The Gilded Serpent presents...
by Amir Sofi

and Orchestra El Musaya
Self Produced and recorded in Cairo
CD review by Latifa

Zil Rating:

I feel that I must begin with a disclaimer. I am not a musician so I cannot sophisticatedly evaluate a piece of music with a musicians expertise. I hear the music with the ears of a dancer, and from this perspective, I write my comments and observations about this CD. As with most dancers, I am always listening to new CDs in the hope of finding a new piece for a Raks Sharki style dance.

Some parts of this CD would work well in a performance, for example, the drum solo on Track 3.

However, much of the material in the longer sets seems a bit diffuse and un-distinguished although they are punctuated by danceable moments.

Amir Sofi is a gifted percussionist. His solos throughout the recording are strong, and clear enough to pick up flagging energy in any piece of music, or to drive a dance performance.

Tracks 1 and 2 "Layali" and "Intel Hob", are not suitable dance pieces. They work for listening, or perhaps as background music for a dinner party.

The first Track featured a lot of conversations between various instruments such as violins and mizmar. This is definitely an interesting juxtaposition due to the different textures and emotions evoked by each instrument, but for me, the most enlivening part was the dumbec.

The second Track does pick up in the middle, but is still not enough to inspire a dance performance.

In Track 3- The drum solo (5 min 18 seconds) is complex and precise. The changes are strong, the combinations innovative, and transitions seamless. At one point there is a long roll or running of the dumbec subtly accented by such over rhythms as clavé and other more conventional accents. For me, this was the strongest track on the CD.

Track 5, titled "Holom" is definitely an inspiring piece. In trying to describe it, words such as "playful "come to mind. The transitions are smooth, the rhythmic patterns firm, and the accents are great. This piece includes a polyrhythmic groove and an intense chiftetelli also with unusual accents. This piece is definitely danceable.

Abdel Halim Hafezs Cocktail on track 6 has some good traditional sounds: again, with excellent transitions and solid dumbec. However, it starts with "Caravan" which I found slightly silly. Cut the beginning and the remainder is fine.

Track 7 is another strong , although shorter, dumbec solo (2:50). It is also quite innovative and uses unusual accents.

Track 9, "Amir Ooh Bess" was composed by Amir Sofi. It has an intense introduction with a strong malfouf entrance, good breaks, and smooth transitions. It is carried by a strong consistent baladi and features a good mizmar solo and vocals. The finale was a little weak, but, overall, the final track is also excellent.

After thought: My first thought was to rate this CD at a 2 until I realized, that at this time, one is fortunate to find a CD with even one useable track. This one has two or three! "So why was my reaction initially to downgrade it?" I asked myself.  It might have been technical aspects in recoding it. However, upon further thought and some conversation with a friend,

I realized that perhaps the fault lies with the order in which the selections are presented on the CD.

As unconventional as it might be, I imagined the drum solo on track 1 instead of track 3 and tracks 1 and 2 at the end of the CD. Since people often judge a CD by its first cut, an initial impression might have changed the way I heard the entire CD. (This is always a good thing to keep in mind when one listens to a new recording.)


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