary recordings, released internationally by Piranha in 1988, nobody knows any more. What is known, however, is that his recordings took place at Delta Sound S.A. in Cairo – with the orchestra’s entire line-up circled around the only working microphone at hand. The tracks had been travelling in the Arab world on two audio-cassettes afterwards and accompanied his rise from a local superstar to a musical innovator of new, vibrant, international Pop.
His debut album, From Nubia to Cairo, was released in the late 80’s and celebrates his native Nubia and Egypt, praising their people, women and life in general! I plan to listen to the whole record, but have only heard Mabruk so far as this was the song that introduced me to him earlier this week! Translating as “Congratulations”, Mabruk is a stunning piece of music, adorned with swirling instrumentation and Ali Hassan Kuban’s captivating voice. I love the call and response vocals and how the melody just makes you want to dance and sway! It’s a celebration of sound and makes me feel very content! Check it out above.