Sunday, December 13, 2009

Latifa - Atehadda

When news of Latifa's Khaliji album came to light, the air of skepticism was undeniable. Latifa has proven us wrong once again, however. After wowing audiences with Ziad Rahbani in 2006, and again with Egyptian pop in Fel Kam Youm Ell Fatou in 2008, Latifa has done it again. While Fella's Khaliji album had a Saudi focus, and Yara's an Emirati one, Latifa's has a Qatari one. As with her previous albums, Latifa tends to excel with slower-tempo songs and she has quite a few excellent ones here, as well as a number of genres. The album has Khaliji pop, like Mamlouh, Atehadda, Wesh Aad Endak, and Ma Yestahel. Then there are songs that mix genres. Einek Le Bara, the story of a lover with wandering eyes, has an interesting gypsy flavor. Ya Anani, arranged by Egyptian-born Ali Abaza, is closer to the Egyptian pop Latifa usually sings. Ana Men Nah Winta Men Nah, composed by George Marderosian, is a fun reminder of the composer's work in the 1990s. Kel Wahed, Ma Jeitni, and Habbeina Gheirah are heartfelt modern ballads, while Weinek Ta'al, Ya Sahrin El Leil and Sabberna Yalli Msabberna are rich, more traditional pieces. Latifa may not have mastered the accent as well as other singers this year, but the album is solid, albeit it could have done without some of the faster tracks.

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1. Mamlouh
2. Einek Le Bara
3. Atehadda
4. Ma Jeitni
5. Ya Anani
6. Kel Wahed
7. Ana Men Nah Winta Men Nah
8. Wesh Aad Endak
9. Weinek Ta'al
10. Hallaftkom
11. Ya Sahrin El Leil
12. Habbeina Gheirah
13. Sabberni Yalli Msabberna

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fella - Ya Mesafer Lel Jefa

ith the influx of Khaliji songs from singers during the past year, Fella's solid effort went almost unnoticed. Having lived in Kuwait, Fella's command of the everyday Khaliji accent is even better than Asalah Nasri. The Algerian singer's album has work from all over the Gulf, with composers from Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The album opens with some pop songs; Kel Hal Hob is a mediocre song with some good arrangement, and Mashi is quite forgettable. Shel Jedid is a more melancholy ballad and picks the album up. Ya Mawlana, a folk song, is an upbeat song reminiscent of Abo Bakr Salem's Yemen-influenced work. Ya Mesafer Lel Jefa, composed by Mohamed Abdu, carries the album title but despite some nice lyrics and music, the song feels too long. A musician in her own right, Fella couldn't resist including a song of her own creation; Inta Habibi is an Algerian song arranged by Issam El Sharayti. The album goes into traditional jalsa mode from tracks 7 to 9, with some of Saudi Arabia's most reputable poets and musicians, and traditional instruments. Sameh Allah Habibi opens with an oud solo and the song is a slow, melancholic song with beautiful ney, oud, and traditional strings. Ana Men Sedg Ahebbah brings in the Indian influence and is a heartwarming song about true love. Ya Tibi brings back the stories of the scorned lover, and is another gem in this diverse album. Ya Mesafer Lel Jefa ends with a Fayez El Said song, Yezid El Shoug, and upbeat Emirati song and the album's first single.


1. Kel Hal Hob
2. Mashi
3. Ya Mawlana
4. Shel Jedid
5. Ya Mesafer Lel Jefa
6. Inta Habibi
7. Sameh Allah Habibi
8. Ana Men Sedg Ahebbah
9. Ya Tibi
10. Yezid El Shoug

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rouwaida Attieh - Esma'ni

The three-year wait is finally over, and Rouwaida Attieh has released her new album, Esma'ni. Under a completely new management, headed by Anoud Al Ma'aliqi, change is instantly what you expect when glancing at the glamorous cover. But Lebanese composer Imad Shamseddine is no longer on the composing team, and there are no Egyptian composers to be seen either. The album opens with Shou Sahl El Haki, a ballad with soulful lyrics, but Nasser El As'ad's lifting of Gokhan Ozen's Inkar Etme for the arrangement doesn't fit very well. His work on Bala Hob is more enjoyable with soothing piano and strings, even though the song itself is a very standard ballad. Arguably the best work on the album comes from Wissam El Amir and George Marderosian, the composers behind Rouwaida hits like Jerouhi and Ala El Mani. Wissam El Amir's compositions, Law Inta El Shams and Ana Andi Lezeh, are both great dabke songs with playful and creative lyrics. The arrangement is textbook Roger Khoury however, with too much synth and not enough real instruments. George Marderosian's compositions are diverse, as he usually is: Hayati Melki is a dabke song that shows how far Rouwaida's voice can soar, even if what Roger Khoury does with the arrangement confounds the listener. Za'al Majnoun has a simple and catchy tune, but Bassem Rezq's arrangement, with a generous serving of flowing strings, takes the song to the next level.

The album's main problem is uninspired composers, like Salim Assaf and Mazen El Ayoubi, who don't have the faintest idea how to harness the power of Rouwaida's voice. Even the choice of title song was unfortunate. While the album has about or five or so good songs, three of them were released ages before the album came out. For such a talented young woman, Rouwaida Attieh just can't get a break, let's hope this album was just growing pains.

