Tag Archives: 3 Mustaphas 3

Down wind from Molvania: 3 Mustaphas 3


About 10 years ago bookstores in Australia promoted a new guide book to a little heard of country, Molvania.  Put together as a spoof of the Balkans and of travel guide books in general, the author’s spun ridiculous, crude and often funny snippets of mis-information about this made up land.


The Republic of Molvanîa is a composite of many of the worst stereotypes and clichés about Eastern Europe held by people in Australia (like Russkieswogs or Hunyaks). The exact location of Molvanîa is never specified. It is said to border Germany, Slovakia, SloveniaHungary and Romania. The shape of the country with its divisions strongly suggests Moldova, and the name has similarities (as has the location description by the authors as “somewhere between Romania and downwind from Chernobyl“); it can also represent a composite country consisting of parts of Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia and perhaps Austria and Poland). The book mentions Bulgarians, Hungarians and perhaps Moldovans (ethnic Romanians) as its inhabitants: “The Molvanian population is made up of three major ethnic groups: the Bulgs (68%) who live predominantly in the centre and south, the Hungars (29%) who inhabit the northern cities, and the Molvs (3%) who can be found mainly in prison.”


The book describes the nation as having been a desolate wasteland for much of its history, similar to Russia since the 12th century, torn by civil war and ethnic unrest. Eventually Molvanîa’s various warring factions were united as a single kingdom, ruled by a series of cruel despotic kings. In the late 19th century the monarchy was overthrown, but the royal family remained popular in exile. During World War II the country was allied with Nazi Germany, and then afterwards was occupied by the Soviet Union, who set up a Communist puppet government. After the fall of European Communism in the 1990s, the country became a dictatorship run by a corrupt government with heavy ties to the Mafia.

Molvanîa is described as a very poor and rural country, heavily polluted and geographically barren. The infrastructure is terrible, with necessities such as electricity, clean water, and indoor plumbing being rare finds, largely due to bureaucratic incompetence. Though the travel guide tries to suggest otherwise, there is little to do in the country, the hotels are tiny, filthy and dilapidated, the ethnic cuisine disgusting, and the “tourist attractions” boring and overpriced. (Wikipedia)

The book struck a particular chord of humour in some people’s hearts but others found it offensive, though no one could really say who was being offended because the country and all its ‘facts’ were made up.

imgres-1Beginning in the early 80’s, for about a decade, a similar scam was foisted upon ignorant and unsuspecting people.  It was a group of musicians who went by the name of 3 Mustaphas 3who insisted they were Balko-Turkic nephews of a minor Pasha from a strangely named and incredibly obscure country. They insisted on being called things like Kemal, Isfahani and Ahmet but played every sort of gypsy and folk instrument known to man.  The music they made was lively, full of exotic sounds and a familiar rocking beat.  These guys knew how to have fun. And they were a far sight more interesting and humorous then the Australian piss take book.

Other albums by 3M3 are better than this one we share tonight but everything they did was good. In this collection they rework some of their best known ditties and throw in a few unheard melodies sung in French, Arabic and other non-English languages. Always worth your time, are the boys from the Balkans (and Britain).


Track Listing:

01 Si Vous Passez Par Là

02 !Starehe Mustapha! I, II & III

03 Maldita Guajira

04 Linda, Linda (Ach ya Linda)

05 Kopanitsa

06 Linda, Linda [Szegerely Megarely Mix]

07 Fiz’n [DJ Trouble Fezz re-edit]

08 Bukë E Kripë Në Vatër Tonë _ Kalaxhojnë

09 Anapse To Cigaro

10 Shouffi Rhirou

11 Niska Banja

12 Kač Kuzulu Čeylan

13 Selma


Prophets of Fun: 3 Mustaphas 3


I once spent some time in the Balkans.  At first I was not much taken with the region.  Perhaps because of the horrible war that saw concentration camps, ethnic cleansing and the siege of Sarajevo, those rugged ancient lands seemed a cursed and ugly place.

But as I travelled across Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and parts of Croatia my resistance fell away.  The hatreds and blood feuds ran deep, for sure, but so did one of the world’s most original and heterogenous cultures.  The amalgam of Turk, Slav, Russian, Bulgarian, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox ways has thrown up a society that is amazingly fissiparous but also deftly interwoven.  When things go bad, like they did in the early 90s, all hell is unleashed and misery stalks the hills and valleys.  But in times of peace there is nothing quite as lovely as an orchard in Gorazde, the wide plain of Drvar or snowfall on one of the great mosques of Sarajevo.

