Review of “Qanun El Tarab
produced by Hossam Ramzy and Maged Serour

CD Reviewed by Najia El Mouzayen
March 6, 2002

A vast ye maties!  Hossam Ramzy has fired yet another musical salvo across the bow of your tall ship.  While you were busy searching for new dance fodder among the recent fusion music and songs from disco darlings like Amr Diab, Cap’n Hoss was busy collaborating musically with another musically classic Egyptian, Maged Serour.  Serour plays a truly inspired qanun (kanoon)!  Maged Serour was a member of the Al Maseya Orchestra, one of the major successes of the eighties, which produced much of my preferred style of Oriental dance music during that era. One would be hard pressed to find a finer maestro of the qanun anywhere in the world.  It was, therefore, a delight to my ears to listen to Hossam Ramzy’s latest offering to the seemingly hungry dance community, Qanun El Tarab (The Spirit of the Qanun/Kanoon).

Very soon I found my heart swooning over the fourth track of the CD to a selection titled “El Ahram Fil Fagr” (the Pyramids at Dawn).  Some music just seems to work its magic upon your dance mechanism and works the tarab within you, moving you deftly upon a watery journey of expressive movement.  (…Until now, I thought only a violin or an opera diva could move my dance spirit easily!)

The 5th track, “We Maly Bass” (How He Spoils Me) is a pleasantly cute tune about which the insert notes are a bit misleading.  It says in the insert notes that this is a “song sung by Warda Al Jazaireya”….  It is however, an instrumental, not a song, and is played by both Ramzy and Serour.  Granted, Warda Al Jazairey made it famous, but she does not sing it here, nor is anything sung by anyone on this recording. This CD is strictly instrumental, which I know appeals to many western dancers who fear lyric content.

“Alwan El Neel” (Colors of the Nile) is another favored selection that captured my attention and features a full orchestral sound.  It includes typically ethnic instruments (mizmars) giving it that unmistakable Egyptian sound.  At first, it is played at break-neck speed then it “morphs” itself into a slower theme with violins and cello backing the ever-shimmering qanun. At one point the qanun is coupled with the keyboard, and for once, the keyboard was not objectionable to me, though I have never liked the synthetic and often overbearingly harsh tones of this electronic gizmo in Arabic music.  Amusingly, the insert states that Maged Serour musically and rhythmically expresses many “feels” from Egypt in this selection. (Perhaps the producer will find a better English proofing person for Hossam’s next jewel case insert.)

“Maliket Afrequia” (Queen of Africa) is a beautiful instrumental, inevitably featuring the qanun and the tabla, which transported me back to those infrequent times when I danced in the cabarets of San Francisco twenty years ago to the lovely strains of the qanun played by Jalalladin Takesh at the Casbah and George Elias at the Bagdad.  Music similar to this presentation was often the style of music to which we whirled our dancing veils and did our most stunningly sensuous floor-wallows (seldom seen anymore). Queen of Africa is, perhaps, the “taxim” for which I was longing, as I mentioned when reviewing Hossam Ramzy’s last CD, “Faddah” (Silver).

Track nine of this CD presents a medley that is equal to any I have ever heard in the Egyptian nightclubs played for the well-known dancers.  It is a logical medley, teaming three old favorites, “Samra Ya Samra”, “Ennaby”, and “Gamil Wasmar”.

The Rahabany Brothers’ “Nassam Aleina El Hwaw” is one of my long time personal favorites and this particular rendition is lovely and paced well.  This particular song reminds me of the “dance movies” featuring Samia Gamal though it was better known as a song made famous by the Lebanese singer, Fairuz.

Oddly titled “Mon Amour”, the last qanun feature on this recording seems overly pensive for a dance-oriented selection.  I might have feared that it could be used by those western-style dancers who get high on “the tragedy of life”, spinning too fast with their dance veils, while sporting a dower countenance.

However, this recording, as a few others of Hossam Ramzy’s recordings states implicitly along its face rim: “Unauthorised copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting of this record prohibited.” [Italics mine.]

Therefore, I do not expect any of the Gilded Serpent readers to be seen dancing to it in public anytime soon (at least, not without written consent from collaborators, Ramzy and Serour). Mon Amour is beautifully moody, and demonstrates Maged’s artistry on the qanun. The qanun just trails off into the… 

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