CD Review: “From Cairo with Love”
“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.