Ethnomusicologist and DJ Brian Shimkovitz of Awesome Tapes From Africa has put together a Stealth-inspired mix of fabulous songs from the performers mentioned on Sonallah Ibrahim’s landmark book:
New Directions’ new edition of Stealth, in beautiful translation by Hosam Aboul-ela, has generally run under the radar in the US — much like the novel’s protagonist — which is a shame, as this magical book should be read widely.
In the novel, the a young protagonist moves through post-WWII and pre-revolutionary Cairo, peeping on his father, his wealthier relatives, and the wider world around him as he tries to understand why his mother has disappeared.
To celebrate the book’s release, New Directions put out an animated trailer that includes from photos from 1950s Cairo. But the playlist is the novel’s real companion: songs from eht era that have strong ties to Ibrahim’s characters. Indeed, all but one of the tracks is performed by someone specifically called out in the novel.
When I read the novel again, I will do it with this playing in the background.
BS: I felt like the child character’s sneaking around had this undulating soundtrack of slower and then more frenetic music accompanying it. I went through the book and picked out the musical, cinematic and literary references that had the most impact on the scenes in which they appeared. Tracking down the songs took a while. I went for sound and movements that made sense with the sparse yet vivid color of Ibrahim’s prose.
Listen to the music: