"Faddah" (Silver)
by Hossam Ramzy

ARC Music  EUCD 1614

A Review and Commentary
by Najia El-Mouzayen

One of Hossam Ramzy's brightest and newest CDs on the market is "Faddah" (meaning "Silver"), which is also the title of the lead track on the recording. Dancers who have enjoyed many of Hossam Ramzy's 16 other CDs will doubtlessly be thrilled by this beautifully produced collection of newly composed music. This is yet another of the prolific Ramzy's offerings that, typically, is unlike any of the preceding ones in his series. Ramzy sets his goals very high in the insert notes:

"Hossam Ramzy has written this album as the first of a series of albums that will bring the world of Egyptian dance into the 21st century."

Good or bad, Ramzy's wish will most probably be granted as very little music is currently being produced for the stars of Egyptian dance anymore. These days, the great Egyptian dance stars have retired in disappointingly rapid succession. It appears to have happened because of the current religious climate in Egypt that discourages those night clubs and concerts, which might have formerly presented quality Oriental dance. Mr. Ramzy is a creditable musician and composer whose instrument of choice is the Arabic drum, but (and herein is the big "but") his musicianship often outweighs his sense of teamwork with the dancer. Instead of providing emotional works that support the dancer in impassioned motion, Ramzy seems to try his utmost to challenge the dancers in a struggle akin to something I regard as rhythmical abuse.

In my long love affair with Egyptian music, I came to trust its gentle subtleties, and its moody themes that seem to speak to one's heart; tragedies and triumphs of life. Though I agree that dancers should know more than a little something technical about the construction of Arabic music, in my opinion, Ramzy concentrates on technicalities too hard. He seems to go out of his way to use excessive rhythmical changes, purposefully making his music so complex that the little 8 or 10 minute tracks he allots to presentations on a CD are too short to explore the dramatic possibilities within the themes. Since most of today's dancers seem to have become more frenetic and concerned with technique above heart and entertainment concerns, Ramzy will certainly become one of the strongest producers of dance music in the current decade.

"Faddah" is one of Ramzy's more captivating CDs to dance with because of its snappy arrangements and top musicians.

It has a full sound in its orchestration and each track has so many changes that the dancer has very little time left over to fuss over herself and her costume. This is, of course, a blessing for audiences who more often have had to endure the endless summers of Dancer's Ego onstage. However, personally, I would like to have experienced more of the melodic themes shining through the awkwardly pervasive and heavy rhythms. I would have hoped for more opportunity for individual solo instruments to display virtuosity. I would prefer to have the dancer challenged more by the charismatic content of the twinkling kanoon, the comforting mellow trembles of the oud, the cries and clowning of the violin, and a few less rhythm changes!

The third cut on this recording is revealing. Demurely, Ramzy has the vocalists sing (shown here in part):

"…Hossam's tabla is going to make us dance…
Hossam Ramzy, be generous with us…
…Hossam Oh Ramzy we are here
Hossam Oh Ramzy drum for us…
…Make us dance…("Ra-Assna", from female voices)
…You are witnessed by the whole world
And the clever ones will be learning from you.
Hossam is a Ramzy from the Pashas
And rhythm was created especially for him.
This is why there aren't two of him, not in Egypt , nor in the 5 continents."

In Egypt I have often enjoyed orchestras with five or more drums, three def players, a finger cymbal specialist, and various other percussionists. Yet the thousand year old nai player in a tuxedo is given his moments of glory sans percussive pummeling! Also, in my heart of hearts I believe that women do not have to be "made" to dance by the beat of a drum, but simply allowed to share the underlying message of spirit, gentle or impassioned, contained in the music. That spirit is what has made the music of Farid El Atrache, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Abdel Wahab enduring as well as endearing.

If you are enticed by the intricacies of many rhythm changes in musical selections, I refer you to the well organized and informative insert notes. I wish Hossam Ramzy Godspeed on his quest into 21st century Egyptian dance.

However, it is my hope that he will embrace some quietude and gentility from the past in the form of taxim of 20th century dance lore.

Audiences do not need to be stimulated relentlessly and neither do dancers. Though I would have to admit that a few seem to need a rhythmic hotfoot, more are in need of a sea breeze of melody. I would welcome a Ramzy produced CD constructed to tell a musical story or musical mood drama that could be danced with heartfelt artistry by women who do not desire to struggle with challenge as much as they long to live, dance and express the messages life through music.

Ready for more?
another review by Najia-
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