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1. Shou Sahl El Haki
2. Esma'ni
3. Wana Kol Ma A'oul
4. Law Inta El Shams
5. La Tefakker
6. Bala Hob
7. Baini Ou Baino
8. Za'al Majnoun
9. Ana Andi Lezeh
10. Hayati Melki

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The R.E.G. Project - Harem

Ralph Khoury, Elie Barbar, and Guy Manoukian are The R.E.G. Project. All established musicians in their own right, the trio fuses Arabic and world music with electronic and dance beats. Their music ranges from lounge to club music, and the album contains both remixed classics from Warda and Abdel Halim Hafez.

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1. Harem
2. Zay Al Hawa
3. Peace
4. Casa Del Sol
5. Batwannis Beek
6. Lost Love
7. Sayat Nova
8. Passion
9. Harem (Club Mix)
10. Harem (House Mix)

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Nancy Zaabalawi - Moustahil

Syrian singer Nancy Zaabalawi is the daughter of a musician, and so music has been a part of her life since she was born. From humble beginnings singing at hotel restaurants, Nancy made it onto Superstar and was a favourite to win. In 2006, Nancy returned to the music scene with her debut album, Moustahil. The album is on the short side with only seven tracks, but there are many gems here that never received the attention they deserved. The album's title song, and only single, is a slow romantic number written/composed by Marwan Khoury and arranged by Bilal El Zein. The song is beautifully arranged and Nancy's voice is full of optimism. Shou Lzakarak is a typical Marwan Khoury-Bilal El Zein collaboration, a ballad with heavy beats and melancholic lyrics, but that's not a bad thing at all. Saheit Men Ez Noumi is a beautiful classically-influenced ballad, composed by Anas Sha'ban and arranged by Hassan Hossami. Aridak is another great song, composed and arranged by Mazen Zawaydi. The lyrics are full of hope and the music is a perfect mix of piano, kanun, and strings. The album's remaining songs: Law Laffeit, Khod Rahtak, and Inta We Bas, are not as innovative but far from bad.

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1. Moustahil
2. Law Laffeit
3. Shou Lzakarak
4. Saheit Men Ez Noumi
5. Inta We Bas
6. Aridak
7. Khod Rahtak

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nawal Al Zoghbi - Yama Alou

Nawal Al Zoghbi's return was ill-timed with the breakout of the 2006 Lebanon War, but Egyptian record company Alam El Phan insisted on releasing the album that was to headline their summer catalogue. Though she had only been gone for two years, during which she released the hit singles Rouhi Ya Rouhi and Shou Akhbarak, Nawal's presence was sorely missed. Following up an album like Eineik Kaddabin is hard enough, but Yama Alou was released in the same year Elissa and Nancy's hit albums Bastannak and Ya Tabtab Wa Dalla' were, and faced stiff competition. It did not meet with the commercial success they did, but Nawal's album is pure quality.

The majority of the album is arranged by Amir Mahrous, with strings by Yehia El Mougi, unless otherwise stated. The oddball title song, composed by Mohamed Rahim, is instantly a case of love-it-or-hate-it. Amir Mahrous' mix of pop, sha'bi, and tarab in the arrangement characteristic of his style, and the song has guitar, rebab, and ney, with an infectiously catchy tune. Habbaitak is a rather tame love song, composed by Tarek Abou Jaoudeh. El Assi is a more downbeat ballad composed by Mohamed Refai, and the heartfelt lyrics are his signature. The hit Aghla El Habayeb is another catchy song, composed by Haitham Zayyad and arranged in a beautiful classical Arabic style by Tony Saba. Aadi is the album's sole Khaliji song. Composed by Abdallah El Gaoud and arranged by Tarek Aakef, it is nothing groundbreaking, but her best effort at the genre so far. Bta'refni Ana, composed Tarek Abou Jaoudeh and arranged by Michel Fadel, is a harmonious love ballad and everything from Nawal's voice to the piano and the accordion seem to be perfect. Betes'al is more of a chillout oriental song, with romantic lyrics from Hani Abdel Karim and and beautiful music from Walid Saad and Amir Mahrous. Ghib Anni Ghib is a cover of Turkish singer Hande Yener's Sen Yoluna Sen Yoluma, composed by Altan Çetin and arranged by Jean-Marie Riachi. Though it simply feels like a refined version of Hande's original, the feelings communicated in the other songs seem to be absent here. Akher Marra is modern tarab song, with a melancholic oud, sublime strings, deep lyrics, and beautiful composition on Walid Saad's part. Shou Akhbarak, Nawal's first Lebanese hit in a very long time, is another beautiful ballad. Composed by Nicolas Saade Nakhle and arranged by Michel Fadel, the song also has an air of the classics while still sounding clear and modern. Ayzak, composed by Walid Saad, begins as a classic ballad and transforms into a catchy sha'bi-style song. The album ends with Nawal's chilling tribute to Abdel Halim Hafez's Habibati Man Takoun, written by Prince Khaled bin Saoud and composed by the great Baligh Hamdi.

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1. Yama Alou
2. Habbaitak
3. El Assi
4. Aghla El Habayeb
5. Aadi
6. Bta'refni Ana
7. Betes'al
8. Ghib Anni Ghib
9. Akher Marra
10. Rouhi Ya Rouhi
11. Shou Akhbarak
12. Ayzak
13. Habibati Man Takoun

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assi Al Hillani - Kid Othalak

Assi Al Hillani's 2000 album is just what you expect from the Lebanese singer/songwriter; a mix of tradition and innovation. The majority of the album is composed by Samir Sfair, and there are two songs by Marwan Khoury. "Maestro" Tarek Aakef arranged most of the songs, and variety is everywhere in his work. In Sahra Ou Lail, Hatha Tab'i, and Majnoun, Aakef's signature sweeping strings dominate, while on Teslamli Eyounek, a haunting piano and mellow ney take over. However, in Kid Othalak, Aakef tries his hand at fusing Khaliji and pop beats. Boudi Naoum arranged the hit Bhebbek We Bghar, a mix of pop beats and sharp strings. He goes for Latin pop with Lali, and Hatha Mou Adel features a melancholic solo violin. Zeina is arranged by Roger Khoury with an upbeat Turkish-style baglama and clarinet. Assi himself composed Ah Mennak, which is arranged by Mohamed Mostafa.

