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Photo: Martien Riedel. Courtesy of Piranha Records.

The Godfather of Nubian Soul

Listen to the reissue of Ali Hassan Kuban's 1988 album From Nubia to Cairo.

Ali Hassan Kuban made his name across Egypt, the Arab world and Europe in the 1980s, his music becoming so popular it earned him the moniker, the Godfather of Nubian Soul.

The self-taught musician's career started when he moved from the Upper Egypt to Cairo, "mastered the pentatonic roots repertoire of black Egypt and became one of the most popular wedding musicians up and down the Nile," the label Piranha Records writes.

1988's From Nubia to Cairo, which was originally passed around on two cassettes, is considered one of the first milestones of urban Nubian pop. The seven songs on the album showcase Ali Hassan Kuban's blend of ancient Nubian melodies with more Western influences like jazz and American pop.


"The great Tom Robbins once said 'We forgot how proud and fancy and influential the Nubians were, they played Professor Longhair and Big Mama Thornton to Egypt's Elvis,'" Piranha Records' director Christoph Borkowsky tells OkayAfrica. "Listen to Ali Hassan Kuban's original Cairo recordings from the eighties and know it's all true. What is the world but one great big Nubian wedding!"

Listen to From Nubia to Cairo in its entirety below and purchase the release out November 16.


Ali Hassan Kuban - Yah Nasma Yah Halina (1990) www.youtube.com

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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