Best physical media of May: Lost Ziad Rahbani classic, Islamic design book and Dune 4K

This month brings a new selection of physical media choices. Our favourites include a Talking Heads concert film and Malay-Arabic music from the 1960s

Lebanese musician Ziad Rahbani's jazz, funk and disco releases of the 1970s and '80s have become cult classics. Photo: Wewantsounds
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Summer is nearly here and as many prepare for a seasonal break at home or abroad there's never a better time to turn one's attention to physical media.

For this month, our writers have picked some of their favourite releases of the month, which include the Denis Villeneuve Dune films on 4K, a book by Cartier about the history of Islamic art and design and an album by British pop-rock band Genesis that celebrates the 25th anniversary of its release.

Ziad Rahbani - Amrak Seedna & Abtal Wa Harameyah (May 3)

Across the region and beyond, Arabic funk and fusion jazz of the 1970s and '80s has amassed a cult following, thanks in part to the crate-digging vinyl collectors and Arabic groove DJs who have introduced a host of lost gems to the world.

One of the pillars of that scene was the legendary Lebanese musician Ziad Rahbani. While he may be better known to some as the son and producer of Fairuz, his own releases are themselves cult classics, including his disco EP Abu Ali from 1979 and his beloved 1985 album Houdou Nisbi.

Another beloved lost deep cut from his discography, unknown to many due to its rarity, is 1987’s Amrak Seedna & Abtal Wa Harameyah. Nearly 40 years after it first appeared, the album was finally reissued this month by the boutique French label Wewantsounds. The physical-only release (nope, it’s not on Spotify) is particularly notable not only for its enduring quality, it’s also the first time it has been made available outside Lebanon.

If you're looking for an excuse to get into vinyl and the joyous sense of discovery the hobby can bring, this is an excellent choice to start with. Just wait until you hear his interpretation of the James Bond theme.

William Mullally, arts & culture editor

Dune two-film collection 4K (May 14)

Denis Villeneuve breathed new life into Frank Herbert’s Dune stories with his adaptation in 2021. The long-awaited sequel was released this year, concluding the story told in the classic first book in the long-running series.

The films star Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. Set in the desert planet of Arrakis, the films were shot on location in Abu Dhabi as well as Jordan, Italy and Hungary.

Both films are being released together in 4K, allowing viewers to watch them back-to-back for the full five and a half hour experience. Anyone who’s watched the second Dune film on Imax will want to return to that world and there's no better way than to binge on both at home.

The cinematic craft in Villeneuve’s Dune films is astonishing, creating unforgettable action scenes and poignant emotional experiences. There’s more than enough in the two films that warrant rewatching, if for no other reason than to feel like you’re riding a sandworm again.

Faisal Salah, gaming and social writer

Cartier: Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design (May 28)

If you were inspired by Louvre Abu Dhabi’s immersive exhibition Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design this year, than this new coffee table book published by Skira Editore is a sure way to keep that history and art present in your home.

Islamic art has been the source of great influence and inspiration in architecture and design, and specific in the production of jewellery and decorative objects in the Western world.

Cartier: Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design is a physical guide that delves into the facets of this great exchange between the famous French luxury manufacturer Cartier and the aesthetic elements of Islamic art and architecture.

The books covers a great span of history from the early 20th century to the present day, illustrating how Islam’s cultural output became a wealth of inspiration influencing trends, design and fashion at Cartier. Artworks, drawings and manuscripts are linked visually to Cartier creations where motifs from Islamic aesthetics can clearly be seen integrated into the design language of the luxury house.

The book is a detailed look at the history of Cartier’s forms and manufacturing techniques, their innovative spirit and the importance of the Islamic aesthetic on the West. Aside from these fascinating narratives, the book itself – from the stunning cover and the photographs and illustrations inside – would be a statement piece in an interior space.

Maan Jalal, arts and culture writer

Three Revolutionary Films by Ousmane Sembène Blu-ray (May 21)

Senagelese filmmaker and author Ousmane Sembene is one of the masters of African cinema. His films have served as artwork, historical document and scathing satire all at once.

Best known for Mandabi and Black Girl, Criterion is releasing three under-watched films from the director in a beautiful digipak release. The films in the boxset are Emitai, Xala and Ceddo.

Sembene tackles colonialism, political corruption and patriarchal arrogance in these three films, sometimes in a comedic fashion, other times with revolutionary outrage.

All three films have received 4K digital restorations from Criterion, making them a must buy for the seasoned collector as well as those interested in watching great cinema from Africa. The digipak comes in traditional and modernist African design, itself a piece of art to be admired.

Faisal Salah, gaming and social writer

Kafilah Nights: Malay-Arabic Variations From 1960s Indonesia (May 10)

Kafilah Nights brings together 14 remastered songs the Malay orchestra Kelana Ria originally recorded in the early 1960s across four records. The orchestra featured some of Indonesia’s best musicians of the time, led by songwriter Adi Karso as well as Gambus instrumentalist Munif Bahasuan. Those four records the orchestra recorded became staples of Indonesia’s pop music and would go on to influence musicians in several neighbouring countries.

However, many of the musicians on the record went on to slip to obscurity – even if their works became inextricable in the collective memory of South-east Asia. Even Muhamad Mashabi, whose evocative vocals drive Kafilah Nights, has had his obvious influence largely overlooked. In the album’s notes, music professor Andrew N. Weintraub writes: "Mashabi's distinctive vocal style and soul-searching lyrics helped give rise to dangdut, Indonesia's most popular music genre.”

From Kesunyian Jiwa (Silence Of The Soul) to Seloka Gembira (Joyful Poem), the tracks on Kafilah Nights have evident Arabic influences in their composition, seamlessly blending mournful, mirthful and percussive sonic textures. Yet the album is very particular to where it comes from. With a reissue releasing on May 10, Kafilah Nights is a time capsule of the spirit of 1960s Indonesia that will surely be one of the most unique records in your collection.

Razmig Bedirian, arts and culture writer

Stop Making Sense 4K (May 8)

Talking Heads are a new wave post-punk rock band from the US. Starting in 1975, the band found success in the early 1980s with their albums Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues.

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who later directed Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, shot the band performing during four separate shows and edited the footage together to produce one of the greatest concert films ever made – Stop Making Sense.

The concerts took place at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles between December 13 and 16, 1983. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne shines during the film with his mesmerising dance moves and commanding vocal performance.

For years after the film’s release, Stop Making Sense became a cult favourite among fans of the band, often putting it on during parties or hang-out sessions. A new release from A24 gives fans a choice between the Blu-ray and 4K releases of the film.

Faisal Salah, gaming and social writer

Genesis - Turn It On Again: The Hits (May 3)

Originally released in 1999, Turn It On Again: The Hits is a compilation album by the British pop-rock band Genesis. The 25th anniversary release by Atlantic Catalogue Group contains two clear vinyl records.

The album includes some of the band's most popular songs including Land of Confusion and I Can’t Dance. Fronted by Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, Genesis were active from the late 1960s to the year 2000. They’ve disbanded and regrouped over the years for one-off concerts.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio for their indelible contribution to the music of the 1980s and '90s. Through this album, newcomers can see exactly what made the band so special, while also giving seasoned listeners a nice blast from the past.

Faisal Salah, gaming and social writer

Updated: May 29, 2024, 10:23 AM