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1. Sahra Ou Lail
2. Bhebbek We Bghar
3. Hatha Tab'i
4. Teslamli Eyounek
5. Ah Mennak
6. Zeina
7. Majnoun
8. El Muhra
9. Lali
10. Hatha Mou Adel
11. Kid Othalak

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Houwaida - Gani Tani

The powerful voice of Syrian vocalist Houwaida always steals the spotlight. Though many remember her from the dispute she had with Nawal Al Zoghbi over the hit Mandam Aleik, Houwaida has proven her talent over and over again over the past decade. Unlike the direction Nawal took, Houwaida's preference for more oriental songs is evident in all of her choices. Gani Tani has collaborations with Samir Sfair, Walid Saad, Ramy Gamal, and the late Riyad El Hamshari. It can be argued however, that the album's weakness is the prevalence of ballads. While Houwaida can tackle them quite easily, they do not suit her voice as more upbeat songs, like Dallelni and Shway Shway, do. Still, there are ballads like Ya Habibi and Moush Haram Aleik, which Ahmed Adel and Medhat Khamis excel in respectively, and songs reminiscent of her earlier work, like Eini All Hab. The arrangers on this album include Mohamed Mostafa, Medhat Khamis, Ahmed Adel, and Tarek Aakef. There is more, and even better, Houwaida to come on the blog!

1. Gani Tani
2. Eini Alli Hab
3. Ya Habibi
4. Moush Haram Aleik
5. Bta'ref
6. Bakoun Ma'ak
7. Kelma Wahda
8. Dmou' El Sheteh

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Nawal - Nawal 1998

Nawal's 1998 album is another solid effort from Kuwait's top female vocalist. As always, the album has top names in the list of composers. Saudi singer-songwriter Rabeh Sagr composed three songs, La Shak Terdhini, Hobbek Aadi, and Nesani. Top composers like Kuwaiti Abdallah El Gaoud and Saudi Nasser El Saleh are here too with Tedhak Wana Abki (El Gaoud), as well as Ana El Mas'oul and Ya Sidehom (El Saleh). Mish'al El Orouj, who composed most of Nawal's hits in the past decade, has one song, Tekfoun Khallouh. The entire album is arranged by Egyptian musician Tarek Aakef and produced by Rabeh Sagr and Mish'al El Orouj.

1. La Shak Terdhini
2. Hobbek Aadi
3. Tedhak Wana Abki
4. Ya Msabber El Maw'oud
5. El Hob El Khaled
6. Nesani
7. Ana El Mas'oul
8. Ya Sidehom
9. Tekfoun Khallouh

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Shahinaz - Aheb A'ishlak

Shahinaz launched her career with Egypt's shortlived talent search program Starmaker. Her first song was a hit cover of Anna Vissi's To Poly Poly, titled Oulli Oulli. Her debut album, Ala Eih, met with some success also, but it was Aheb A'ishlak that truly made audiences pay attention to this rare talent. Shahinaz's sophomore album is full of defining hits hits: the dramatic Aheb A'ishlak, the heartbreaking Malnash Makan, and Kaman Kaman, which was recently covered by Turkish singer Günce Koral. Look before the surface however, and there are even more gems to be found, like Habibi Bashtaq Elik, Lazem Tigi, and Men Gheir Ma Tehlef. Musicians on the album include Mohamed Rifai, Adam Hussein, Tamer Ali, Karim Abdel Wahab, Osama El Hindi, Tarek Tawakol, and Tamer Ashour.


1. Kaman Kaman
2. Habibi Bashtaq Elik
3. Bi Ban Fe Eineik
4. Ez El Fouraq
5. Malnash Makan
6. Lazem Tigi
7. Aheb A'ishlak
8. Men Gheir Ma Tehlef
9. Kaman Kaman [Remix]

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Najwa Karam - Ya Habayeb

Ya Habayeb is Najwa's debut studio album. It was released in 1989, but this rip is from the second edition from 1995. This album is a great example of Najwa Karam's beginnings with composers she has not worked with in a long time now, such as Samir Sfair and Suhail Fares. Samir's style has changed considerably, and Najwa works primarily with Imad Chamseddine and Wissam El Amir nowadays. The album is very "Arabic", with tarab-style songs as well as dabke and mawals. It is definitely worth a listen.

