3 Mustaphas 3 [Special]

3 Mustaphas 3 [Special]

From late '80s England came 3 Mustaphas 3, a whimsically pervasive organization hell bent on taking the odd time signatures of Eastern European folk music and marrying them to pretty much any other musical ingredient on Earth. The group bounced effortlessly from Albanian drone to quasi honky-tonk. Group member Sabah Habas Mustapha mysteriously sang in Macedonian, Japanese and Hindi, sometimes within the same song.

The completely invented legend of 3 Mustaphas 3 is that the group is of a Balkan heritage, from the fake town of Szegerely, where the sextet had plenty of time to tighten its musical dynamics at the "Crazy Loquat Club" until the band was smuggled to England in refrigerators. In reality, 3M3 was the brainchild of musician/musicologist Ben Mandelson and bassist Colin Bass (Hijaz Mustapha and Sabah Habas Mustapha respectively). The rest of the band mutated constantly, at one point including Lu Edmonds from punk band the Damned on saz. Instrumentation included button accordions, bagpipes, fiddles, Hawaiian guitars, banjos, zithers, saxes, pianos and bendirs. 3 Mustaphas 3 fed Cantonese noodles to the kings of Dahomey, took Israelis dancing in Texas bars and pigged out on curried goat during Ramadan in Morocco. It didn't matter; 3 Mustaphas 3 could play anything.

Recording only a handful of records between the late '80s and early '90s, 3 Mustaphas 3 turned the phrase "world music" on its head by playing a musical gumbo as tight as the JBs but with the humor of the Mothers of Invention. And while the band wouldn't think twice about mixing a Mexican Tejano with Hindu lyrics, 3 Mustaphas 3's love for the rhythms it borrowed and respect for the cultures they mashed together kept what the group played from being mere pastiche. Mandelson's pre-Mustapha musical education included everything from stints in punk bands such as Howard Deveto's Magazine to traveling to Kenya as fiddle player with Kamura's Kikuyu Revue. He also spent time in Texas, soaking up swing, norteno and country. More recently, both Mandelson and Edmonds have worked with Tuva's own irreverent throat-singing punk band, Yat-Kha.

The Mustaphas' '87 debut, Shopping, appeared on Mandelson's Globestyle label and gave the band an excuse to tour persistently, gain fanatical audiences and confound anyone who needed labels in order to enjoy music. Heart of Uncle appeared in '89 and Soup of the Century followed a year later. On record or stage, they could take a Central African proto-soukous rhythm, drive it home with piano and bring in "sister" Lavra Tima Daviz Mustapha to sing in Spanish.

As 3 Mustaphas 3's notoriety spread, so did opportunities to guest on other artists' albums. The band backed the Malagasy band Tarika Sammy and the Jali Roll Orchestra on record and once played as Yemenite singer Ofra Haze's backing band. Yet after '91s compilation of alternate mixes, singles and rarities, Friends, Fiends and Fronds, 3 Mustaphas 3 disappeared. Bass went on to play dangdut with a big band of Indonesians while Mandelson turned his attention to his record label, producing endless amounts of artists from Uyghur Musicians from Xinjiang to Yat-Kha. He and Edmunds have also been part of the Blokes, Billy Bragg's backing band. In 2001, Bass and Mandelson reconnected to collect tracks for the 3 Mustaphas 3's live compilation.

[Releted links]
3 Mustaphas 3 - Bam: Big Mustaphas Play Stereolocalmusic (1997) Link 1 , Link 2
3 Mustaphas 3 - Friends, Fiends & Fronds (1991) Link
3 Mustaphas 3 - Soup of the Century (1990) Link 1 , Link 2
3 Mustaphas 3 - Heart of Uncle (1989) Link 1 , Link 2
3 Mustaphas 3 - Shopping (1987) Link

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