Ali Jihad Racy & Simon Shaheen Taqasim: Improvisation in Arab Music
Adel Salameh Master of the Oud
Moneim Adwan Il Était Une Fois En Palestine
These are three records I bought in the delightful Xango World Music shop in Utrecht. Or, rather, the first two are. The third was erroneously included in the CD case of the Adel Salameh record (in place of the actual disc), though I was able to subsequently change it for the correct one, thanks to Xango's no hassle exchanges policy, though not before ripping it to my computer heh heh heh.
I have been interested in oud music for some time now, the oud being a stringed instrument popular in the Arab world. My beloved has bought a couple of oud CDs over the years, but they leaned towards being false oud (with Hamza el Din's playing being marred by his vocals (reminiscent of a sex-starved cat) and Anouar Brahem allowing some jazzers to dilute his oud attack). I bought the Adel Salameh record and the Taqasim album in the hope of getting some real deal stringy Arabic music, and I was not disappointed.
Salameh's record is all oud all the time, with no interference from vocals or other musicians. The Taqasim record is a collaboration between Shaheen, an oud player, and Racy, a player of the bouzouki (another stringed instrument, with a much higher sound, one in some ways similar to that of a mandolin, though you already know this); their record is a collection of taqasim (singular = taqsim), a type of improvised piece in this type of Arabic music. Salameh's records is obviously the more minimal of the two, as Shaheen and Racy do at least get to play off each other with their different sounding instruments. The sleevenotes to this record say, however, that the (Greek) bouzouki is not a standard instrument in the Arab world, and that this might actually be the first ever recording of oud-bouzouki taqasim. Blimey.
The overall effect of both of these records is very soothing, with the plucked strings of the oud and bouzouki being very easy on the ear. At this stage I cannot really say much more about these records, and will have to listen to them further to discern more details about the internal structures of each piece.
I cannot tell you that much about the Moneim Adwan record. It features a much larger line-up of musicians and thus has a more immediately textured line-up. Without sleevenotes I can tell you little about when it was recorded or what kind of musical genre it falls into. I need to listen to it more so I can form a fuller impression of it, so maybe I will be back to you on this next time.
It is interesting that both Adel Salameh and Simon Shaheen are both Palestinians (from Nablus and Haifa respectively). Maybe the Palestinians are particularly well-known for their oud playing. It could be that it was the Palestinian association that led to my originally getting the Moneim Adwan record instead of Adel Salameh's.
As an aside, what would really have rocked would have been if I had ended up with an accidental disc of that Palestinian boom rave music my beloved kept hearing when she was in Ramallah in 2005. That sounded deadly.