Land Of Kush is a large orchestra assembled and directed by composer and musician Sam Shalabi, one of Montreal's most unique and prolific players over the past decade and a half. Shalabi performs constantly on electric guitar and oud, with regular appearances in numerous jazz and free improv ensembles, membership in a kaleidoscope of avant rock bands, and at the compositional helm of various musical assemblages large and small.
Shalabi has seen a dozen full-length album recordings released in the last several years, under his own name and with Shalabi Effect (on Alien8Recordings) and as a member of Molasses, Detention, Po, ’Gypt Gore and Nutsack. His eponymous albums often include genre-defying compositions for larger ensembles and Shalabi has also mounted many live performances and commissioned compositions for hybrid orchestras that have gone largely undocumented.
Land Of Kush is among the most ambitious and impressive of Shalabi’s projects: the group involves over 30 musicians and two dozen different instruments, including a cluster of strings, horns and woodwinds, multiple percussionists, bassists and guitarists, numerous vocalists, electronics, snyths, darbouka and oud.
Land Of Kush has performed a handful of mesmerising shows in Montreal over the past few years, premiering three different hour-long works over that period. Two of these were recorded in studio at the invitation of Constellation and released in spring 2009 (Against The Day) and spring 2010 (Monogamy) respectively.
Following several visits to the city over the years, Shalabi moved to Cairo in 2011, though he has thankfully maintained strong and active connections to the experimental music communities of Montreal, including the Land of Kush orchestra. His experiences arriving at an apartment one block from Tahrir Square, in the midst of Egypt's 'Arab Spring', led to the composition of the The Big Mango, the latest work for Land of Kush.
Our February Leap Year Sale at the Constellation webshop is over – huge thanks to everyone that placed orders! – but throughout the month of March, independent retailers in North America and several European countries (UK, FR, DE, NL, BE, IT) can get in on sale pricing for all our full-length albums released in 2013-2015. You will find links on every eligible release page on our site, but here’s a roundup of the situation:
Support your local record store by asking them to order Constellation LPs or CDs at sale pricing.
Want to search for independent stores in your area? Check out the Record Store Day store finder here: USA • International
This is also a great opportunity for Europeans to order vinyl at sale prices and at local/domestic shipping rates from an indie mail-order shop in your region.
SALTLAND • I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us CST094: iTunes
JERUSALEM IN MY HEART • Mo7it Al-Mo7it CST093: iTunes
COLIN STETSON • New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light CST092: iTunes
While of course you can purchase digital albums (MP3 or FLAC) directly from our own website, we also get that many people enjoy the convenience of the iTunes platform, and we also emphasise that purchasing digital album downloads – whether on our platform or via Apple – continues to be a strong way to support more obscure, challenging, long-attention-span-demanding and/or non-commercial indie artists/labels in an age of streaming.
With The Big Mango, the latest LP from Sam Shalabi's Land of Kush orchestra, available in stores now, the group will return to the stage for the first time in over a year. They'll be playing two nights back to back here in Montreal on January 15 and 16, joined both nights by a duo of Pierre-Guy Blanchard (PACHA) and Jérémie Roy. We'll call these the official release shows for The Big Mango. A Closer Listen rightly called the album "the sort of music that begs to be heard live"; this will be a rare opportunity to catch this singular group of musicians offer this mesmerizing, genre-defying, strangely catchy work in its proper form. See below for the dates and ticket links, and listen to album track "The Pit."
Next up for Fall 2013 is the latest from Sam Shalabi's Land of Kush ensemble, The Big Mango. Inspired by and dedicated to the city of Cairo (Shalabi's home since 2011), the album rallies more than 20 Montreal musicians to create some of the most immediate, impassioned and profound work we've seen from Sam yet. On an early listen, Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls and Sublime Frequencies said, "Sam Shalabi has raised the bar for modern psychedelic music by composing this epic suite for his 20-piece Land of Kush orchestra. By utilizing African, Middle Eastern, Indian, jazz, rock, and folkloric sources, The Big Mango weaves a seamless montage of styles in a transcendent way that is rarely, if ever, achieved...It will demand your attention from start to finish." The album hits stores October 1. See below for info, including an audio sample of album track "The Pit", or click here for the full run-down.
