Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In review--Nubian Celebration (Bring on the Hot Sax-ophone)

Egypt Noir
Nubian Soul Treasures
Piranha (Germany)

Anyone who has been listening to world music in the last 2 or 3 decades will be familiar with both Egyptian and Nubian music. The serpentine melodies, pentatonic scales, call & response vocals, and marriage between Oriental and western music certainly has the ability to attract a wide following, especially the younger crowd hungry for exotic dance grooves.

The music on Egypt Noir (performed by an array of younger and classic musicians) entices with its musical mix. You’ll hear the lush Egyptian-style orchestra arrangements with call & response vocals skimming over the lush surface, plenty of raspy sounding shawms (an oboe-like instrument), heart-thumping polyrhythms and you might think a celebration is taking place. It is. Take a listen to the rousing beats, Cuban-style horns and saxophone and you’re in for a cosmopolitan musical treat.

I’m listening to Egypt Noir for the third time as I write this review and with each listen, the experience grows richer. I discover a new bridge between the west and the Orient. There’s Ali Hassan Kuban’s hot sax gliding over the top of delicious beats on Bettitogor Agil (the first song I ever heard by Kuban and practically a Nubian anthem), and the luscious vocals of Salwa Abou Greisha as she sings a cappella passages and later in a duet on her song Galbi El Atouf and I can’t forget the James Brown funk oriental style that appears on Alnubia Band’s Kobana. Cuban salsa even finds a place on this Nubian mix compilation, though the musicians gave it a North African makeover.

I was feeling exhausted before I slipped the CD into the player, but now after hearing these Nubian sounds, I’m wide awake. I don’t need that nap after all. I think the last Egyptian or Nubian disc I reviewed was over a year ago, by Natacha Atlas. So it has been a long time in coming. Certainly this recording provides an earful of exotic sounds by musicians bent on celebrating everything they’re worth. Listening to it will definitely bring a smile to your lips and you might also feel incredibly glad to be alive on an earth with such spectacular music.


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