Thursday, December 22, 2011

Au revoir

Hi readers!

Thank you so much for all the support you've given this blog. It's amazing the amount of traffic I still get, even when the blog has been inactive for over a year!

Unfortunately, I no longer have the time and energy to maintain this blog. I will keep it open so you can take advantage of any links that are still alive and running, and as an archive.

Thank you again, and enjoy the music.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ziad Rahbani - Houdou Nisbi

The many faces of Ziad Rahbani are exhibited in the diversity of his work. But whether a hopeless romantic or a scathing critic, he brings an air of 1980s Beirut with him on Houdou Nisbi. The album is a tribute to Ziad's love for jazz, but like his complex personality, it is full of influences from both east and west. The album opens with Bala Wala Chi, a heartfelt ballad sung by longtime friend Sami Hawat. The title song is a melancholic, jazzy number accented with Ziad's signature bouzouk, and is a great example of "oriental" jazz. Nafs El Shaghli brings us more oriental jazz, but this time accented with the beautiful voices of Monica and Sami Hawat. The oddball Yalla Kichou Barra, unmistakably Ziad Rahbani, invites the electric guitar and oriental percussion in. Ma Tfil is a lighter track, with uplifting strings, and again sung by Sami Hawat, although the chorus creates does a great job setting the ambiance. The album then shifts into a more bossa nova-style mood with an instrumental piece, Bil Nisbi La Boukra Shou?, interestingly joined by a kawala. Bisaraha is the notorious song Ziad wrote about his relationship with now ex-wife Dalal Karam, and he is joined again by Sami Hawat on vocals. Bain El Khamsa Wel Sab'a is another relaxed instrumental piece. Rouh Khabbir is a mellow cover of The Crusaders' Soul Shadows, and fits perfectly in the album. Monica lends her voice to another, more upbeat instrumental in Min Kil Bid, and rounds up the album with a great ballad in Khalas. The rightly named Final, is a a hauntingly beautiful guitar interlude that closes the album.

1. Bala Wala Chi
2. Houdou Nisbi
3. Nafs El Shaghli
4. Yalla Kichou Barra
5. Ma Tfil
6. Bil Nisbi La Boukra Shou?
7. Bisaraha
8. Bain El Khamsa Wel Sab'a
9. Rouh Khabbir
10. Min Kil Bid
11. Khalas
12. Final

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And Eid Mubarak to all visitors, sorry for the hiatus!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Asalah - Qanoun Keifek

Two years since her last release, and after a relentless spin on the rumor mill, Asalah's Qanoun Keifek has finally arrived. The album is composed by Saudi composer Sahm, with the exception of Ya Rasi El Ta'ab (Fayez El Sa'id) and Sem Ou Asal (Leil), which in itself is a risk. Picking up where Sawaha Galbi left off, Qanoun Keifek opens with a song that needs some getting used to. A dramatic opening, a dance-oriented chorus, and powerful lyrics of a woman's frustration. The instrumentation is strange at first but beautiful, with a tango-esque solo violin and piano alongside a rebab and ney, all to the beat of Iraqi percussion. Ila Mata slows things down, but the shock value does not subside with Asalah braving a western-style ballad, and her voice taking an otherwise simple song to new heights. Shef Ether opens with an almost Enya-style melancholy tinged with oriental strings, and shows Asalah exploring areas she normally would not: being the other woman. After successfully taking the plunge into jazz with Hayati in 2006, Asalah tries her hand at some swing with Bas Degiga. A mix of frustration and mischief, the song is another winner. Shakhs Yehtam, in the vein of La Tekhaf, is the album's feel-good track and makes up in sweet lyrics for the simplicity of the song. Sharha Ou Atab is the sole dance song, and the style could be almost be interchangeable with a Tunisian song, pointing to the versatile Issam Sharayti's roots. The album winds down with three powerful ballads, beginning with the classically-influenced Te'abt Ardhik, which is another testament to Asalah's voice. The previously leaked Ya Rasi El Ta'ab is slightly reworked, but still opens with a piano and harp as a hopelessly emotional ballad and transforms into a faster-paced Emirati song accented with sharp strings. Sem Ou Asal is also polished and a verse shorter. However, the fusion of an excellent Khaliji ballad, complete with flowing strings and heavy percussion, to a jazzy saxophone and electric guitar still manages to leave you in awe.