1. Ya Habayeb
2. We Ygoulou Rjou'ou Garib
3. Khalli Ketfak A Ketfi
4. Ma Baddi Eyounak
5. De'i Ya Tboul
6. El Haq Alayeh
7. Baladiyat

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Julia Boutros - Bi Saraha

Julia Boutros' releases may be far apart, but the effort put into the beautiful music is always evident. Her 2001 album is, as most of her later albums are, composed by her brother Ziad and written by Nabil Abou Abdo. While the album is not as memorable as her runaway hit La B'ahlamak, there are beautiful ballads to be heard here like Kelmeh Aal Waraq, Ma Maraq, and Bi Saraha. There are more playful songs too, like Elna Mazha and Wa'd Alayeh, though the former is a little more interesting. Nashid El Horriyeh, Nehna El Sawra Wel Ghadab, and Ma Am Befham Arabi are songs with political messages, which Julia has never shied from. Never one to skimp on musical quality, the list of musicians is full of famous musicians like Claude Chalhoub, Tony Anka, and Hani Siblini. For those who liked the Bahr Al Nojoum soundtrack, here's some trivia: Jessy Jleilaty is part of Julia's chorus on this album.

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1. Bi Saraha
2. Wa'd Alayeh
3. Kelmeh Aal Waraq
4. Elna Mazha
5. Ma Maraq
6. Nashid El Horriyeh
7. Nehna El Sawra Wel Ghadab
8. Ma Am Befham Arabi

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Hind - El Ghoroub

Hind's 2004 album was not met with the media fanfare its successor did, but it is a solid album. Unlike Hind 2008, El Ghoroub features a lot more fellow Bahraini talent like veteran Khaled El Sheikh, man of the moment Ahmed El Hermi, and arranger Siruz. Like most of her albums, this record is made up of mostly traditional Khaliji ballads, with a few more upbeat songs like Inta Wana Wel Shoug, Khalas, and Ma Gedart Asber. The album has mostly traditional instrumentation, though Siruz makes interesting use of "oriental" saxophone on Majnoun. There is also an interesting R&B track, Sahi Ou Lahi, also composed by Siruz.

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1. Inta Wana Wel Shoug
2. Khalas
3. Ya Hasafa
4. Tajruba Murra
5. Jerouh Dafina
6. Sahi Ou Lahi
7. Majnoun
8. Tejahelni
9. Ta'al
10. Ma Gedart Asber
11. El Ghoroub

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grace Deeb - Aktar Min Gharam

The biggest crime an artist could do to an excellent album is to sell it short. Unfortunately, that is what Grace Deeb did after releasing the video for the title song, and she disappeared. Though the album is her best so far, she only released two singles, Aktar Min Gharam, and many months after, Ghinniyat. The album is a huge change from her first, which relied heavily on very western-style songs. George Marderosian, who composed her hit Ghannali, returns with two amazingly good songs. Lail Ou Bel Lail is a breathtaking ballad which Adel Aayesh compliments with great arrangement, and Endak Khabar is in the traditional fashion that Marderosian always innovates with. Tony Abi Karam wrote and composed Law Kan, a beautiful ballad that only pales in comparison to Lail Ou Bel Lail. A surprising name on the list is Salah El Sharnoubi, who composed Alfein Mersal, a great, upbeat song with fun beats and baglama, and one of the best Salah has composed in a while. Rawad Raad's compositions, the nouveau-dabke Ghinniyat and Latin-influenced Aw'at are also interesting, upbeat songs, both arranged by Dani Helou. The album ends with Wissam El Amir's Endi Ehsas, which had it not been preceeded by two great ballads would have been much more appreciated! It is not clear why Grace was away for so long, but the fact her management changed after this album may be a clue. Nevertheless, this is a top-notch album, that finds the balance between Grace's western voice and great Arabic music.

1. Aktar Min Gharam
2. Law Kan
3. Alfein Mersal
4. Aw'at
5. Ghinniyat
6. Lail Ou Bel Lail
7. Endak Khabar
8. Endi Ehsas

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bassima - Aini Ya Mo

Bassima has never been one to follow the pack, and Aini Ya Mo is no exception. After the huge success of Andi Sou'al, Bassima returned in 2003 with a completely different song. The title song is written and composed by Marwan Khoury and unlike anything released before, thanks to Roger Khoury's arrangement. He combines fun pop with more serious tarab-style strings and beats. Boudi Naoum brings his always unique brand of East meets West with two power ballads, Bekhtesar and La Tfel. Iwan (credited here as Mohamed Ba'assiri) takes a much more different tone with three quintessential, upbeat Arabic pop songs: Wel Khad Metki, Wala Hammi, and the extremely catchy Doum. Wissam El Amir contributes with Lamouni, which is a good tarab-style song, but has nothing very interesting. Roger Khoury arranged most of the album, with the exception of Bekhtesar and La Tfel, which Boudi Naoum arranged himself. Like most of Bassima's albums, there is not a bad song here, and it's no wonder the album was so successful.

1. Aini Ya Mo
2. Wel Khad Metki
3. Bekhtesar
4. Wala Hammi
5. La Tfel
6. Lamouni
7. Doum

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Najwa Karam - Ma Hada La Hada

After the upbeat Hazzi Helou (I'm Lucky), Ma Hada La Hada (No One Belongs to Anyone) was a marked change of tone for Najwa Karam. The first single, El Tahaddi (The Dare) and the title song are defiant songs, rejecting love. The album was the beginning of a long creative relationship with Egyptian musician Tarek Aakef, who arranged the entire album. As always, he is diverse, using dabke, Khaliji, classic tarab, and modern beats and effects. The talented Wissam El Amir composed tracks 2, 4, and 6, while tracks 1, 3, and 7 are by Salim Salameh. Imad Shamseddine wrote and composed Baddi Mnajem (I Need an Astrologer). Despite being a sales failure, Ma Hada La Hada is without a doubt one of Najwa's most solid (and significant) albums.

