Image description: A black-and-white ilustration of a bearded, suited man against a floral-patterned background. The text in English reads, in bold pink,
Image description: A black-and-white ilustration of a bearded, suited man against a floral-patterned background. The text in English reads, in bold pink,


Music Around the World: Habibi Funk

Habibi funk — a story of a patch-work genre, a German tourist, and a successful re-releasing record label.

Oct 8, 2023

Picture this: You are a German tourist in Morocco and you accidentally stumble upon a collection of dusty old records and tapes that the owner of the small shop you walked into does not want to sell to you. Your passion for music does not allow you to simply leave the tracks behind. Old vinyls are too intriguing; there is always a possibility you might stumble upon a treasure chest of forgotten yet incredible tracks. After some effort and bargaining, you manage to snag the music and listening to the unique combination of traditional Arabic sounds, funk, soul, and jazz changes your life. This is what happened to Jannis Stürtz, the creator of Habibi Funk, a re-releasing record label that has been remastering the forgotten songs and albums produced across the Arab world in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. This has included artists whose music sometimes existed only as 200 tapes and those whose careers ended too soon. Rightfully taking pride in their 23 releases, Habibi Funk’s mission is to introduce these tracks to the international stage. The Spotify profile of the record label has managed to take over the hearts of more than 23,000 followers, while also creating exposure for the original artists, with all the reissued music available on Spotify under the artists’ original name. Stürtz frequently comments on his own positionality in his goal: He is extremely cautious not to rub off as a white savior or discoverer of new music. He contends only to have helped the music emerge on a new market and all the profit the songs make is shared 50-50 between the label and the artist (or their family). So, if you have ever wondered how well Western sounds mix with local Arabic influences, look no further.
Any person vaguely aware of the Arab music scene will have heard of Hamid Al Shaeri. Though Al Shaeri is an established name and the best known singer of the Al Jeel genre, the indie Habibi Funk has had the opportunity to re-release some of his oldest tracks. Now one of Al Shaeri’s most popular tracks, Ayonha was included in Habibi Funk’s The SLAM! Years (1983 -1988), a compilation of songs originally released by SLAM!, a Cairo-based label. The multi-instrumentalist and singer’s earlier works included an abundance of synths that the artists picked up during his time in London. “Whenever a new one [synthesizer] would come out, we would have to buy it immediately, otherwise someone else would get their hands on that sound,” he recalls. A master of mixing Western influences with more traditional sounds, Hamid Al Shaeri’s music is certainly a must listen, especially for those who enjoy the sound of Boy Pablo.
There is something beautiful about covering songs in a language different from the one they were originally sung in. These songs always exhibit lingering similarity, mixed with a new charming style and feel. Douaa’s Haditouni, an Arabic cover of the joyous French Parlez Moi de Lui, is no exception. Haditouni is just the right amount of melancholy, with the lyrics sharing a story of an old love, separated and ultimately extinguished by the man moving away. Hurtingly inquiring about his happiness, his smile, and the gifted gold chain, the story of this song was adapted from French in just one night. As Douaa’s daughter Reem Mitten shared with Habibi Funk in the album notes, her mother, born to the singer and composer Bahija Idriss, was always musically inclined. Once a music producer contacted her family to inquire whether Douaa would be interested in recording a cover of Parlez Moi de Lui, Douaa took her chance. Though her career was short-lived, Douaa’s talent is undeniable. You need not know a word of Arabic to feel all the feelings the song wants you to feel.
Collectors and music lovers around the world are very familiar with Ahmed Malek. This Algerian composer knew his way around a variety of genres, including jazz, classical, funky R&B, and psychedelic rock. Early on in his career, Malek’s talent was recognized. He conducted the Algerian Television Orchestra for years and composed music for dozens of films, TV shows, and documentaries. One of Habibi Funk’s earliest releases included an album of Malek’s unreleased and less known tracks. Stürtz ultimately hit the jackpot: Malek’s daughter gave Habibi Funk access to loads of unreleased materials, photographs, and videos. A lot of this material revealed Malek’s fascination with electronic music and one particular photograph of him during his visit in Japan, which left a mark on the way he composed, was used as the cover for Habibi Funk 015.
Though primarily focused on re-releases, as of June, Habibi Funk has officially had its first contemporary full-length release. It is incredibly hard to single out a song from Marzipan, Beirut’s multi-instrumental producer Charif Megarbane’s newest LP. Every song off of this album gives you a different taste of Megarbane’s reality, be it the business of Beirut, Lebanese countryside, or the pleasantness of the Mediterranean coastline. Megarbe admits admiration to some of Habibi Funk’s house names like aforementioned Ahmed Malek and Issam Hajali, with his own eclectic sound a witness to this genre-bending preference. If you are in need of a life changing instrumental album, look no further — Marzipan is all you need.
Another gem of Habibi Funk’s deep dive into Arabic music are the works of Carthago. Largely forgotten and digitally anonymous prior to Habibi Funk’s rerelease, Carthago was relatively popular in Tunisia towards the end of the 70s. Made through the fusion of two previously existing and competing bands — Dalton and Marhaba band — Carthago played a mixture of their own disco tracks and covers. During a trip to Paris, they recorded their only self-titled album, which was recovered in the early days of Habibi Funk. The label re-released Alech and Hanen. Alech, the song I chose to feature, is a disco cover of Dalton’s old song under the same title. As testified by people of Habibi Funk, this song has proved to be a dance floor favorite. I cannot disagree with the statement, and I encourage anybody with a need to boogie to give it a listen.
Andreja Zivkovic is a Staff Writer. Email them at
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