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Hamza Namira: Insan
Namira has always possessed a sophisticated and artistic hold on his music, and the sixteen tracks on Insan pay testament to the originality and care taken with every song; whether that be in the instrumentalism or lyrics. This is helped by the high production values, which serve to make the album an outstanding release.
The theme of the album is by no means ambiguous, as Namira is very forthcoming with his lyrics; each song has a personal touch. There are no clichéd romantic sentiments present in the songs and the album as a whole deals more with social and humanitarian issues in an array of ways; it’s poignant, humorous and always meaningful.
Namira starts the album with the title track ‘Insan’, a strong opening where he doesn’t hold back. For those who might not be familiar with his work, the track will immediately pull you into his passionate vocals. ‘El Midan’ (The Square) refers to the January 25th revolution, and the opening melodic piano and violin breaks into a high-spirited song as Namira proclaims ‘Lift your head up high/You’re Egyptian’. ‘El Taghriba 2’ (Estrangement 2) is a traditional oriental song that talks of the solitude and isolation of emigration. The song is still hopeful, though; as Namira insists that he will one day return.
Much has been said of the sectarian conflict in Egypt, but ‘Ebn El Watan’ (Nation’s Son) takes a refreshingly frank and untainted approach to the subject. Although he does touch on a small hope that the differences can be bridged, the song remains sombrely realistic.
‘Balady Ya Balady’ (My Country, My Country), is one of the lighter songs on the album, and leans more to Egyptian folk music as Namira sings about different parts of Egypt. ‘Ya Hanah’ takes a comical approach to criticism of the ever decreasing standards of education in Egypt.
The lyrics of ‘El Wushoosh’ (The Faces) again take a light approach to a serious issue; this time it's the rampant hypocrisy and two-facedness of present in Egyptian culture. What is apparent in all of Namira’s songs is his sincerity and belief in his words; this, of course, makes the messages carried in his songs that much more affective.
While this is from top-to-bottom an album of traditional Egyptian pop music, the reliance on Egyptian stringed instruments is complimented by a range of different musical styling. The album was worked on and recorded in Turkey, and the influences of this can be seen in songs such as ‘Insan’ and ‘Ya Hanah’. There are also some very apparent rock-inspired sounds on ‘El Midan’, ‘Ew’edoony’ (Promise Me) and ‘Sot’ (Sound), which also include some electronic touches.
Other standout tracks include jazz number ‘Doori’ (Turn) and ‘Hansa’ (I’ll Forget), which borrows from the funk, disco and dance genres.
Insan has shown Namira to be an artist who pays attention to details, and is meticulous with his work. This has translated into a refined and earnest sound that we believe could propel the artist into stardom.
It is next to impossible to define the sound of the Dirty Projectors. As soon as one tries to put their finger on any sort of genre or sound, it will have already transformed itself - either sonically or lyrically – into something else entirely.
For David Longstreth, the songwriting genius behind
the Dirty Projectors, combining filthy lyrical imagery, Mariah Carey vocals, a
classical brass section, indie rock ethics, minimal techno, Wizard of Oz duets,
and hip-hop beats, is a seemingly effortless task.
Over the past decade, Longstreth has released over ten LPs and EPs, all which prove that his band is everything that Dave Matthews Band and the Magnetic Fields try to be – witty, daring, intelligent, honest, weird; in other words, different. Swing Lo Magellan, maintains that tradition, though in a somewhat more welcomed and accessible way.
However, Swing Lo is still bizarrely weird.
While for the first time the majority of songs are built around verse/chorus
song structures - and it feels as if Longstreth has tried to keep his
experimentation bound to structure - every song still sounds like a musical
experiment in itself.
The Dirty Projectors are a band of six who are more or less based in Brooklyn, New York. However, in ten years the band has easily gone through twenty members, and a rotating cast – Longstreth aside – simply seems to be part of the essence of this band.
It’s difficult to define what each band member specifically does because there’s no formula, and so individual roles often change with each song. There is a huge variety of sounds – clapping, duets, guitar riffs, eastern and western beats, digital effects – captured and produced using both hi-fi and lo-fi means. Dirty Projectors have collaborated with both Icelandic singer Björk, and new wave hero David Byrne of the Talking Heads, which hints at the diversity of their styles and tastes.
