Crazy-Ass Exotica — “Soul Of The East” by Buddy Sarkissian & His Mecca Four With Fred Elias

I just recorded this album — Lucas found it at an antique store — and was going to put it up for download but I found out that someone else already did it.
UPDATE: I downloaded this file and put it on my site here.
Why should you care? It’s one of the very few early 60s Exotica records that’s really good. Let’s leave aside for now how offensive to some Muslims calling your night club combo “His Mecca Four.” These guys play the living shit out of this music, which sounds very much like Egyptian or Turkish popular music of the early 60s, except it’s all instrumental. And for all its ‘authenticity’ — I’m no musicologist after all — it’s mostly original compositions.

And for the samplers amongst you there are some smoking Durbeck breaks.

Top it off with the cover (mind you NONE of the people in this group are Arab) of a guy on a camel. This came out right after Lawrence of Arabia, and no doubt sought to capitalize on that movie’s popularity.

No relationship whatsoever to the music on the album
No relationship whatsoever to the music on the album

9 Replies to “Crazy-Ass Exotica — “Soul Of The East” by Buddy Sarkissian & His Mecca Four With Fred Elias”

  1. This album was recorded by Armenian Americans and one Greek American, Manny Petro, who happens to be my uncle. I grew up listening to this music. They were not trying to copy Lawrence of Arabia at all, just living the culture they grew up with. I can’t speak for the album cover, I was too young at the time. but this music was a large part of our lives. Thank so much for good memories. Here is a bit of background info:
    Leader, Buddy Sarkissian, born in Lowell, Mass. has been called the king of Near Eastern drummers. Utilizing an authentic Durbeckee (hand drum) he creates his own unique rhythmic patterns, switching occasionally to bongoes and combo drum for variety.Like Sarkissian, violinist Fred Elias has been a life-long devotee of Near Eastern music. Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, of Lebanese parentage, he is a graduate of the Boston
    Conservatory of Music and is generally acknowledged as the finest violinist in his field. His unerring command of complex Near Eastern scales, which he blends skillfully with standard Western progressions, has earned him honors from many quarters, not the least of which was a recent command performance for King Saud of Saudi Arabia.Rhythmic background for the group is supplied by Manny Petro, a Peabody, Massachusetts,
    native of Greek ancestry. His unique style, developed over a period of years, makes use of a technique called doubling, enabling his one guitar to sound like two.

    Rounding out the group’s distinctive sound is Armenian-American Paul Mooradian, born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. One of the few true masters of the tambourine in America, his accented syncopations and dynamic expressions make themselves felt on every number.The sheer skill and exuberance of the players, coupled with their modern conceptions and interpretations will provide a true listening thrill.


    Buddy Sarkissian – durbeckee (hand drum)
    Fred Elias – violin
    Manny Petro – guitar
    Paul Mooradian – tambourine
    Lisa and Ahmad [no last names given] – finger cymbals (zils)

  2. Johanna, I am looking for some info on Manny’s sister who was a belly dancer in the Boston area. I am a dancer and was privileged to have danced with your Uncle at the Averof restaurant in Cambridge. My fiance played bouzouki at the Averof and knew your Uncle well. I hope you’ll e-mail me and we can e-chat!

  3. I knew all of these musicians back in the day from a club that they played in out in oxford mass. I remember when they played at Lincoln Center in New York and had just come back from playing at the Fountainbleau in Miami. I went to New York to meet them from Worcester Mass. I was dating Manny at the time and yes I knew that he was married. Lisa was the belly dancer and was going with Buddy. Those were the days of wine and roses. Are any of these people still alive? Great memories of all of them.

  4. I lived in Lincoln from March of ’65 to Feb. ’66 and dated an Armenian lady who took me to wherever Mike Sarkisian was playing and I got to know Mike very well. When I told Mike I was moving to California, he had me come to his house and he called Buddy and introduced us and Buddy told me to look him up whenever I was in Vegas. I went to Vegas several times and looked up Buddy. He was kind enough to get me into various shows on the strip and I attended his shows overtime I was in town until he retired. Mike came to San Francisco in 1967, I believe. Buddy called me and told me Mike was coming and where in North Beach, which is in San Francisco, he was playing and I took my fiancĂ© with me to see the show.. It was like old home week. We had a ball. I lost track of Mike, and I heard that Buddy passed away, but I am not sure. Great music and great guys.

  5. Unfortunately, both links are broken. Can you upload the file again. I’d love to hear his music again.

  6. I worked with Mike at the El Morrocco in Boston for a long time—- that was the home of the best belly dancers in the Boston area. I have wonderful memories of the best music ever!!! I worked a lot with Mike and enjoyed those drum solo’s with him at the Opa club in Albany, NY Those memories will stay with me forever. My belly dance name at that time was Haran. I’m still dancing—name is now Elaina

  7. I took a few lessons with Freddie Elias about ten years ago. I would drive up to his place in Manchester from Boston. He was incredibly kind to me and was a very effective and patient teacher. My family (the Greek side, Kostopoulos) regards him very highly–he seems to be something of a celebrity in the Greek and Near East community.

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