Boomkat Product Review:
Lilting, autotune-inflected reggae from Libya, lit up with digital horns and balmy strings, at best in the unique standout ’Subhana’ which is also included as a handy instrumental.
“Reggae from Libya, recorded at Ahmed Ben Ali's home studio in Benghazi in 2008. Ahmed Ben Ali was born in 1971 in Benghazi. He went to boarding to school in Canada for 8 years, and returned to Libya. For a couple of years he also worked in the UK. Music was never his main job but his “main hobby” as Ahmed says. While going to school and also living in the UK he was always playing music and playing in bands. But it would take him years until he started recording his own music after many of his friends encouraged him to do so. This culminated in recording his first album, which he released in 2003. Since then he recorded maybe 40 tracks and released two more albums. He also started playing gigs in Libya with his own band.
In 2008 a friend of his decided to set up a youtube account for him by starting with two uploaded tracks. He then passed the account to Ahmed, who proceeded with uploading two further songs before he unfortunately happened to forget the password to the account. The account remained untouched since 11 years. At some points two of the tracks from this account started gaining traction. “Sibhana”, the infectious Libyan reggae, which you can also hear on this release and “Damek Majeb”, the second track on this 12 inch. Funnily “Damek Majeb” was uploaded by his friend including the caption “New libyan traditional music remixed by Ahmad Benali. Hope you enjoy!”, so I assumed the song was a folkloric title modernized by Ahmed Ben Ali, just like a lot of other people who heard the track. When I asked him about the original track he started laughing: „You know this is all a misunderstanding. For whatever reason my friend wrote this little sentence but actually it’s an original composition that I did. It’s not a cover or a remix or anything like that. When I saw what my friend wrote I thought it was funny so I didn’t change it.” The other track “Sibhana” is a song whose lyrics are loosely based on the poem „سبحان اللي هنتك وهونتيني“ by the Libyan poet AbdelKader Bouhedma.
Ahmed Ben Ali works as a technical engineer and records music in his own home studio. There he operates as his own sound technician and his own producer recording the music plus writing the lyrics. A one man musical army. Contextualizing his own style Ben Ali pointed out that “The Libyan folkloric rhythm is very similar to the reggae rhythm. So if Libyan people listen to reggae it’s easy for them to relate because it sounds familiar. This is the main reason why reggae became so popular here. [...]We played the reggae Libyan style, it’s not the same as in Jamaica. We added our oriental notes to it and if you mix both it becomes something great.” With a bit of laughter he added: “And to me it’s still original reggae, it’s Libyan style, not some bullshit.”