Habibi Funk’s series of reissues from Arabic-speaking parts of the world has included for their 16th installment the work of “one of Lebanon’s best kept secrets”: guitarist, singer, and songwriter Rogér Fakhr. Fakhr fled from Beirut to Paris in 1976 as a result of the Lebanese Civil War and Syrian occupation, eventually emigrating to the United States. Label owner Jannis Stürtz continued to hear his name come up in conversations with musicians from Beirut but had a hard time tracking down his actual work. Stürtz was eventually able to get in contact with Fakhr and the musician sent him his album Fine Anyway—recorded in Beirut in the ’70s, hand-copied, and distributed by Fakhr in an edition of 200.
Fine Anyway features soft ballads and jangly blues tunes and gives few clues as to where and when it was actually recorded. Sung almost completely in English, the album occasionally alludes to the musician’s musical background, with the tune “Sitting in the Sun” highlighting a quick maqam-style melody over a funky bass groove. On the interlude “Keep Going,” Fakhr sings a short verse in Arabic—for the first and last time on the album—before the track gives way to the sound of sirens and gunfire as it fades out.
Fakhr initially declined to a re-release of Fine Anyway, but Stürtz would get in contact with Fakhr again years later to organize a compilation of Lebanese musicians for the Lebanese Red Cross after the Beirut port explosion in 2020. Fakhr allowed the inclusion of two of the recordings from the album on the compilation before finally agreeing to reissue Fine Anyway in its entirety.
You can listen and order the album on Habibi Funk’s bandcamp page.