1. Qanoun Keifek
2. Ila Mata
3. Shef Ether
4. Bas Degiga
5. Shakhs Yehtam
6. Sharha Ou Atab
7. Te'abt Ardhik
8. Ya Rasi El Ta'ab
9. Sem Ou Asal

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

George Wassouf - Heya El Ayam

Vocal deterioration and a penchant for the fast life aside, it is hard to find a man who can still deliver a oriental music like George Wassouf does. Heya El Ayam, the Sultan's 2006 offering is impeccable, and deserved far more attention than Wassouf gave it. A mix of powerful ballads and dance tunes. The album opens with the title song, which features Amjad El Atefi and Tony Saba at their best. Everything from the bouzouk and the strings to the mizmar and the accordion is melded perfectly and sounds beautiful. Bastanna Bel Youm Wel Youmein invites Adel Aayesh's signature Turkish-style G (sol) clarinet into the mix into a more modern ballad, typical of Walid Saad. Haninak Hanini marks one of the few (but great) Lebanese songs that Wassouf has sung, albeit with less powerful lyrics than Helef El Amar. The song is quintessential Tarek Abou Jaoudeh, Tony Saba's arrangement shines here as well, with more bouzouk and flowing strings. Khsert Kol El Nas is one of Walid Saad's best songs, and brings back the G clarinet and low-pitched strings in a great ballad. Ghadr El Nas, a thoroughly Egyptian affair, is less engaging, and perhaps because Wassouf's vocals falter with notes better suited to Nour Mhanna's flawless voice. With Mestanni Menni Eih, Adel Aayesh takes a more Egyptian approach also with a mix of kanun, ney, and strings. Despite some nice solos, the song is not a standout and fades into the background. After a feast of oriental instruments for the ears, Mazen Zawaydi's choice of synths in El Zaman Dawwar is a bit of a letdown, and the song is nothing overly interesting. Leilet Wada'na, the album's sole single, is an excellent note to end on. Tony Saba brings restless strings, the oud, rebab, and ney together to accent a great piece by Amjad El Atefi.

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1. Heya El Ayam
2. Bastanna Bel Youm Wel Youmein
3. Haninak Hanini
4. Khsert Kol El Nas
5. Ghadr El Nas
6. Mestanni Menni Eih
7. El Zaman Dawwar
8. Leilet Wada'na (Ya Habibi)

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yara - La'ale' Khalijiya

Of the many Khaliji offerings in 2009, La'ale' Khalijiya was easily the most well-received. Rumored to be in the works for two years until it was finally released, the album was Yara's ticket to the last Janadriya Festival in Saudi Arabia. The album has musicians from the kingdom as well as the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, and Lebanon. It opens with Adri, a good song made beautiful by Amr Abdelaziz's beautiful arrangement. Initially Nawal's, Ana Ensana sounds like the best of Nasser El Saleh's compositions for Mohamed Abdu. The song is surprisingly arranged by Osama El Hindi, who gives the song a lighter, more exotic-sounding beat to contrast the deep, melancholic strings. From the female creative duo that brought us the hit Shomoukh Ezi, Tathker Youm is a more light, upbeat love song. The change of pace that the song goes through is interesting at first, but there isn't enough here to warrant the six-minute length. Raghba Menni is a light love song with typical percussion-centred Siruz arrangement. Fayez El Sa'id's Sekkar Zeyada, a hit by most accounts, is one of my least favorite songs here. It is by no means bad however, and will be an instant favorite for fans of the Emirati style. Sallemouli is not very interesting either, and both Abdallah El Gaoud and Tarek Aakef have done better jobs.

The album picks up with Sedfa, the song that made Yara a Khaliji star overnight. After the number of plays the song got on television and radio stations, most would skip it today, but it remains a catchy, upbeat song on all fronts. Bkel Shay Tajtheb* is another playful and catchy song, albeit too repetitive for some. Ma Roum is another song that stands out, it is short and sweet, but it could have done without the cheap synths. The album takes a surprising turn with Ma Aad Fini Rouh, as the traditional album jumps into the small niche of Khaliji-R&B. Ahmed El Hermi changes things up again, just as he did with her hit Inta Menni in 2008, and arguably does even better here with Siruz's help. Men Hey?, composed by Fahad El Nasser, brings Michel Fadel in. The song is instantly given Michel's western ballad touch, combining beautiful piano with airy strings. Amr Abdelaziz rarely goes wrong with Khaliji songs, and Nasik is no exception, but Ghali's composition, while enjoyable, is nothing new. Nedhar Eini, composed by Fayez El Sa'id, changes the mood again, and the dramatic intro is instantly attributed to Walid Fayed. Neloum El Wagt may have fared better had Mohamed Abdu and Asalah's version not overshadowed it, but the arrangement definitely leaves much to be desired. We end with Ya Habibi Alamek, another good Nasser El Saleh-Amr Abdelaziz collaboration, and the song's pace almost suits its purpose as the final song of the album.

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1. Adri
2. Ana Ensana
3. Tathker Youm
4. Raghba Menni
5. Sekkar Zeyada
6. Sallemouli
7. Sedfa
8. Bkel Shay Tajtheb
9. Ma Roum
10. Ma Aad Fini Rouh
11. Men Hey?
12. Nasik
13. Nedhar Eini
14. Neloum El Wagt
15. Ya Habibi Alamek

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*Contrary to the tags, track 8 is composed by Mohamed Bou Dalla and track 9 by Homoud Nasser.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kadim Al Sahir - Ila Tilmitha

Kadim Al Sahir rarely disappoints, but from time to time come works that are unforgettable. Ila Tilmitha tones down the pop, and while the classical songs are impeccable, the album has a focus on Iraqi songs. The album opens with Ahebbini, a song he has yet to eclipse. The song takes a beautiful Nizar Qabbani poem, couples it with one of Kadim's most powerful compositions yet, and rich, classically-influenced oriental arrangement by Hisham Niyaz. Furshat Raml El Bahr, which Shahd Barmada professed she loved, is an intimate song about lovers on the beach. Ila Tilmitha is a thoroughly oriental affair with one of Nizar Qabbani's most famous poems. The song is arranged beautifully, with moody strings, a calm accordion, and heavy percussion. Sayedat Omri is another heartfelt song, with a slower pace but the same rich feel to the music. Eih Ya'ni changes things up a little, with a more jalsa-style sound, and is another gem. Sayeghin El Thahab, Emshi Bhadawa, and May Ward are lighthearted Iraqi pop songs, while Eshsar Eshda'wa is a full-on Iraqi chobi song. The album closes with Ashkou Ayaman, Kadim's first and less famous duet with Asma Lmnawar. While the song is not the mess Kabberi Aqlaki is, it is more of a recitation when compared to the genre-defining songs that precede it on this album. Ila Tilmitha is a great introduction to the music of the Caesar Al Tarab Kadim Al Sahir.

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1. Ahebbini Bila Ouqadi
2. Furshat Raml El Bahr
3. Ila Tilmitha
4. Sayeghin El Thahab
5. Emshi Bhadawa
6. Sayedat Omri
7. Kabberi Aqlaki
8. Mawal Ghorfat El Mekyaj
9. May Ward
10. Eih Ya'ni
11. Mawal Dhagat Alaya
12. Eshsar Eshda'wa
13. Ashkou Ayaman (with Asma Lmnawar)

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pascale Machaalani - Bhebbak Ana Bhebbak

Bhebbak Ana Bhebbak is Pascale's latest album, although the length would suggest a maxi single. The title song opens the album on a nostalgic note, and with a concert atmosphere. The song is repetitive, but Melhem Bou Shdid's arrangement holds the song together and is worth a listen even as background music. The album's strongest song is Sallemlak Albi, composed by Mohamed Yehia, the video for which was released this week. The song has simplistic arrangement that works coupled with a catchy chorus and Pascale's beautiful voice. Red Alayeh sounds just like most of her 2007 album, and even the beautiful ney solos aren't worth braving the five minute song. With the recent resurgence of dabke in pop music, Mahboubi Jnoubi was to be expected, but the song is easily forgotten. Habibi Gheir is another Bou Shdid composition, but mixes things up with some great bouzouk solos and strings which make the song very enjoyable. The album ends with Nafs El Makan, composed by Nader Nour, which is a standard Egyptian ballad. To say Pascale's 2009 return was underwhelming would be an understatement, but it's worth braving the mediocrity for some of the brighter spots on this album. It's safe to say that the excitement once associated with the release of a Pascale album has dissipated.

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1. Bhebbek Ana Bhebbak (Nawi Trouh)
2. Sallemlak Albi
3. Red Alayeh (Wainak Ya Ghali)
4. Mahboubi Jnoubi
5. Habibi Gheir
6. Nafs El Makan

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