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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