Thursday, January 28, 2010

Latifa - Fel Kam Youm Elli Fatou

After radically changing her style in Ma'loumat Akideh, Latifa returned to Egyptian pop in 2008, and it is arguably her best pop album to date. The album has a good share of western influence and rich, traditional instrumentation. The title song, which was a huge departure for composer Walid Saad, mixed traditional strings and percussion with the latest French electro music fad, Tecktonik. The idea was Latifa's, and Tamim did a great job bringing it to life. Ana Arfa is written as a frank telephone call between a woman and her friend, and about why her lover refuses to reconcile with her. The arrangement is simple but rich, and reminiscent of Tamer Ali and Tamim's work on Elissa's Awakher El Sheta. The popular Ya Aghla Alb combines a quintessential Egyptian song with a dabke beat, electric baglama, and sharp strings. Sebni Shiwaya is another hybrid, with traditional low-pitched strings and understated percussion, while the composition could easily be used for a western-style ballad. Hankhaf Men Min's romantic lyrics are complimented by simple and relaxed arrangement from Touma. Ana Omri Ma Hansak has less engaging composition, but the arrangement is solid on Medhat Khamis' part, sounding like a remastered classic. Law Faker is a catchy power ballad, but the arrangement seems a bit lackluster for Tamim's usual work. Bi Yekdeb is Tamer Ali at his best, and the ballad opens with a beautiful ney solo, and then turns into a more jazzy number while still maintaining an oriental air. Konna Zaman, is probably the weakest song, and while it has interesting lyrics, the composition is noisy to say the least. Faker Eih and the cheesy Marina are both Latin numbers, and are fun but forgettable. The album also has songs that harken back to Latifa's early career. Rouhi Betrod Feya, composed by Amjad El Atefi, is a simple love song. Law Sahran Habibi, by Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma, is also a beautiful love song, but the orchestra here is bigger and the music, especially the oud, is much more engaging.

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1. Fel Kam Youm Elli Fatou
2. Ana Arfa
3. Ya Aghla Alb
4. Sebni Shiwaya
5. Hankhaf Men Min
6. Ana Omri Ma Hansak
7. Law Faker
8. Bi Yekdeb
9. Konna Zaman
10. Rouhi Betrod Feya
11. Faker Eih
12. Law Sahran Habibi
13. Marina

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Diana Karazon - El Omr Mashi

Diana Karazon's second album was less rushed than her debut, and there is a marked difference in style. None of the musicians on Diana's first album are here, but the list is impressive nonetheless with Samir Sfair, Riyad El Hamshari, Ahmed El Hermi, Tarek Madkour, and Tarek Aakef in the mix. The title song, with Nizar Francis' romantic lyrics, Samir Sfair's upbeat composition, and Tarek Madkour's favorite beat, was an instant hit. Min Bi Fekrak, which has the same team, is in the same vein, but more interesting with more engaging composition. Inta Mashi Bgad, composed by Wahid Mamdouh and arranged by Amr Abdel Aziz, is a shot at Egyptian tarab, but apart from the nostalgic value, it has little else. Tarek Aakef experimentation makes Samir Sfair's Khallina Netmarmar a fun song, with Latin, Indian, and Egyptian influences mixed into a quintessential Lebanese song. Hebni Doum, composed and arranged by Ahmed El Hermi, may be labeled a Khaliji song but it sounds more like something from a Disney epic, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Lamma Teb'a Habibi, composed by Riyad El Hamshari, is more Egyptian tarab, but with playful lyrics and upbeat arrangement, it is much more enjoyable than Inta Mashi Bgad. A cross between lounge music and ballad, Mahala is Diana Karazon's first Jordanian song. It's one of the best on the album, with flowing strings, an assortment of reed instruments, electric guitar, and Indian tabla. The upbeat Tes'alni is a more traditional Khaliji song from Ahmed El Hermi and Siruz, and it's almost as good as El Shar Barra We Be'id. The album closes with We Bada't A'ish, an irresistibly catchy maksoum song from Riyad El Hamshari, which Diana's voice takes to real heights.

1. El Omr Mashi
2. Min Bi Fekrak
3. Inta Mashi Bgad
4. Khallini Netmarmar
5. Hebni Doum
6. Lamma Teb'a Habibi
7. Mahala
8. Tes'alni
9. We Bada't A'ish

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Note: Tes'alni is missing, and I do not have the CD right now, I will update the topic in the future, sorry!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Abo Bakr Salem - Ahtefel Bel Jarh

Love or hate him, Abo Bakr Salem has left his mark on the music of the Gulf. It is largely thanks to him that Yemenite music is still alive and well on the scene. Though the material here is all-new, the Egyptian chorus and orchestra, including Amir Abdel Majid and Tarek Aakef, is still here, and harkens back to the days when Arab singers all traveled to Cairo for the state-of-the-art studios. Abo Bakr is still as soulful as ever with his truly unique style, changing his tone and commenting for dramatic effect. The listener loses themselves in the oud, the ney, and the deep strings that accompany each song. The lyrics are as beautiful as ever too, with songs of pure affection like Moghram Sababa, of loss like Ahtefel Bel Jarh, or of peace like Han Wagt El Lega, which urges Arab nations to forget previous wrongs and come together, using estranged lovers as a metaphor. A great composer, lyricist, and singer, Abo Bakr Salem is unmatched, even when scores of singers now adhere to his school of music.

