Friday, June 02, 2006

HOSSAM RAMZY & JOSÉ LUIS MONTÓN - Flamenco Arabe 2 (Arc Music)

The celebrated Egyptian composer/arranger carefully navigates the choppy waters of World Music fusion with a subtly integrated and delicately arranged marriage of styles. No prizes for guessing this is the second time the renowned Egyptian percussionist has teamed up with a flamenco artist in recent years. Last time it was German Rafa El Tachuela, this time Barcelona-born José Luis Montón, and the two collaborators share song-writing duties on a set of tunes that have been beautifully arranged and produced by Ramzy.
The flamenco guitar of Montón adds subtle shades of sound to the soulful fluidity of the Egyptian’s compositions, whereas the Egyptian instruments: nay, qanun, violin, accordion and percussion tend to "Arabise" the Spaniard’s pieces, tilting the balance of the music more towards North Africa than Southern Europe.
Much has been made in the past about the Arabic/Moorish tone of much flamenco music, and there certainly seems to be a natural symbiosis between the dramatic rhythms of the flamenco guitar and the undulating cadenced chatter of Egyptian instrumentation. In fact, it seems a pity that the relationship is not explored even further here through the passionate Moorish-infused singing found in flamenco. Especially when you consider how well the one non-instrumental on the CD works — a beautifully sung buleria by cantaora (female flamenco singer) María Toledo — called Pensando en Ti (Thinking of You).
That aside, this is still a very charming set of instrumentals, ranging from a celebratory Arabic malfuf (Andalusian rhythm)-cum-rumba Sahret Ghawazy to the entrancing song Amil, dedicated to Montón’s mother and his Arabic past. The latter is a wonderful showcase for his exquisite guitar playing as he weaves his magic in a call-and-response with violinist Aziz Jorge.
All in all, then, a very pleasant journey around the common ground between North Africa and Southern Europe.

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