Anavi – "Mustapha" (2007)

Back in 2007, the Lenny Bertoldo radio edit of “Mustapha” by Anavi was included on the May Promo Only Dance Radio compilation. I wondered, before I listened to it, if the song was a dance cover of Queen’s mighty “Mustapha,” from their 1978 Jazz album. I was right! Now, some might consider this sacrilege – I mean, why even try to match Freddie Mercury’s amazingness? It simply can’t be done.

But! As I noted in my post about the remixes of Queen’s “Flash”:

You can’t improve upon the original. But you can have some fun with it!

And I really do believe that. I also believe that Freddie would probably have been amused and delighted by this trashy dance version of “Mustapha.” So you shouldn’t feel any shame while bopping along to this hot mess!

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Musically, Queen’s “Mustapha” is a rock song, with awesome guitar work by Brian May and glorious layered vocals from Freddie (and Brian and drummer Roger Taylor, I guess). Lyrically, however, the song is rather different compared to the rest of Queen’s work. (Of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody” famously uses the word “Bismillah,” an Arabic phrase that means “in the name of God,” in the “let me go” section of the song, so the lyrics of “Mustapha” are not too much of a departure.)

The song’s lyrics are often thought to be in Arabic, but this is only partly true: though never officially confirmed (like, by the band or anything), the lyrics are probably a combination of English (“[will/we’ll] pray for you”), Arabic (“Salaam Aleikum”), and either Farsi or Gujarati. That said, I really don’t have any idea what the lyrics are, or what they mean. I can pick out “Salaam Aleikum” and the English bits, but nothing else. Someone transcribed the lyrics on YouTube and allexperts.com, but I can’t personally verify how true they are, so I just dunno!

So Queen’s “Mustapha” has amazing vocals, flawless music, and tongue-twisting lyrics that no one seems to be able to pin down. What kind of fool would attempt to take all that and put dance beats and synths on top of it?! Anavi, that’s who.

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Turns out Anavi isn’t that foolish. Her version of the song actually works. Anavi has a nice voice, better and more intriguing than the average dance diva’s. Whether or not her vocals are used well depends on the remix. Now, the remixes I bought from iTunes are almost all mislabeled. Using the samples on Anavi’s official website and the samples from another single on iTunes, I was able to correct the titles for my own iPod.

In case you decide to invest in some “Mustapha” remixes on iTunes, use this handy guide!

Track 1. Phunk Generation Radio Edit is really Original
Track 2. Lenny Bertoldo Radio Edit is OK!
Track 3. Klubjumper’s Radio Edit is really Phunk Generation Radio Edit
Track 4. Robert G. Trancelicious Remix is really Mr. Ali Club
Track 5. Original is really Robert G. Trancelicious Remix
Track 6. Mr. Ali Club is really Lenny Bertoldo Club Mix
Track 7. Lenny Bertoldo Club Mix is really Klubjumper’s Radio Edit
Track 8. Klubjumper’s Club Remix is OK!
Track 9. Phunk Generation Club Remix is OK!

OK, so let’s get on with the reviewing, using the correct titles! :)

The Original uses synths, keyboards, and guitars in the production and thus stays truer to the original. It rocks! The Lenny Bertoldo Club Mix and Radio Edit don’t use all of Anavi’s vocals, so they’re more like a dub, but those “Mustapha” chants still sound great the way Lenny uses them. The Phunk Generation Club Remix and Radio Edit are my favorites of the bunch. The mix follows the chord progression of the Queen original and the synths are spectacular. It makes me want to dance, and trust me, I am not a dancing kinda person! ;)

The Mr. Ali Club is an extended version of the Original, and it’s all right. It’s almost ten minutes long and does get sort of tiring. But the Original acts as a condensed version of all the good bits of the Mr. Ali Club so all is right with the world. :) What is not right is the Robert G. Trancelicious Remix. It sounds like crap. It’s badly edited and really sounds like an amateur put it together. (I mean, even I could probably do better! ;) ) Finally, the Klubjumper’s Club Mix and Radio Edit sound like a classic 90s house track but updated for today. My second favorites on the single. :)

So take a chance on this song, you just might like it! :)

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