21/02/2020Ahmed Ben Ali’s Sublime Libyan Reggae Is Habibi Funk’s Release Number 012

Finally some good news from Libya, we thought to ourselves. Musically speaking, that is, as Habibi Funk unveils release number 012. This one caught us by surprise. Not because we weren't expecting top-shelf selection. Jannis Stürtz's Berlin-based reissue label has always been a provider of quality tunes. We were surprised because we had no idea that Libyan reggae was actually a thing. 

This latest release, again, widened our musical horizon, introducing us to Ahmed Ben Ali and two of his sublime tracks, which absolutely struck a chord. Born in 1971 in Benghazi and having spent time abroad in Canada and the UK, Ben Ali had never considered music a profession, but more of an important hobby, which, as time passed, friends encouraged him to pursue and so he did, releasing three albums since the early 2000s. 

Apparently in 2008, one of Ben Ali's friends set up a YouTube account for him and uploaded two of his tracks. Ben Ali himself uploaded two more tracks to said account, before (and I'm sure many of us can relate) losing the password. As a result, the account remained untouched for the next eleven years. However, two of the tracks "started gaining traction" and have meanwhile amassed over a million plays. 

Enter Habibi Funk, who've now gifted these two tracks their first-ever official 12" release. The first track "Subhana" will have reggae heads nodding in agreement, as Ben Ali explains: “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.” 

It does indeed. But track number two is no less impressive. "Damek Majeb" is even more forward-thinking, though still clearly rooted in reggae and dancehall culture. Call it "new Libyan traditional music" as a friend of Ben Ali's did on YouTube, however, this is anything but folkloric. We'll let you decide for yourselves. All we know is that our order is placed. Now where do we find those other three albums that were mentioned? You can stream/buy both tracks and their instrumental versions below. Big up Habibi Funk for this one!

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom