Ali Hassan Kuban | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ali Hassan Kuban 

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ALI HASSAN KUBAN

When the Egyptian government dammed the Nile to create the giant Lake Nasser in the early 60s, it uprooted the country's Nubian population--more than 100,000 people were forced to move. Many went south to Sudan, while others migrated up to Cairo, but the community and its culture were irrevocably weakened. Roots musician Ali Hassan Kuban, now nearing his 70s, was one of those who went north, and in Cairo he became both a leading preserver of Nubian culture and a bold fusionist: "Kuban" was a nickname added in the 50s, when he was already incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythms; he later pulled in brash, jazz-tinged horn charts and R & B-informed vocals to complement the herky-jerky traditional Nubian rhythms called kaf. He's even allowed his tunes, notably the infectious single "Maria-Maria," to undergo jungle and house remixes--but he's admirably stubborn about keeping his lyrics in Nubian dialect. Kuban's funky grooves have earned him a rep as "the Egyptian James Brown," and while his recordings may lack the physical power of Brown's music, his work really is serious party music, most often performed at Egyptian weddings, which can last from several days to as long as a week. Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink world-beaters Funkadesi open. Friday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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