• Flyer by Steve Krakow

The current widespread appreciation for African music—whether in the form of lovingly curated reissues or present-day bands, ranging from Tinariwen and Konono No. 1 to the Blk Jks and Vampire Weekend—is hardly an unprecedented phenomenon. Crazes for exotic music have been periodically sweeping the States for as long as there have been record companies. In the early 60s belly-dancing music had its turn, which gave an Armenian-American oud player named John Berberian the chance to make the leap from playing nightclubs to selling tens of thousands of records. The oud is a pear-shaped fretless Middle Eastern lute that’s been around for centuries, and for most of his career Berberian has stuck to traditional Armenian tunes. But on a series of LPs for Mainstream, Roulette, and Verve in the mid- to late 60s, Berberian placed the oud in relatively modern settings that featured melodramatic strings, jazz bass, and—on 1969’s Middle Eastern Rock—some smoking fuzz-tone guitar by Joe Beck.