Record Review: The Spy From Cairo – Arabadub (2012, Wonderwheel Recordings)

Another competent record of dub and oriental fusion. A flowing tapestry of mind-travelling sounds with an activist vibe in defiance of cultural hegemony

the spy from cairo arabadub

Genre: Dub / Ethno-dub /Oriental / Downtempo

Region: New York City, USA

Artists Website: Facebook

Label: Wonderwheel Recordings

Dub is a creative field of music and right now it manifests in countless forms. Contemporary dub music develops simultaneously in many different directions. After the kick from the recent surge of bass music and its ongoing transmutation in manifold ethnic styles, the dub scene – even if it is so loosely defined – is at least as vibrant as ever.

On the other hand the orient is an infinite source of spirit-awakening inspiration. The relentless ‘anti-islamic’ campaign in politics and media by creating dangerously skewed stereotypes has resulted in ‘arabophobic’ (and xenophobic in general) attitudes and a fragmented social fabric. No surprise for the steady rise of fascist and neo-nazi groups. As the Arabic identity is increasingly criminalised (and Arab people victimised), the Arab identity becomes subliminally or vocally a field of dispute between the global establishment and all its tentacles of indoctrination and the growing movements of dissent.

Ethno-dub and particularly oriental-tinged Ethno-Dub like ‘Sufi Dub’ is on the rise. Here in Freegan Kolektiva we have documented various outstanding records that came out lately like Jef Stott’s ‘Arcana’, Celt Islam’s double strike ‘Baghdad’ and ‘Urban Sutra’ as well
as Boom One Sound System’s ‘Japanese Translations In Dub’. There are also many closely related albums like for instance the ‘Palace Of Light’ from AUditor’s DOmination and the extraordinary ‘Sumud’ from Niyaz.

the spy from cairo

Adding another record in this string of enchanting dub releases ‘Arabadub’ consistently stands as a firm middle point between Dub and Arabic music. The Spy From Cairo is not a newcomer, he has been sharpening his oriental dub sound 12 years already. Musician and producer Moreno-Zeb Visini has already released two albums under The Spy From Cairo banner: ‘An Eye On The World (2003) and ‘Secretly Famous’ (2009) . Although his fusion of Jamaican and Arabic sounds is evident from the very beginning of his career, it is only now in his third offering ‘Arabadub’ that he completed his vision.

Arabadub is a ‘mature’ record, where Zeb has distilled his sound. He knows what he wants, he knows the dynamics of his music and how to glue his instruments and beats together. It is an album you can really dive into: it is captivating with one majestic melody after the other. There is no obvious start or end, it is a flowing tapestry of mind-travelling sounds, driven by deep hypnotic basslines and mid-tempo beats. The focus here is on harmony, balance and melodies with the aim of creating esthetically beautiful soundscapes.

Well, there no bad or mediocre tracks here thus it is hard to identify any stand out tracks. The first track, ‘Alladin Dub’, immerses the listener directly in the spirit of the album. The oud melodies of Zeb immediately deliver the right tone and the rest of the arrangement
comes in the traditional Jamaican dub tradition as informed by late 1990s and 2000s downtempo productions. There are no samples here, Zeb plays traditional oriental string instruments himself like oud, saz and cifteli and he programmes all the music.

the spy from cairoSons Of Hannibal’ and ‘Haboob’ are exceptionally appealing track with memorable melodies implanted directly in the listener’s mind throught the warm, meditative frequencies of the music. Dub has a functional role hear: not only it provides the skanking beats but also it is lifting up the whole sound with echoes, reverbs and other dub effects.

While ‘Egyptian Pulse’ features a more pronounced steppers drum kick and bassline, ‘Road To Ryhad’ sticks out wit its pulsating rhythmic melody and ultimately ‘Zebda’ captures the whole essence of The Spy From Cairo sound: The bassline is pulsating deep beneath the layers of smoke, the string melodies are more enchanting than ever and the dub mentality is uncompromising driving the whole sound into a stretched-out mental state.

This music can serve both as an inspiring background but also as a ground for meditative dance sessions. Moreover, it transmits an activistic vibe – although there are no lyrics I feel that this music is full of statements.

the spy from cairoZeb was born in Italy, he lives in New York and has a Gypsy heritage. I feel that people who have been exposed to multi-cultural environments or people of mixed descent have already seen unity beyond stereotypes. As society falls apart by hatred and despair, it inevitably becomes the task of visioned people to bring back people together.


Discover more ethno-dub music via Freegan Kolektiva:

Jef Stott – Arcana (2012, Six Degrees Records)

Celt Islam – Baghdad (2012, Ajnavision records)

Boom One Sound System – Japanese Translations in Dub

AUditors DOmination – Palace of Light (2012, Timewarp music)

Niyaz – Sumud (2012, Six Degrees Records)


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