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1. Ahtefel Bel Jarh
2. Moghram Sababa
3. Samir El Ein
4. Ghessin El Ban
5. Ya Badr
6. Gesher Men El Mouz
7. Han Wagt El Lega

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Ziad Rahbani - Ana Moush Kafer

Being born to Fairuz and Assi Rahbani (the more musical half of the Rahbani Brothers), Ziad must have had huge shoes to fill. In the great tradition of his family, Ziad became a musician, and he plays the piano and the bouzouk, not to mention a lyricist and playwright. Much like the Rahbani Brothers revived traditional Arabic music and introduced it to classical European music, Ziad became a revolutionary. He is best known for being a pioneer of the oriental jazz genre, and is behind many of Fairuz's later hits, such as Kifak Inta, Ma Edert Ensit, and Habbaitak Tansit El Nawm. His knowledge of all these musical styles, along with his sharp views, combines to create something rare. Ana Moush Kafer, musically a piece in the vein of traditional mouwashahat is combined with satirical colloquial lyrics about the corrupt who hide behind faith. Shou Hal Ayam, my personal favorite, opens with a piano solo, played in the style of a kanun solo. The song then continues with a haunting mix of classical east and west, and lyrics about corruption. Aal Nizam is a commentary on the state of society, but the music sounds like something out of a Rahbani Brothers' play, and the ending transforms into an African-style chant. Shou Ada Ma Bada is a prime example of Ziad's playful oriental jazz, while Ysa'ed We Y'in returns to more oriental roots with oud and bouzouk. Bhal Yawmain is another creative political commentary where Sami Hawat's voice shines. Bharf El Shin is a cheekily-titled instrumental piece with bouzouk set to a jazz beat, and Ziad's seemingly intoxicated snickering. The album ends with Bhannik, a classically-influenced and highly satirical dedication to the Lebanese presidency, and Al Mokawama Al Watania Al Lobnania, a more sober song for Lebanon, sung by Farouk Kosa.

1. Ana Moush Kafer
2. Shou Hal Ayam
3. Aal Nizam
4. Shou Ada Ma Bada
5. Ysa'ed We Y'in
6. Bhal Yawmain
7. Bharf El Shin
8. Bhannik
9. Al Mokawama Al Watania Al Lobnania

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Elissa - Tesaddaq Bi Min

Elissa's long-awaited seventh album has finally been released, and at a time where the ailing Rotana needs it most. Ironically, Elissa's lengthiest album so far has the smallest number of composers, and is noticeably even more lyric-focused than its predecessor. After reasonable success with Khod Balak Alaya last year, Walid Saad is back with five songs, including the title song, a catchy ballad reminiscent of both Jannat's Ana Donyetou and the solo violin from Elissa's own Ayami Bik. Ma Aash Wala Kan adds a fun air of nostalgia with the 1980s pop influence coupled with some strings, even though Nader Abdallah too seems to be reworking his lyrics from Ayami Bik here. Men Gheir Monasba delves into a darker theme, that of an abusive partner, but the quintessential ballad music and beats are slower and less interesting. Eisha Wel Salam is a more jazzy Latin number, and Elissa excels with the genre. Tamim's choice of simple trumpets, strings, and solos is perfect too. Masdouma is like much of the "Egyptian chillout" Tamim excels at with Tamer Ali, except it's composed by Walid Saad. The song is sweet and pleasant but nothing groundbreaking.

Marwan Khoury makes his biggest contribution to Elissa yet here, with three songs. Amri La Rabbi, arranged by Michel Fadel, is an adequate song with hopeful lyrics. Sallemli Alaih, arranged by Nasser El As'ad, brings in the kind of rich, oriental music that Kermalak and Betmoun had. Fi Shi Enkasar is a ballad characteristic of Claude Chalhoub's classically-influenced work and truly makes Elissa's vocals shine amongst the mellow harp and the moody strings. Mohamed Rehim, the man behind the 2002 hit Agmal Ehsas, returns with the beautifully heartfelt We Byestehi as well as the album's weakest song, Eftakart. A Bali Habibi is already wowing audiences with its hopelessly romantic lyrics, but the music itself is surprisingly dull for Salim Salameh and Chalhoub. Strangely, Tamer Ali, arguably Elissa's hitmaker over the past four years, has only one song, Ma Ta'rafsh Leih. The song is another relaxed piece, but his collaboration with Claude Chalhoub is interesting. Another surprise comes with the inclusion of Law Fiyeh, a 1970s Aida Chalhoub song, composed by Elias Rahbani and renewed by Jad Rahbani. Elissa had begun singing the song at events, but the version on the album is another testament to her vocals. While the album is hardly groundbreaking, why change a good thing?

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1. Tesaddaq Bi Min
2. A Bali Habibi
3. Men Gheir Monasba
4. Amri La Rabbi
5. Fi Shi Enkasar
6. Ma Aash Wala Kan
7. Sallemli Alaih
8. Law Fiyeh
9. Eftakart
10. We Byestehi
11. Ma Ta'rafsh Leih
12. Eisha Wel Salam
13. Masdouma

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