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Read the following world music reviews at the last part of this page:

Mohammed Wardi

A few lines about QAWWALI: Sabri Brothers - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

ANOUAR BRAHEM from Tunesia plays oud (a kind of Middle Eastern sitar) with a fine, well-balanced and perfectly measured sound, and one can easily hear the Spanish influence - the flamenco guitar - in his impressively virtuoso improvisations. Great music!

Barzakh is mostly solo oud, with a little violin and percussion, it's pure musical experience. On Conte de l'incroyable Amour the accent is more on the whole group accompanying A.B. - that's including Barbaros Erköse (clarinet) and the well known Kudsi Erguner (nay-flute) - both from Turkey. More recent recordings are Madar, the fine, organic mix with Norwegian jazz musician, Jan Garbarek on alto sax, and Indian classical musician Ustad Shavkat Hussain on tabla. And last but not least is the thoughtful French-musical Khomsa, including both French and Swedish jazz musicians. All at 169.-

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL from Lebanon, who also has lived some years in Germany playing Western classical music, also plays the oud. But with an oriental rhythmic background, and jazz in the foreground, this very productive artist's music is mostly for Western listeners.

With nay flute and percussion, powerfully rhythmic, and most traditional on Nafas. With nay, violin and a good bass, almost Western jazz-like, on Tarab. 169.-

Great oriental jazz fusion with several American jazz musicians, who fit perfectly and play wonderfully, like Charlie Mariano on alto and Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, not to mention Indian Ramesh Shotham playing tabla: we have titles like Al Jadida and Blue Camel, and latest is yet another energy-packed explosion of musical ideas and fascinating oriental-jazz sounds: The Sultan's Picnic. All prices: 169.-

MOHAMMED WARDI "LIVE" IN ADDIS ABABA Songs from the Sudan (See the CD review below) 149.-


HAMID BAROUDI: City*No*Mad is hard-hitting new North African world music. An Arabic cross with the best of European pop, and a natural challenge to one's Western feet. His latest, Five, is a world journey done in a kind of techno-pop style, musical entertainment at its best. 169.-


SUFI MUSIC is music with feeling:- intensity, high feeling, loving and tender feelings.

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SUFI CHANTS starts with the most beautiful Call to Prayer you might ever be lucky enough to take part in, and continues with gentle songs filled with loving energy. On the B side is a whirling dance ceremony. Unfortunately only on cassette: MC 109.-

3 NEW TITLES: Ocean of Remembrance: Sufi improvisations & zikrs, a fine studio recording. Re-turning: A ceremony of the whirling dervishes, also a studio recording. Islamic Ritual Music: Live recording with powerful chants & zikrs. All 3 are recommended, but perhaps the first is especially good for Western ears. CD 169.-

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QAWWALI is ecstatic religious song in the sufi tradition of Pakistan (see my more detailed description of qawwali further down on this page). There are two groups of performers, well known in the West:

NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN: A legend in his own lifetime, he tragically died in August 1997, only 49 years old. His voice is powerful, deeply intense, and he is accompanied by musicians (his "party"), who keep the level of intensity cooking. He was also an artist who experimented, and used modern instruments and recorded together with Western musicians.

Order the fine collation, with some of the best of his traditional numbers, Devotional Songs. 159.- Or the deservedly famous Mustt Mustt, or his latest Night Song (see the review below). Both are Western collaborations, with great, captivating songs, and powerful, world-musical sounds. 159.-

SABRI BROTHERS: Traditional qawwali song from the famous family, sung beautifully, with love, and with joy. Ya Muhammad Nigah, or Sabri Brothers - Featuring Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri 'Jami' (see the review below). 159.-


ORIENTAL DANCE / BELLY DANCE:

Raks Sharki is the Arabic name for this dance. Some of the best music comes from Egypt, but some of the older Lebanese titles are also still very much in demand.