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1. El Tahaddi
2. Habib El Zein
3. El Helou
4. Ma Hada La Hada
5. Baddi Mnajem
6. Btousaq Fiyeh
7. Bjarreb Ensa

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mayada El Hennawi - Na'met El Nesyan

Alongside songs like El Hob Elli Kan (Kan Ya Ma Kan) and Habbeina, Na'met El Nesyan is one of the great songs that established Mayada El Hennawi in the Egyptian music scene. The center of Arabic music at the time, Cairo was bustling with new Arab talent from all corners of the Middle East. Na'met El Nesyan roughly translates into "The Blessing of Forgetting". It is written by Omar Batiesha and composed by Farouq Salama, the accordionist who was became famous as a part of Oum Kalthoum's orchestra. The song is in the traditional tarab style, with a traditional strings, ney, and kanun orchesta, as well as the keyboard and bassline which added a touch of modernity back in 1982. Na'met El Nesyan is approximately 47 minutes long, typical of 1940s-1980s music.

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1. Na'met El Nesyan

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rouwaida Attieh - Men Nazra

Rouwaida Attieh emerged as the first runner-up on the first season of Superstar, but the popularity that she, and second runner-up Melhem Zein garnered quite easily rivaled winner Diana Karazon's. While Melhem and Diana worked with a wide range of lyrcists and musicians, Rouwaida was musically adopted by Imad Shamseddine, a man who had been on Najwa Karam's musical team for over a decade. Arrangers include Adel Aayesh, Ali Safa (who arranged the hit title song), Medhat Khamis, and Ahmed Adel, who gives the hit Ta'ebt Ma'ak the Egyptian flavor the song calls for. The album is made up of Lebanese and Egyptian songs, although the fact there is only one true dabke song, Men Nazra, seems a crime when Rouwaida is one of the few women who have conquered the genre. While there are some must-listen good songs like Ta'ebt Ma'ak, Men Nazra, and A Min El Loum, the album as a whole felt old and it is simply Rouwaida's voice that carries it. It's just as well Khissamak Mur did Rouwaida's talent justice finally in 2006, with a much bigger team of musicians that still included Imad Shamseddine.

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1. Rahet Sana
2. Ta'ebt Ma'ak

3. Leih
4. Men Nazra
5. Maktoubli
6. A Min El Loum
7. Hasamt El Amr

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

May Hariri - Habibi Inta

It's hard to argue the fact that May Hariri got a head start on her musical career thanks to ex-husband Melhem Barakat. Whether her second album, Habibi Inta, was her best may be an arguable point, but it's definitely this listener's favorite. It's no secret that May's voice is limited, but she chose songs that sounded good and she didn't overstretch her voice. The album is dominated by Lebanese duo Haitham Zayyad and Tony Saba who composed/arranged Hasan, Fallaha, Ya Bta' El Gharam, and Dena. Habibi Inta and Hamama Beida are updated versions of Melhem Barakat's classics, and Tony Saba, responsible for updating Sabah's Yana Yana also, makes the arrangement more dynamic. Hasan is a fun, upbeat song with the simple things that make traditional Arabic pop good: a good beat, organic strings, and smart use of synths. Fallaha, the album's first single, has more great arrangment from Tony Saba. The song is very traditional, with a strong beat and a great string and mizmar intro. Ya Bta' El Gharam, which preceded the release of the album, takes a similar tone as Hasan in terms of Hasan, but with mizmar a some dance synths thrown around. La Tnamou is a cover of Ziynet Sali's Cikolata (which was a remake itself!). Einak Menni and Ma' Min are credited to Jean Saliba. The latter was first released on her debut album, but this is the video version (which added Urdu lyrics). The album ends with Dena, another cheesy Khaliji by Lebanese musicians, that the album could have done without! Overall, the formula followed here was a successful one, and May should have stuck to it, instead of the unfortunate trainwreck that was her 2008 album.

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1. Hasan
2. Fallaha
3. Ya Bta' El Gharam
4. Habibi Inta
5. La Tnamou
6. Hama Beida
7. Einak Menni
8. Ma' Min
9. Dena

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Layal - Fi Shouq

Lebanese singer Layal's debut album makes the most of her relatively limited vocal range. The young singer sang at various Beirut cafes and restaurants before finally meeting with musicians like Richard Najm, Tony Abi Karam, and Salim Salameh The album has a variety of styles, covering Egyptian and Lebanese ballads as well as a shot at Iraqi chobi. Her first single, Hawasi Kella, is included as well as an unexpected collaboration with Ihsan El Mounzer, who arranged Mashghoul Bali Alaik. Easily Jad Sawaya's most (professionally) serious artist so far, Layal's debut album is a good start, with lots of room to improve.

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1. Fi Shouq
2. Hawasi Kella
3. Abouya Alli
4. Mashghoul Bali Alaik
5. Am Behlamak
6. Wen Ya Wen
7. Chobi
8. Albi Yomma

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Magida el Roumi - Ibhath Anni

Like Kadim Al Sahir, Magida el Roumi is one of the few that truly succeeded in fusing Arabic and classical music together in the 1990s. Beautiful poetry, like Dr. Souad Al Sabah's Kon Sadiqi (Be My Friend), were turned into songs that spoke to Arab audiences from Oman to Morocco. After the huge success Magida experienced with Kalimat, she sang her second Nizar Qabbani poem, Ma'a Jarida, in 1994. While Dr. Jamal Salama's music is more engaging and interesting, Ihsan El Mounzer benefited from a much more romantic poem with 1991's Kalimat. Lan A'oud and Ghannou Ma'i are also composed by Dr. Jamal Salama, though the you can feel the classical influence in the former while the latter is an upbeat oriental song. Elie Choueiri's compositions, Saqata Al Qina' (The Mask Has Fallen) and Oum Etthadda (Dare), are both patriotic marches that call for resistance in the face of both internal and external threats. Magida's father, Halim, composed Mararti Fi Khayali and the album's sole Egyptian song, Ya Mkahal Remshak. The album's title song is a beautiful ballad in classical Arabic, and lyrics aside, Abdo Monzer does a an amazing job on the composition. Tracks 1-3 are arranged by Dr. Jamal Salama, while 4-9 are arranged by Abdo Monzer.