3 Mustaphas 3 are a musical collective who specialize in the ethnically blurred melange of Turko-Albanian-Slav-Arabic-Indo-bellydance-gypsy-jazz-dance balladry that is part of the Balkan atmosphere.


Core members are Ben Mandelson (under the name Hijaz Mustapha), Tim Fienburgh (1954–2008) (under the name Niaveti III) Colin Bass (under the name Sabah Habas Mustapha), and Nigel Watson (under the name Houzam Mustapha), around which orbit many other Mustaphas – all supposed to be the nephews of Uncle Patrel Mustapha. They claim to originate from the Balkans, but play music from almost every continent; their slogan, “Forward in all directions!”, is an expression of this musical diversity. Active at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, they have now stopped producing and performing together, but haven’t officially disbanded.


Liner notes from their albums would have it that the band was created in a Balkan town called Szegerely, where it played at the Crazy Loquat Club, before the members were transported inside refrigerators to England.

In truth however the creation of the band began in 1982 when guitarist and musicologist Ben Mandelson, also known as Hijaz Mustapha, and Uncle Patrel, also known as Lu Edmonds, started playing together, along with Patrel’s other “nephews”, namely Houzam, Isfa’ani, Oussack and Niaveti III. Before World music became a genre, they were already playing musical styles from all around the globe. According to band members the first concert was held in a London restaurant that year. The early 3M3 lineup was noticed by BBC radio’s John Peel, for whom they recorded several Peel Session broadcasts. A concert in Berlin made them more, and two mini-albums were subsequently released, but their first full length album, Shopping, was recorded in 1987. The album covered a wide array of genres also including a cover of Moroccan Najat Aatabou’s Shouffi Rhirou. By then Oussack had left the band, but bassist Sabah Habas Mustapha, who may in fact be Colin Bass, and accordionist Kemo Mustapha had joined.

3 Mustaphas 3

3 Mustaphas 3

Their second full length album, Heart of Uncle, was released in 1989 and showed Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Irish and even Latin American influence. Soup of the Century, released in 1990, was their most acclaimed success however. With tracks ranging from a Country song in Japanese to a Mexican traditional sung in Hindi, and going through a mix of Irish, Scottish, Greek, Albanian, Klezmer and many more styles, the Mustaphas had broken the last barriers separating ethnic music styles.

Daoudi joined during the recording and performed woodwinds. The Mustaphas had also been assisted on occasions by Lavra Tima Daviz on vocals and Expen$ive on trumpet, while guests Israeli singer Ofra Haza, and kora players Dembo Konte and Kausu Kuyateh from Gambia and Senegal respectively have played alongside them in the 1980s.

The band toured extensively in Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, the USA and Canada, playing clubs and international festivals (Moers, Glastonbury, Winnipeg).

A final album, Friends Fiends & Fronds was released in 1991, although it contained mostly remixes from previous albums. By the end of the year the band was no longer playing together. Sabah Habas pursued a solo career, releasing albums as Colin Bass, or performing with his band Camel as well as the Jugala Allstars from Indonesia, and Hijaz became a producer. The two were featured, together with Houzam, in an album from Zimbabwean artist Stella Chiweshe. Between 1988–1992, Hijaz, Houzam and Sabah Habas worked together on further recording projects with renowned artists from the World Music scene: Tarika Sammy (Madagascar), Rinken Band (Okinawa), Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh (Gambia). Oussack (Ray Cooper) joined the Oysterband under the name Chopper.

Another 3M3 album was released in 1997 containing live performances, and Sabah Habas and Hijaz came together again in 2001 to pick songs to include in their final live album, Play Musty for Me.

During the height of their fame, the  invited audiences to bring ripe cheeses to concerts, which the Mustaphas would attempt to identify on stage. An onstage refrigerator holding fresh fruit which could be offered to the audience was an essential item demanded by the band from any serious concert promoter. Indeed, the fridge itself was a revered item for the Mustapha family (as it keeps food fresh) hence the cry often heard in intense moments of performance: “Can we take it to the fridge? Let me take it to the fridge!” (Wikipedia)

The record we share today, Shopping, is their debut. Full of fun, humour, odd twists and turns and incredible music, this is a ‘must have’ for anyone interested in music beyond the radio dial.


Track Listing:

01  – Medley

02  – Medley

03  – Shika Shika

04  – A Night Off Beirut

05  – Selver

06  – Voulez-Vous Danser

07  – Darling, Don’t Say ‘No’

08  – Choufi Ghirou

09  – Valle E Pogradecit

10  – Musafir Hoon Yaaron

11  – Szegerely Farewell