Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

CD Review: “From Cairo with Love”

September 24, 2012

“From Cairo with Love” by Zamalek Musicians

The Zamalek Musicians’ 2010 release “From Cairo with Love” is a diverse mix of Egyptian performance tracks. There are 12 in all, including 3 drum solos, classic Oriental and folkloric pieces. Every experienced dancer has her own “formula” for putting together a full show, and I could easily put  a whole show together from the tracks on this CD, plus a few for teaching my classes too!  Fix yourself some tea and let’s sit down to listen together…

“From Cairo with Love” (5:41) The opening track is a strong entrance piece. After an initial upbeat section, it moves into a qanoon taqsim and then forward into a Malfouf melody. It changes gears with a sharp stop and glides on with a keyboard and qanoon melody that slows down  and then picks up into a heavier Saidi passage with a keyboard mizmar. There is a reprise of the Malfouf melody at the close. Its many changes keep things interesting and would make it an impressive stand-alone performance piece as well as an entrance.

“Shouf Il Banat” (4:07)  Are you in the mood for some Sha’abi? This CD has you covered with this fun and poppy song. It has a bright, highly produced sound and the vocals create some cute accents that you won’t be able to resist hitting with sassy dance moves. This is a perfect pick for getting your audience up to dance – the civilians (aka non-dancers) will definitely be able to relate to this style of music.

“Zena Zena” (4:27) This track opens with an energetic drum and has a “remix” kind of feel. This song strikes me as a split-personality; it has a very modern drum machine back beat but the violin and keyboard melody is very upfront and classic. This would be a good time to disclose to you, my dear readers,  that I have a strong distaste for drum machines. Once I identify them, it’s *all* I can hear in the song and the music takes on a soulless quality for me. If they don’t bother you, you might just love this song!

“Tabbel Wa Wahid” (4:01)  Watch out – it’s a Sha’abi fake out! This track starts out like a cute Sha’abi and turns into a lively drum solo! I think it would make a fun class performance piece. The drum solo pace is nice and full of interesting riffs that are still approachable for student choreography. It has a clean sound and a crisp finish.

“Silence of the Nile”  (4:29) I think this is my favorite track on the whole CD. It starts out with a ney solo soon joined by a meditative tabla. Both instruments pick up the pace and I find the ney melody especially inviting. It is full of lots of stops, accents and detail. This track is very unique in that it’s like a drum solo with instrumental additions. It takes a complete turn at 2:20 that practically feels like a completely different song (I bet you could use it edited!). The second half is more modern with keyboard and Oriental styling, and some Saidi elements. Taken from the beginning to the end, it almost feels like a mini-musical tour from folkloric to Oriental. I wonder if that’s what the musicians had in mind – there are no liner notes on the CD.

“Hilwina Hop” (3:14) Another fast, poppy cut – this one is almost comically fast! If you want to light a fire under your class for a fast travelling drill, this song would do the trick. Seriously, click the link and listen to the sample.

“Artist Bros.” (2:25)  Let me first say that I really appreciate the lack of drum machine on this track – it sounds real and raw. Two drums, zills and a tambourine.  I dig it. It has good energy and nice clean build to a finish. If you close your eyes it’s like the musicians are in the room with you.

“Warda” (4:52) This classic makes a beautiful entrance and this version is nicely instrumented with has a pace you can really sink into.  It’s got all the goodies like a quanoon solo and spooky Zar transition into the fast and fun closing passage. This is one of my favorite performance songs. And…. it falls into that “under 5 minute” mini-show category that is so useful for showcases where your slot is limited but you want to show your dance range.

“Habibi Ya Asaf” (4:35)  This cut is one that is better suited for class than for stage, in my opinion.  It is moderately fast and remains steady throughout. You can get *lots* of laps of walking 3/4 shimmy in with this song.

“Ya’ nawaim” (3:14) We’re heading to the countryside with this folksy track.  It has an irresistibly heavy feel that just might yank you out of your seat! There are alternating male and female vocal sections. I think it would make an interesting group performance piece, playing off the vocals. It would also work well for Saidi zill drills in class – the tempo is in the sweet spot for practice and the down beat is really clear for beginners to hear.

“Lissabri Hadoud” (3:44) This song has a pleasant  violin and keyboard melody, layered with interesting drum ornamentation. It would make a nice mid-show piece, especially for a restaurant or club venue where you’ll be dancing your way through the audience. Near the end, it slows down to a short oud taqsim then resumes the pace of the rest of the song.