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1. Ma'a Jarida
2. Lan A'oud
3. Saqata Al Qina'
5. Mararti Fi Khayali
6. Ya Mkahal Remshak
7. Ibhath Anni
8. Kon Sadiqi
9. Oum Etthadda

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Aziz Abdo - Inti Tsharrafi

After an artful entry into the music business in 2004, singer/model Aziz Abdo's sophomore album is finally in stores now. Aziz returns maturer with Inti Tsharrafi, a great mix of Lebanese, Egyptian, and Khaliji pop. The majority of the album is composed by Haitham Zayyad and arranged by Tony Saba, whose songs usually have an oriental feel. The title song, which is composed by Hisham Boulos, is an electronic pop song typical of Hadi Sharara. Hayda Yawmi is also composed by Hisham, but arranged by Dani Helou, while Howa Inti Leih is composed by Zaher El Baba and arranged by Ghassan Shu'aib. Light and fun, Inti Tsharrafi is what you'd expect from Aziz.

1. Inti Tsharrafi
2. Esta'gelti
3. Byekfi Skout
4. Ana Moghram
5. Hayda Yawmi
6. Ayami
7. Teb'od Anni
8. Howa Inti Leih
9. Teghzel Oyouni

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fella - Tashakkourat

Like Asalah, Fella Ababsa comes from a musical family and is the daughter of renowned Algerian musician Abdelhamid Ababsa. Fella's aunt Laila, sister Naima, and brother Najib, are popular singers in their home country as well. Baligh Hamdi, who musically adopted Mayada El Hennawi and Samira Said before her, and Sabah supported Fella's entry into the Egyptian music scene. Fella was soon jailed and banned from Egypt, but the reasons for career-crippling ban remain unclear. Fella returned to Algeria, and she became one of the country's most famous modern singers. Years later, Fella finally used her connections in Lebanon to sign a contract with Rotana and work on a new album.

Tashakkourat was composed by some of Lebanon's top composers; Elias Rahbani, Tarek Abou Jaoudeh, Azar Habib, and George Marderosian. Much like her life, Fella's music has a bit of everything, and she even sings in Turkish on Tashakkourat and French on Kan. Shaka Baka and the title song are the sort of upbeat song Fella excels in, while Dakhlak Ya Lail is in Elias Rahbani's signature style. Kan feels like a French ballad, while Abkaitani feels more oriental. In 2001, Tashakkourat introduced her to the Arab world finally, and the playful Fella has slowly become one of the staples of the Arabic music scene.

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1. Mahlan Alay
2. Tashakkourat
3. Shared
4. Helmak
5. Kan
6. Man An
7. Shaka Baka
8. Dakhlak Ya Lail
9. Abkaitani
10. Kan [French Version]

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Najwa Karam - Kibir El Hob

With the Cedar Revolution, 2005 had been a trying a year for Lebanon, and with the exception of a few, most of Lebanon's A-list singers did not release albums. Najwa Karam pushed the release of her album from June, to July, and then even further. In November, as the famous "puzzle" billboard finally was finally completed and revealed Najwa's face, Kibir El Hob was released. While Najwa had not been gone from the music scene for long, the uplifting Bhebbak Wala', her first collaboration with Hadi Sharara, had already garnered a lot of anticipation for her new album. It's safe to say that that the album did not disappoint!

From the first listen, the difference in production is apparent. While Shou Mghayara..! is a great album, Kibir El Hob ups the ante in terms of arrangement, and the sound is much more organic, with more instruments and less digital substitutes. After venturing into pop with varying results, in Tahamouni, Najwa's second shot at it is much more sweet. The dabke beats are not absent from Kibir El Hob, Bhebbak Wala', Hamseh Hamseh, or the smash hit Shou Hal Hala, but Hadi Sharara injects just right amount of pop to innovate but still keep Najwa's faithful fans listening. Imad Shamseddine, who was at work with Rouwaida Attieh in 2004, returned with a much bigger contribution to Najwa's team in 2006. All three of the album's hit singles, Bkhaf Men El May, Bhebbak Wala', and Shou Hal Hala, were written and composed by Imad. While Hadi innovates, Tony Anka's traditionalist approach on Bkhaf Men El May, Ma Byensheba', Baddak Terja', and Talet Marra is all but dated. With big beats, ney, bouzouk, mizmar, sharp strings, and the nostalgic synth here and there, it's hard to keep still when listening to his work!

