In the mid 70’s organ music was ridiculously popular across the world, where companies would actually compete to sponsor artists and release albums demonstrating that if you purchased their organ perhaps one day you would be able to create similar virtuosic sounds. This album is not a sponsored vehicle, but this is the environment that blind Egyptian musician Omar El Shariyi released this suite of instrumental tunes in 1976. Interestingly he would later go on to work with the Roland company in the 80’s, creating the ‘oriental keyboard’ that was enormously popular in Egypt.
This album of 1976 organ music from Cairo is a tribute to the legendary, singer, composer, actor and oud player Mohammed Abdel Wahab, who amongst other things composed the national anthems of Tunisia and Libya. He was also a film composer, and wasn’t afraid to use Western rhythms – much like Shariyi.
This music blends traditional melodies with modern instrumentation (for the 70’s at least). He used early electronic keyboards like the Steelphon S900 or the Farfisa, displaying a mastery over his instrument, particularly via his ability to conjure emotion – often via his extensive use of strings. There’s quite a deceptive complexity to his work. With organ you have to do more with less, the vitality of three or four players in a room is not possible, instead you have to be able to conjure those feelings with the use of a different sound, which is difficult as it sounds. Omar El Shariyi was able to achieve this, crafting intriguing, exotic imaginative tunes with limited ingredients. Yet he doesn’t feel limited by the organ, rather he embraces its limitations and makes the tunes something new, a strange and beautiful futuristic music trapped in the past.