“Khallina Ho” (2:25) This is the last drum solo on the CD. It has a nice mix of riffs – some were “deja vu”  moments from other solos. but it’s all good stuff. I would consider this an intermediate level drum solo.

“Bastannak” (3:54) This track is a lovely performance piece. It has a soft keyboard violin opening and a flowing sound.  I like the mix of drum flourishes and instrument variety. This is just the kind of piece you can improv to often and find different things to dance to with each listen. At the same time, it’s a nice even pace for class combos with the added bonus of cultivating their ear for richly arranged Egyptian music. Everybody wins.

CD Review: “Nasrah” – Turkish Bellydance

June 25, 2012

Turkish belly dance CD review

Although I readily confess that my heart belongs to classic Arabic music, even I get a craving  for the lively energy of Turkish belly dance music now and then. And 9/8… that is a delicacy all its own in my book! When “Nasrah” by the Huseyin Turkmenler Ensemble found its way into my hands, I was very pleased with it’s mix of performance tracks, teaching tracks and soul-stirring 9/8s. Let’s have a virtual listen together….

Arabia (6:01)  Ironically, this Turkish CD starts out with a Turkish interpretation of Arabic bellydance music. This tune has a lively start with an interesting melody then progresses into a violin solo backed by a fast chiftitelli. The violin line is full of textural interest to play with. This track includes a fast drum solo before winding up with a fast, melodic close. This makes a nice selection for a showcase piece of limited length.

Rast Oyun Havasi (5:30)  Track 2 starts out fast then slows down to a moderate chiftitelli with a melody that takes turns the  qanoon and violin. There’s a fast-firing drum solo before  the melody returns, punctuated by drum breaks. This also is a good choice for a single-song performance.

Bekar Gezelim (4:34) This track takes off with a short drum intro that opens onto another lively melody. It mellows out with a clarinet solo. After a brief revisit with the melody, the violin takes a turn for a solo then changes rhythm abruptly changes to a  more flowing feel before fading out. This is usable for both performance and in class for combos.

Calgici Kansi Binnaz (5:19) This song starts out subtly with a clarinet solo backed by a veil of qanoon. The  melody begins at a nice walkling pace in a 4/4 time, but with a Roma feel. There’s lots of drum ornamentation to play with behind an expressive a melody that you can really sink into as a whole. The feel and tempo are very even throughout the piece, picking up the pace just for the close.  It’s even nature would make it a good piece for teaching.

Tekirdag Karsilamasi (4:37) This track also has a gentle qanoon introduction. But don’t relax, the drum comes in with a brisk 9/8 that will compel you to get out of your seat! There are some sporadic vocals and a really crazy repeating accent that sounds like a glissando-type effect on a qanoon – have fun with that! The pace throughout is steady until the final close. This is a really good track for practicing 9/8 combinations as well as a fun show piece.

Percussion Improvisation Konyali (6:09) This drum track starts off with unforgiving speed right out of the gates. The lead drum keeps up the speed till around 1:45 when it slows down to a moderate pace and the accents become more defined for a short while. This track feels related to” Tekirdag Karsilamasi” with it’s glissando- like features and would work well in combination for a longer performance.

Nikris Oyun Havasai/Ya Mustafa (4:11) If you are looking for a good Turkish-flavored class piece for combos, the first 3:00 of this track is a perfect choice.  After the 3 minute mark, it morphs into a fast close with the familiar “Ya Mustafa” melody.

Karacbey Ciftetellisi (7:00)  Another excellent choice for class, this moderately slow 4/4 piece would be very handy for combos or drilling smooth movements. Its relaxed feel would make a nice interlude between faster pieces in a Turkish set, but a bit long for my personal tastes – Audacity to the rescue! It does  gain some speed in the final 2:30 minutes before it fades out.

Mastika (4:39) This track is a delicate 9/8 with a light feel that I love. I think this is an especially nice “intro to 9/8” piece because it is easier to hear the rhythm and feel its pulse through the melody,more so than other 9/8 tracks commonly available. There are some vocal interjections of a man calling “Bravo!”.  “Mastika” is a girl’s name, perhaps he is cheering on a dancing girl? It speeds up slightly toward the end then slows down to a soft, clean finish. This is a lovely track for all-around 9/8  use. It is my personal favorite on the CD and will soon be taking up residence on my iPod!

