The wonderful music blog Office Naps recently had a fantastic post exploring 1960s Orientalist exotica, featuring such wonders as “Arabian Jerk” by the Merits and “The Cleopatra Kick” by Jack LaForge.
Via Office Naps, I found The Exotica Project, which I can’t believe I never saw before, with a whole page of Middle Eastern/Indian themed music. First up there is Bat’ya: “Main Theme of Exodus” [Chelan C-500] featuring the following Exotica motifs: “Unusual percussionVibraphone/Marimba Wordless vocals Overt Yma Sumac influence“. The song is of course a cover of Ernest Jones’ main theme from his Grammy- and Oscar-winning sound track of the 1960 Zionist propaganda movie/Paul Newman vehicle Exodus. Wikipedia claims that “Oddly, the first notes of the great dramatic theme are identical to the opening theme of a somewhat obscure orchestral piece by Quincy Porter, New England Episodes, premiered in 1958 in Washington, DC.” Citation needed!
Office Naps has a post on Bat’ye, amongst other “daughters of Yma“.
Robert “Bumps” Blackwell (1922-1985) was a talent scout, A&R man, songwriter, producer and arranger, a pioneer who helped lay the groundwork for Los Angeles as the pop music capitol of the ‘60s. Though he’d remain a fixture within the Los Angeles music industry well into the 1980s, Blackwell’s name is most frequently associated with early rock ‘n’ roll and soul, and with his championing of Little Richard and Sam Cooke, specifically.
Bat’ya is by far the lesser-known quantity. An Israeli-born, European-trained singer and performer, the one album to her name – Bat’ya Sings Great Israeli Hits – released on Frank Sinatra’s then-new Reprise Records in 1961, reveals little biographically about the singer.
The Exotica Project also features some Arabesque post-bop by Brooklyn-born table master Eddie “The Sheik” Kochak and Iraqi oud king Hakki Obadia: “Jazz in Port Said (Bossa Nova Araby)”. And Dave Brubeck Featuring Ragu: “Raga Theme for Ragu”, from 1967, produced by the great Teo Macero. Ragu is the great Carnatic musician Palghat Ragu, who sadly died just over a year ago. Read about that song here.
Then there is Greek-American singer Georgia Drake doing a very sexy version of Levantine/Sephardic classic “Miserlou”. And “New Delhi” by another hard bop great, Edgeware (North London) born child prodigy Victor Feldman, in a very restrained cool jazz mode, complete with vibes.