Following several visits to the city over the years, Osama (Sam) Shalabi moved to Cairo in 2011, arriving at an apartment one block from Tahrir Square, in the midst of Egypt's 'Arab Spring'. Shalabi describes The Big Mango, his new and phenomenal work for his Land Of Kush big-band, as "a love letter to Cairo" framed by "the beautiful, surreal madness of the city…as joyous, horrific, historical events were unfolding". The music was also inspired by time spent in Dakar – a break from the unrelenting intensity of Cairo – where in Senegal's music scene Sam experienced parallels to another of his important aesthetic and political touchstones, Brazilian Tropicalia. The sense of a "positivity, complexity and radicalism in art that was also playful and joyous and wasn't necessarily part of a 'revolution' but seemed to be a form of innate radicalism" – in tandem with the relative openness of Dakar's Islamic society, where the role and presence of women in public and private life, and the relaxed physicality and sensuality of the culture in general – offered a powerful counterpoint and feeling of promise for Egypt's own future. The Big Mango is one of the many nicknames for Cairo, but also evokes the sweetness, succour and sensuality of southern hemispheric music more generally, in its aforementioned relation to broader socio-political movements. Montréal remains Shalabi's home base in many respects, and the place to which he briefly returned towards the end of 2012 to reconvene the large troupe of players that have helped him realize his large-scale orchestral works under the Land Of Kush moniker. Working through The Big Mango score with these local musicians culminated in two ecstatic live performances and a recording session at Montréal's Hotel2Tango studio. This third album by Land Of Kush is arguably the group's most focused and effortlessly rewarding. The Big Mango kicks off in typically bizarre and uncategorizably Kush fashion, with a slowly brewing stew of free-improvised instrumentation, electronics, wordless vocalizations and oblique sexuality/sensuality through the opening two tracks, "Faint Praise" and "Second Skin". These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi's – his lysergic take on an orchestra 'warming up' – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work, while also invoking the album's deeper conceptual preoccupations: gender, sexuality and the status of women as a culture unleashes seismic/revolutionary energies with the real possibility of attendant shifts in civil society and political structure. For Shalabi, gender and Arab culture has been a central theme, one he took up explicitly on the previous Kush album Monogamy (2011), and which unquestionably drives The Big Mango, where once again a series of female vocalists drawn from Montréal's indie rock community anchor the work and convey what in most of the North African Arab world remains an utterly radical spirit of gender equality, expression and liberation. The natural and implicit libidinal energy of rock and roll long since taken for granted in the West is re-situated in The Big Mango, where the album's centerpiece songs –"The Pit", "Mobil Nil", Drift Beguine" and the album's closing title track – are each highlighted by superlative, propulsive female vocal performances (and individually-authored lyrics) by Ariel Engle, Katie Moore, Elizabeth Anka Vajagic and Molly Sweeney respectively. Underpinning each of these singers is some of Shalabi's most melodically and rhythmically satisfying writing, conjuring a post-modern psychedelia that is truly sui generis. The Kush band delivers the grooves and soloists unleash excursions more fluidly than ever; for many of these players, it's the third time around embracing Sam's music, getting inside the score, and following his conduction. In combination with the peaking intensity and electricity of Shalabi's compositional vision, The Big Mango coheres, sparkles and soars: a distillation of the sonic trajectory Land Of Kush has been charting for the past five years. Thanks for listening.
Land Of Kush and Hangedup are confirmed to play the All Tomorrow's Parties xmas edition curated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. For Hangedup, this will be a rekindling of the flame similar to Godspeed – the band has not played in several years and last performed in Europe in 2005. Eric Craven and Geneviève Heistek have continued to play drums and viola respectively in all sorts of projects in and around Montreal since putting their pummeling duo on ice mid-decade; they are well-primed to fire up the machine once again, and will also revisit a previous collaboration with Tony Conrad, who will be joining them for the ATP date. UPDATE: Hangedup will be performing at ATP with their own set as the sense-rattling dynamic duo that they are. The band is planning some stuff with Tony Conrad for 2011. Equally momentous will be the first ever European performance by Land Of Kush. The uncategorisable and mesmerising out-music orchestra led by Sam Shalabi will re-fashion itself as a small ensemble for this performance (ATP couldn't spring for 30 musicians apparently - cheap bastards). We've seen Sam play in much smaller formations and been floored in complete but different ways by the results. With Radwan Moumneh (Jerusalem In My Heart) and regular Kush vocalist Ariel Engle forming the core, LoK is sure to provide an intense but presumably more intimate take on their inimitable psych-arabique sounds. More info at the ATP site here.