CD Review: Hossam Ramzy’s “Baladi Plus”
I recently got a copy of Hossam Ramzy’s “Baladi Plus”. True to its name, this CD has a heavy, folksy feel throughout its eight tracks. As an instructor, I find a lot to like in this CD and my students can count on hearing a lot of it in class. This one will definitely be taking up permanent residence on my teaching iPod!
The CD opens with “Night Foal” (2:29) which sets the tone for the music to come. It starts out with a rebaba improvisation that is shortly joined by a mizmar. The rebaba drops into a drone in the background while the mizmar takes the lead in what I can only describe as a succulent and delicious taqsim. Mizmar is one of those love-it or hate-it instruments. If you love mizmar, this will move you. If you don’t… well, move on to the next track!
The second track, “Arabian Knights” (8:33) is a straight up Saidi. The liner notes say this was written for the dance of the stallions the Said region is known for. If you don’t have any dancing horses around, don’t worry. This mid-paced, even tempered Saidi makes a fantastic drill track. I can see it being used for ATS drill, Saidi zill drills or cane practice where its over 8 minute length is a real plus. This will be a mainstay on my playlist for teaching Saidi workshops. Just because I’m recommending it for drill, don’t think it’s too boring for performance. The mizmar has a fun melody line and the rebaba pops up for some cute little accents in the background that could be expressed in choreography or improvisation.
“Mashalla” (8:08) is a rhythmic play on the similarities and differences between the Masmoudi and Maqsoum rhythms which have the same pattern but in different time signatures. I think this is really cool because I’ve demonstrated this with zills to my classes for years – now I can let them hear it directly in one piece of music too. Aside from this fun musical trivia bit, this would also make a good drill track for shimmies.
Track 4, “Alla Hai” (5:58) is a Zaar, an Egyptian ritual dance to rid the particpants of evil spirits. It starts as a slow, plodding 2/4 that gradually picks up speed. This would be a very good track for drilling basics with zill triplets.
“Baladi We Hetta” or “Baladi Plus” (9:17) is the title track. It has a lively pace and an accordion melody that you takes you on a great ride for improvisation. To me, this track feels like the second half of a traditional baladi progression. It has a built in drum solo starting around the 5:00 mark to the end, which is pretty handy for a performance piece.
If you like the flow of soft Chiftitelli pieces, you will most likely enjoy “Wahda We Bas” (7:16). This track has a Wahda Kabira base rhythm holding up a pretty oud melody, which playfully teases at Chiftitelli a couple times in the song. But just when you’re settled into the flow around 4:15 it gracefully sneaks into a Samaai (10/8) which makes it all the more interesting in my book. This would be a lovely piece for veil work.
“Malfouf Ala Westi” (6:54) means “Wrapped Around My Hip” – what a great title for a bellydance song! This track is entirely in the Malfuf rhythm, most often used for entrances and exits in cabaret pieces. Here it is the backdrop for a baladi piece with more of that juicy Egyptian accordion. This would make a really good show closer for a full set – it has a nice build up to a strong finish. Off the stage and in the studio, this would be a good piece to use for practicing the fast travelling steps we use to enter and exit the stage.
And the best comes last…. dear “Roah Albi” (7:20), where have you been all my dancing life? That’s ok, if I heard this too early on as a performer I wouldn’t have been able to handle it! If you are into doing virtuoso drum solos this track is manna from heaven. You better eat your Wheaties if you plan to dance to this – it’s long and unrelenting in dishing up rhythm changes and interesting hooks you just will not want to pass up. It has some fun call and response passes between the tabla and zills and a great roll section perfect for some fun shimmy-play. All that would be enough but to gild the lilly, that Samaai is back around 4:00 – and that really pleases the rhythm junkie in this dancer. When I said eat your Wheaties, I meant it because Mr. Ramzy will work you hard for the last 2:30. I LOVE it. This IS my next drum solo – bring it on!
You see, I told you there was a lot to like about this CD! From stage to studio this one will get lots of use around here.
Already own this CD? What are you favorite tracks and how do you use them? Tell us in the comments below….