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1. Bkhaf Men El May
2. Ma Byensheba'
3. Kibir El Hob
4. Baddak Terja'
5. Hamseh Hamseh
6. Shou Hal Hala
7. Talet Marra
8. Bhebbak Wala'

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Myriam Faris - Bet'oul Eih

Despite finding a great niche for herself in the oriental-dance fusion genre, Myriam did not rest on her laurels in 2008. Myriam evolved as an artist even more with Bet'oul Eih. There are a few misses, like Samir Sfair's awkward Moush Ananiya and Marwan Khoury's sleepy Betrouh, but overall Myriam's third album is solid. Like the 2005 hit Ha'leq Rahtak, the title song is written by Myriam's sister, Roula Faris, and co-composed with Marc Abdelnour, who gives the song an authentic Egyptian feel. Mohamed Rahim returns with two songs; the upbeat Eih Elli Byehsal is arranged by Jean-Marie Riachi and follows in the style of Nadini while Iyam El Sheteh is a mellow ballad with simple, but beautiful arrangement by Hadi Sharara. Ana Albi Lik will surprise those who are used to Walid Saad's oriental ballads, and Jean-Marie Riachi gives it a fresh Latin-style arrangement. Ala Khwana, also composed by Samir Sfair but arranged by Tarek Madkour, is a refreshingly enjoyable maksoum song that beats Moush Ananiya in this listener's opinion. Law Konte Radi is Myriam's first collaboration with Tamer Ali, and despite a bit of repetitiveness, it's quite good. The album finishes off with it's first single, Moukana Wein, which is Myriam's first full-on Khaliji song. Tarek Aakef proves his innovativeness once again by incorporating the sound of the seashell belt that was worn by Bahraini pearl divers in their traditional dance. The belt was also used in the controversial video Myriam shot for the song, and she learned the choreography for the dance. Interestingly enough, Ahlam recently claimed that Kuwaiti composer Abdallah El Gaoud originally offered her Moukana Wein, but she declined it because her husband think it fit her.

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1. Moush Ananiya
2. Eih Elli Byehsal
3. Inta Bet'oul Eih
4. Betrouh
5. Iyam El Sheteh
6. Ana Albi Lik
7. Ala Khwana
8. Law Konte Radi
9. Moukana Wein

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diana Haddad - Ahla Aghani (Best of)

This album is a compilation of the best of Diana's early work, from 1996 to 1999. Diana is one of the few singers to have tasted success from her first song, and then been able to sustain it for over a decade. From the very beginning, Diana, who was born in Lebanon, raised in Kuwait, and lives in Dubai, sang in her native dialect as well as Egyptian and Khaliji. Her hit debut single, Saken is included, as well as her first Egyptian songs; Yamma Ya and Emshi Wara Kedbohom. The Lebanese songs that defined her early career, such as Ahl El Esheg, Anideh, and Legaitak, are also featured alongside her pan-Arab 1998 hit Ammaneih. Ammaneih was remade by Turkish singer Burcu Güneş in the same year and met with similar success. Composers featured here include George Marderosian, Imad Shamseddine, Riyad El Hamshari, and Ihsan El Mounzer.

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1. Emshi Wara Kedbohom
2. Ammaneih
3. Ahl El Esheg
4. Legaitek
5. Men Ghebt
6. Yamma Ya
7. Anideh
8. Bari'ah
9. Ghalteti
10. Saken

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Haifa Wehbe - Baddi Eish

The sheer self-confidence needed to release a song titled Ana Haifa, is the kind of thing that makes Haifa Wehbe's fans love her and her critics' blood pressure rise. To say she got by on her looks alone is unfair however. Haifa has a killer team of musicians, whom she works with day and night to produce some of the catchiest music on the scene. Unlike her debut album, which was dominated by Latin, electronic, and Turkish styles, Baddi Eish is full of unmistakeably Egyptian and Lebanese songs, the simplicity of which outshines the album's ballads. The mischevious Ma Khadtesh Bali, an Abou Jaoudeh-Sharara collaboration, opens like an electric song and then brings in Hadi Sharara's signature dabke beat coupled with strings and ney. Tigi Ezay continues with the same attitude, but Adel Aayesh gives the arrangement a great Egyptian feel, with darbouka, accordion, and kanun. Ya Hayat Albi, a cover of Despina Vandi's O Perittos, continues Jean-Marie Riachi's love affair with Greek laika. The version included in the album seems more like an updated version of Despina's when compared to the one Haifa originally sang, which replaced the bouzouk with accordion. Fakerni is another great Egyptian song, with mizmar, accordion, riq, and (great) strings. The title song (which translates into I Want to Live) is written, composed, and arranged by Elias Rahbani who, in the wake of Rafik Hariri's assassination, wanted his cry for an independent Lebanon to reach youth through Haifa. The album finishes with Ufuk Yilidirim's electronic remix of Howa El Zaman, and Ragab, which despite being written, composed, and arranged by Lebanese musicians, is easily Haifa's most popular Egyptian song ever.

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1. Ana Haifa
2. Bahebbak Hob
3. Ma Khadtesh Bali
4. Tigi Ezay
5. Ya Hayat Albi
6. Bahebbak Mout (Kol Marra)
7. Fi Eineik
8. Fakerni
9. Toul Omri
10. Nar El Ashwaq
11. Baddi Eish
12. Howa El Zaman (Remix)
13. Ragab

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Abeer Fadda - Inta Malak

Abeer Fadda is yet another underrated Syrian singer whose fame does not measure up to her talent and potential. Abeer's throaty jabali voice can easily tackle any genre, and she does in her 2005 album, Inta Malak. Abeer composed two songs, Waggef and Ser Behayatak herself, while the rest of the album is composed by Yaser Jalal, Khaled Adel, Mohamed Fawzi, and Medhat Fawzi. The album is arranged by Egyptian arrangers Medhat Khamis, Ahmed Adel, Adel Aayesh, Yehia El Mougi, and Karim Abdelwahab. The album has four great ballads, the melancholic Wallah Ma Faragni, Latin-influenced Leil Ya Gharam, Khaliji Waggef, and heartfelt Ser Behayatak. The faster-paced songs are less interesting, though Estanna Alaya and the catchy Shou Befrah stand out when compared to the maksoum songs, Inta Malak and Leila Be Alf Leila. Some will be surprised when they hear Wallah Ma Faragni, which Mayssam Nahas remade into a hit single in her latest album (albeit renamed Habib El Rouh).