Azize (5:22) This is a wonderful Turkish interpretation of the Arabic classic. A little  lighter and sprightlier than traditional Arabic recordings, it would make an excellent and uplifting performance piece. The drum accents are crisp and the violin taqsim is eloquent. The melody plays out on a dual layer of violin and qanoon that are delightful and fresh sounding. Even if you have several Arabic versions of this classic, this one is a unique addition to your performance music library.

CD Review: Hossam Ramzy’s “Rock The Tabla”

December 12, 2011

I recently received a copy of  Hossam Ramzy’s “Rock the Tabla” CD for review. It arrived in the mail as I was headed out to teach so I popped it in the car CD player for a first listen. From the title (and the artist) I expected a CD of hot drum solos but this CD was quite the surprise!  If I had read the notes first, I’d have know that this is a collaboration CD.  Ramzy has been a guest percussionist for many other artists and in this CD  “Egypt’s Ambassador of Rhythm” invited his favorite artists from other genres to swing on his playground.

“Rock the Tabla” has 11 tracks that run between 3:00 and 6:00 minutes each. The guest artists include A.R. Rahman, Billy Cobham, Manu Katche, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jimmy Waldo, Chaz Kkashi, Phil Thornton and John Themis.

The opening track, “Arabatana” (5:07) set me straight with a Spanish guitar and a very “Santana-esque” electric lead guitar. The opening guitar melodies give way to a drum break and then back to the guitars. I think this could make a very interesting skirt fusion piece.

“Cairo to India” (5:51)  is the second track. This selection has a modern Middle Eastern feel with a kind of “India -meets-Jazz” vocal melody in parts.  This song has a good, steady pace and would make a better drill or combo practice song than performance piece, in my opinion.

Next up is “6 Teens” (4:31). This piece is lively and has great energy, drum breaks and accents.  It also has varying time signatures, primarily 7/8 and 9/8. This is a really interesting piece and I am drawn to listening (and dancing in my office) to  it over and over – I love unusual rhythms!

Track 4, “Ancient Love Affairs”  feels like cool water poured all over me on a hot day. It is soothing and relaxing, but won’t put you to sleep thanks to a light layer of interesting percussion. Now, I’m not a tribal gal, but I imagine this would be a perfect slow combo song for ATS – listen to it and tell me if that’s right.

Yes, there is a drum solo – “Shukran Arigato” (3:52) combines Egyptian tabla and Japanese taiko drums. The two drummers use a “call and response” format with  Karatchi and Malfouf rhythms as a backdrop. This doesn’t sound decidedly Japanese and could be a fun drum solo. This will definitely make it onto my “Shimmy Drill” playlist for class.

“Blusey Flusey” (5:05) is  another 7/8 track. The rhythm feels right up front with a melancholy violin in the back. That’s all cool with me, but when the mizmar jumped in I found the song much more appealing. For me, this is a piece to just enjoy listening to and dancing freestyle just for fun.

Yet another rhythmically adventurous track, “Billy Dancing” (4:32) (no, that’s not a typo) switches between a 9/8 and Saidi rhythms. For that reason, it doesn’t make a good drill song, but might make for a fun choreography if you dig accordion.

According to the liner notes, “Sawagy” (4:04) is a blend of rock, Latino and Egyptian Fellahi styles. This track has full vocals and I’d say it feels mostly modern Egyptian at the beginning till the rock guitar comes about two minutes in and dominates by the end.

“Dom and Doumbia” (3:03) is another drum duet, this time between Ramzy on Egyptian tabla joined by a Malian djembe player.  Personally, I like more distinct riffs and accents for my performance drum solos but the overall steady nature of this track makes it another good one for a “Shimmy Drill” class playlist.

The title track “Rock the Tabla” (5:33) features Omar Faruk Tekbilek on mizmar – but don’t be scared away if you’re not a mizmar-lover. It’s not the dominant instrument. This track has vocals and a lot of electric guitar. The liner notes say Ramzy was inspired by his work with Led Zepplin in creating this track and you can hear that in the last minute or so.  If you’re inclined to use fusion music in your class, this would be a good song for teaching or drilling combos.

I love the playful title of the closing track , “This Could Lead to Dancing”. This final track seems to be  a reprise of “Cairo to India” and it makes a fine send off to a varied and interesting CD.

What do you think of this CD? Tell us in the comments below…