The off kilter, catchy pop track ‘About to Die,’
evokes a weird, sort of dyslexic Maroon 5-type groove, whilst Longstreth
lyrically ponders: “How can I hope to seize the tablet of values and redact it?
Foolish, I know, but I’m about to die”, that is, unless he’s “already dead”.
The opening track ‘Offspring are Blank,’ plays with the idea of species propagation, of fertile parents giving birth to blank children. However, it’s delivered over hip-hop beats, r&b vocals and pop-punk rock choruses.
There are also beautiful, guitar pop songs, such as title track ‘Swing Lo Magellan,’ which combines acoustic guitar, beautiful playful imagery, and a sense of wonder and adventure. But even with this simple song, the production sneakily bombards the listener with two tracks simultaneously. If listened to with headphones, one finds that that the right speaker is delivering an acoustic, beat-less ballad, and the left speaker is a bluesy, drum and bass groove; when combined, the magic is delivered.
However, just when one begins to grasp what this
album is all about, the punkish, dark, Pink Floyd-ish track ‘Maybe that was It’
comes as an exploration of what it would lyrically and sonically sound like to
come off LSD – confused and disoriented.
It is almost futile picking tracks off of this
record, as they’re all beautiful and unique in their own way. The current
single is ‘Gun Has No Trigger,’ but whatever the listener’s taste, there is
definitely something, somewhere on this record for everybody.
The name Swing Lo Magellan is a likely reference to renowned explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s daring voyage under South America, where he ‘swang lo’, becoming the first person to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In a way, that is exactly what it sounds like Longstreth is doing with this album: creating groundbreaking connections where most believed they would and could never be made. Swing Lo Longstreth, Swing Lo.
As per usual with Amr Diab’s albums, the whole of Egypt seemed to be on the edge of their seats waiting for the release of Banadeek Ta’ala (I’m Calling You, Come). And as always, the anticipation has been so high that once again songs were leaked online before the official release. However, even the online leaks didn’t stop queues of fans from lining up outside shops, waiting patiently to get their copies.
The album is made up of twelve songs, and the first thing that strikes you about the sound is that it has a predominantly upbeat tone. Think themes of romance and dancing; so the usual of Amr Diab.
The first song, which also happens to be the title track, barely features any of Diab’s vocals to speak of, but does fuse a house beat with an oud melody brilliantly. ‘Hala Hala’ follows, and is one of those upbeat romantic numbers that talks about a great life-changing love.
‘Ma’darsh Ana’ is one of the highlights of the album. It has one of the more oriental sounds, and takes you back to old-school Amr Diab. This is followed by another highlight in ‘Aloomek Leih’, which talks about two lovers drifting apart. The following ‘Ma’aak Bartaah’ is another house-influenced track with a very familiar but very catchy melody.
‘Ya Reit Senak’ marks a bit of a void; it isn’t the worst song in the world; but it doesn’t live up to the preceding songs’ standards. The subject matter – he’s fallen for a girl who’s too young – is beyond awkward and its lyrics will leave some listeners cringing. ‘Maaly Enaya’ is exactly the type of songs you’ll hear at weddings and other likewise over-the-top Egyptian celebratory events. It just makes you want to get up and dance.
‘Heya Hayaty’ offers much of the same, before
we see a change of pace with ‘Yom
Matabelna’. This song marks a softer tone and sees Diab at his smoothest and
most romantic, and would make the perfect first dance at a wedding.
Skipping over the unremarkable ‘Aghla Min Omry’, we get to the last two songs, both of which Diab has performed for a few years at his gigs. Although they have been part of his repertoire, these recordings are completely different instrumentally, especially ‘Tagrobah we ‘Adet,’ which features minimal vocals. The one constant is the chorus, which is repeated to the point that it might grate on you.
All in all, this is a safe but ultimately triumphant return for Diab. Banadeek Ta’ala never really steers far from what we expected; but then if it isn’t broken, why fix it?
You can buy the album from Amr Diab’s official website.