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Arts & Culture


Habibi Funk: the viral label propelling Arab funk onto the world stage

In the depths of vintage music shops scattered throughout the Middle East and North Africa, a hidden treasure trove of funk and rock tracks awaited discovery, anticipating someone like Jannis Stürz, a passionate German DJ and track collector, to unveil them. This quest gave birth to Habibi Funk.

A Casablanca discovery

Founded in 2012 by Berlin-based DJ Jannis Stürz, Habibi Funk is more than just a genre; it’s a full-fledged record label with a unique mission. Stürz embarked on a musical journey to unearth the forgotten rock and funk music of the Middle East and North Africa. This journey began during a DJ gig in Morocco, where Stürz stumbled upon albums from the 70s and 80s infused with a Western twist. This serendipitous encounter ignited the concept of Habibi Funk, a repository of Arab funk classics and lesser-known gems.

Habibi Funk’s expansive repertoire spans several decades, ranging from the 1950s to the 1980s, showcasing a mosaic of musical genres that encompass folk, rock, disco, jazz, and other progressive sub-genres. Notably, Stürz’s insatiable investigative spirit -earning him the moniker of the digger- shines through in his rediscovery of artists like Faddoul, whose rendition of James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ made him an icon of Arab progressive rock. Faddoul was the German DJ’s first breakthrough. “It’s not very subtle, it’s full-on energy and very straight to the point. If it’s the first record you’re listening to, you get the idea straight away,” he tells the Independent. Stürz frequently goes on journeys to cities in the Arab world, dedicating a significant portion of his time to perusing vintage music shops, where he sifts through old cassettes to unearth these hidden gems.


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“One of the things that quite quickly someone pointed out to me, and that I stopped using, was the word ‘discover’, because it’s not music that hasn’t been there before I got to it,” he added. “Especially when you’re coming from the West, and you’re dealing with cultural goods from the region, I guess ‘discover’ is a historically complicated term.”

A new lease of life for alternative Arab music

In recent times, numerous Arab artists have gone viral thanks to social media, with platforms propelling talents like Saint Levant, Elyanna, and Wegz to global stardom. With the increasing global reception of Arab music, Habibi Funk has also found its place, amassing tens of thousands of subscribers on Spotify and hundreds of thousands of likes. However, Habibi Funk’s true strength lies not in making existing artists famous, but in resurrecting forgotten artists. One such example is Najib Alhoush and his band, The Free Music, whose music landed him in trouble with Libya’s then dictatorship, the Gaddafi regime, causing it to fade from people’s memories, both in Libya and abroad, until Stürz rediscovered his music.


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See also

3 Lebanese artists to discover in Paris right now

Published on 4 October 2023

#Arab world