MOKHTAR EL SAID has made 2 recordings of Raks Sharki, which is the title of the first - as well as of this whole Piranha series of 3 records. Amar 14 (14th moon) is no.2 in the series, and has 3 different, complete dance rutines. The latest title in the series is Journey of the Gipsy Dancer, and here the music is by Hossam Shaker and his 20 man orchestra. In spite of the "gipsy" title, the music is once more in the classical style, and has similarly, again, been acclaimed by teachers of the dance. 159.-

From Lebanon we have many titles, known and valued by dancers. For example: Belly Dance with Aziza, Cairo by Night ("the original") with Mohamed Abdel Wahab, og Belly Dance & Takassim Kanoun. 169.-

We also have good, but not regular titles from Turkey. 149.-


MIXES:

CHRISTIAN CHANT FROM LEBANON:
FAIRUZ
the famous singer from Lebanon, is a Christian, and especially her song for Easter's Good Friday - Eastern Sacred Song, is known for its deeply devotional, soft intensity. 115/159.-

SHALOM SALAM means "peace" in two different languages, and the CD is made up of a Jewish and an Arabic part. The peaceful songs radiate the feelings of devotion, that stems from the two culture's spiritual and popular traditions. 169.-

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REVIEWS

MOHAMMED WARDI

QAWWALI / SABRI BROS - NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN

from the review section of DJEMBE, magazine for cross culture and world music

MOHAMMED WARDI : "LIVE" IN ADDIS ABABA

Songs from the Sudan

Mohammed Wardi's records have sold more than 20 million copies over a thirty year career in the Arab world and in the African Sahel region. A living legend, he has performed to crowds of up to 300,000 people. So if you don't already know him, here's your chance.

This is big band Sudanese music, and it'll easily remind you of Abdel Aziz el Mubarak, or Abdel Gadir Salim, if you were lucky enough to enjoy his Merdoum music concert in Pumpehuset, during Copenhagen's last Images of Africa festival. A kind of plaintive big band jazz sound, also familiar to us from the blues of Ethiopia, with their common mix of jazz with reggae, calypso and the Far East. (Although the Ethiopian music I've heard seems to have more a combo, than a big band approach).

Wardi's band comprises a 7-man string section, electric bass, accordion, bluesy electric guitar, 2 saxophones, trumpet, percussion and drums. Of course, the large string section and Wardi's voice dominate the music, but the other musicians don't just comprise an anonymous group sound. Some of the exchanges between, for example, strings and guitar, or strings and sax, are simply wonderful pearls of musical feeling, as well as being surprisingly close to Western blues and jazz.

Rhythmically the music is deceptively simple, based as it is on a hypnotically insistent clapping effect. But underlying the consistency of the clapping are continually changing elements, with new riffs, new incisions with each change of instrument, and with each solo instrument playing around with the rhythms. The result is that it really swings, and it just goes on and on, and if it's your scene, you'll be wanting it to do just that.

Jack Donen

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QAWWALI: ECSTATIC SUFI MUSIC
The Sufis are the mystical sect of Islam and qawwali is the form of music they have developed in India and Pakistan, since the 13th Century. Qawwali song is essentially religious poetry (but can also be romantic poetry) set to music, the purpose of which is to enhance the message of the poet, in an intensity of expression that can transport the listener into an ecstatic state.

Its religious message excepted, the form of qawwali has certain similarities with North Indian song in general. The voice is the central focus of the music, and is supported by an instrument, usually today an hand-pumped harmonium, and the rhythm is given by the tabla.

The ecstatic effect is especially transmitted by the intensity of feeling in the singers voice. This can then be supported and amplified by a number of different kinds of effects. For example the harmonium lingering on a few simple tones, the hand-clapping of the chorus, which also insistently repeats the words of the singer. His voice may repeat certain phrases again and again, or reel off a long string of apparently meaningless syllables at a tonguetwisting, mind-defeating pace (and mind-defeating is of course the whole idea!).

All in all to show us Westerners that trance dance can be many things, and that we certainly didn't invent it just 5 or 6 years ago.