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1. Estanna Alaya
2. Wallah Ma Faragni
3. Leil Ya Gharam
4. Shou Befrah
5. Leila Be Alf Leila
6. Waggef
7. Inta Malak
8. Ser Behayatak

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nancy Ajram - Ya Tabtab... Wa Dalla'

After two hit albums in a row, Nancy's fifth album was one of the most highly-anticipated releases of 2006. With more upbeat maksoum songs, and just a few, albeit excellent, ballads, Ya Tabtab has a bit of everything. The title song, which has been remade into Greek by Kelly Kelekidou, kicks off the album in the same playful spirit as Ah We Noss. As the album progresses, the diverse list of composers is evident. Most of the maksoum songs, Ya Tabtab (Tarek Madkour), Ana Yalli Bhebbak (Samir Sfair), Mo'gaba (Walid Saad), Ashteki Menno (Hamdi El Sediq), and Ya Si El Sayed (Walid Saad), are arranged by Tarek Madkour. Though Madkour is frequently criticized for "recycling" ideas, his work here is good and each song has its own flavor, incorporating synths into some, accordion in others, or sticking simply to violins. The ballads, Ehsas Jdid (Salim Salameh), Meshtaga Leik (Yacoub Al Khubaizi), Elli Kan (Walid Saad) and Oul Hansaki (Hassan Abou El Saoud) are even more diverse, with a different arranger in charge of each. On Ehsas Jdid, Hadi Sharara combines the best of both East and West as usually, mixing piano with bouzouk, darbouka, and strings. Elli Kan is some of Karim Abdelwahab's best, and most oriental, work so far. Amr Abdelaziz gives Meshtaga Leik light percussion (for a Khaliji song) and the pop treatment, which Nancy tends to in most of her albums. Oul Hansaki is a classic ballad, with heartfelt lyrics, and typical arrangement from Mohamed Mostafa. Even the songs that did not get the limelight, like Sabrak Alaya (Walid Saad) and Law Dallalouni (Suhail Fares) are well-composed and enjoyable. Ya Tabtab was one of Nancy's most successful and most commercialized albums too, with five of the songs used for jewelry, Coca-Cola, and perfume ads.

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1. Ya Tabtab Wa Dalla'
2. Ehsas Jdid
3. Mo'gaba
4. Meshtaga Leik
5. Ana Yalli Bhebbak
6. Ashteki Menno
7. Oul Hansaki
8. Elli Kan
9. Ya Si El Sayed
10. Sabrak Alaya
11. Law Dallalouni

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fares Karam - Janen

Though it feels like most of the Arab world believes Fares Karam's career began with his 2006 hit El Tannoura, this Studio Al Fan graduate has been crooning for over a decade. With George Marderosian, Marwan Khoury, and Imad Shamseddine, Janen has some of the best Lebanese composers. Though Fares has become centered around comedic and daring lyrics in his latest work, Janen has some great love songs like Majnoun Bani Amer, Janen, and Khayyabt Zanni as well. Rightfully the king of playful dabke today, no one does it like Fares Karam.

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1. Janen
2. Selini
3. Mili Mail
4. El Etfa'iyeh
5. Mahdoumeh
6. Majnoun Bani Amer
7. Khayyabt Zanni
8. Am Tetthalla

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hind - Hind 2008

When asked about her talent, the great Mayada El Hennawi called Hind "one of today's greatest, most beautiful voices," and for good reason. The young Bahraini singer's soulful approach to everything from traditional Saudi and Emirati songs to pop and ballads, is a refreshing change in a genre where young singers tend to stick to simple, non-challenging songs. The album has an impressive list of musicians, with Dr. Abdelrab Idriss, Nicolas Saade Nakhle, Michel Fadel, Tarek Aakef, Nizar Abdallah, İsmail Tunçbilek (on bouzouk), and Ali Bin Mohamed (who duets with her on the "Khaliji blues"-style Yeji Mennak). The album is very diverse, for example Thebahni El Shoug employs an Iraqi beat, while Teshteki has delightfully classic approach, and the Lebanese hit Maw'ed Omur brings in electric guitars and bongos. So even if you don't like one song, you will definitely find one you love. This is a high-quality production from beginning to end; synths are kept at a minimum and the instruments range from traditional ney, oud, kanun, and rebab to guitars and saxophones. Understandably, Hind recorded in Cairo, Bahrain, Dubai, Beirut, and Kuwait, with musicians from the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey playing the various instruments. Easily her most hyped album to date, Hind's 2008 album is definitely worth a thorough listen.

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1. Meridh El Mahabba
2. Yeji Mennak
3. Thebahni El Shoug
4. Eb Kel Basata
5. Abih Yeshouf
6. Aaf El Farah
7. Hameti
8. Tawwek Ala Bali
9. Jaitek
10. Teshteki
11. Men Int
12. Maw'ed Omur

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