SABRI BROTHERS - FEATURING HAJI GHULAM FARID SABRI: 'Jami'

The Sabri Brothers have been one of Pakistan's most famous families of qawwals. Popular both at home and more and more well known and appreciated in the West. However the brother concept is a rather inconstant one, and on this record we don't hear Haji Maqbool Ahmed Sabri the other half of the usual duo. On the other hand, 6 of the 9 accompanying musicians and singers belong to the Sabri family, so the title "Sabri Brothers" is hardly a misnomer after all.

Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri was born in 1930 and died an untimely death in 1994. This record is therefore one of his last, and is unusual in that all four songs (72 minutes) were written by the same poet, a Sufi mystic, Jami, who lived in the 15th Century. When asked by a pupil for something he could cherish all his life, Jami laid his hand on his breast and said: "It is here, the whole business - in the heart. You will find everything there".

So that's what this music is all about, the feeling of the heart. The singer's voice has a low and roughly dark, ruminating quality, but as the music progresses and the energy intensifies, it reaches high and wildly around, as he calls to "Allah" between verses, extending the word, turning it, twisting and twining it around the powerfully rhythmic accompaniment of drums and hand-clapping of the others.

Powerful medicine, as they say in another part of the world!


NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN & MICHAEL BROOK: 'Night Song'

'Night Song' is a cross-cultural record.

This duo's previous collaboration 'Mustt Mustt' having been a warm favourite of this reviewer, "great expectations" is perhaps the best description of my feelings in preparing to listen to their new recording. The result was a mixed bag, with a good portion of disappointment.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sufi singer from Pakistan, has been described as a gentle mountain of a man, a qawwali superstar, the greatest qawwal of his generation. He has modernised qawwali and made it popular, also among the modern youth of Pakistan. So, what we in the West are being presented with here, is a living, growing religious musical tradition, whose contemporary growth has a lot to do with Nusrat's ability to translate the mystical into something we all can feel.

He sings in the classical and light classical traditions of India and Pakistan with a voice that reaches sharply into the consciousness of the listener. Full of sensuous feeling, ranging from a softly carressing gentleness to passionate intensity, always in search of the ecstatic entrancement that characterises Sufi mysticism.

'Mustt Mustt' was cultural fusion at its best, a real sharing of musical creativity, and it had one or two of Nusrat's colleagues accompanying him on each track. 'Night Song' has only one, a tabla player, and that only on two of the eight tracks.

It's a logical development for the producer, Brook. 'Night Song' comes just a year after 'Dream', Brook's similar collaboration with the virtuoso South Indian mandolin player, U. Srinivas (Djembe nr.13, 1995). Brook's fascination with the possibilities of musical electronics led him in 'Dream' to bury a creative master under mountains of not very subtly sampled sound. Though there's less sampling here, he nevertheless comes close to doing the same kind of thing on some numbers on this disc.

A couple of short sequences of West African kora or an Hawaiian guitar seem pasted on and therefore unmotivated. However the experimentation can become grotesque as one is confronted with the incongruity of totally unnatural sounds and rhythms on the one hand, supporting a voice of intrinsic beauty and depth of feeling on the other.

Brook's certainly most weird creation, 'Lament', has a kind of ancient steam laundry rhythmic pumping effect that would make it a good background for the murder scene in a horror movie from the fifties. So much for Nusrat and the spiritual qualities of qawwali.

The other incongruity is not electronic, but rhythmic. Where 'Mustt Mustt' is full of the multirhythmic complexity of the tabla supporting the voice of Nusrat - that is, in his own idiom - Brook has on several of these numbers reverted to the 4/4 beat of rock. It's just not subtle enough to do Nusrat's voice and rhythmic mastery justice, and the result is a tendency for the music to be divided into two separate rhythmic dimensions, of voice and of percussion, that don't have much to do with each other.

To do Brook justice, his accompaniment - especially when he lets it be accompaniment, and not the whole show - does in fact have a lot of moments of truth to it. So - my conclusion is a 50/50 tie - and what with the fantastic voice of the one and only NFAK, don't miss this album.

Jack Donen


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