Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Arabic Music 2008

Since the year 2008 has been one of the better times in terms of Arabic music and great albums. I have decided to put together a comprehensive guide for all major albums releases during the year 2008. A number of Arab artists managed to make a comeback in 2008. Other artists went missing. New stars were born. Some faded a bit. And all in one year. I tried to get as many links as I can in order to give you an idea of the songs or the artis we are praising, roosting, or trashing. Enjoy…

Najwa Karam
They have two monuments in Lebanon that rival each other in altitude: Mount Lebanon and Najwa Karam. The true heir of Lebanese legend Wadee’l Safi is Ms. Karam who enjoys a mountain-like voice (can you say Mariah Carey?). If I had a buck for every great song Najwa made, I would be living in my own private island. “Ta’a Khabeek”, “’Am bamza’h Ma’ak”, “Ma Bkhaby ‘Aleek” and pretty much the entire album connects you with this voice and binds your heart to hers in seconds. Did I also mention that the older she gets, the foxier she looks? Wisdom comes with age, which is especially true in her sense of what not to sing.

Ali El-Haggar
Haggar released his much anticipated new album entitled “Hawa We Adam.” The fact that this album is El-Haggar’s first album in five years (a real accomplishment for Arab Singers), is a true breath of fresh air in an already crowded and largely congested musical scene. In it, El-Haggar does two things to reveal his musical identity. He first forgets that he is or ever was Egyptian and then reminds everyone that he is Egyptian, and a proud one at that.

Mohamad Mohie
A third on our list, Mohie puts out his new album “Mazloom,” a word which conveys the meaning of being wronged or hurt in a deep, personal way and which sets the tone for the entire album. The album is lavishly decorated with a wide arrangement of musical styles, incorporating everything from Rap, Pop, R&B; and Rock in the mix. This colorful corsage of musical varieties in one record is definitely the album’s greatest achievement when you stop to think about Mohie’s self-chosen isolation for five years and his return to the musical stage with this hit CD. Sometimes, taking a sabbatical really pays off!

Amer Monib
Amer Moneeb, the Egyptian singer and occasional movie star released an album that no one saw coming entitled “Hazi Min El Sama.” To be honest, I never thought much of Moneeb, but this album restored my faith in Egyptian music; its best chance in the plight forward is to look backward and to reconnect with it. For you to better understand my point, just listen to the song “Gait ‘Ala Bali” or watch the Feek Haga Video. Thumbs up Moneeb!

Mohamed Fouad
Here’s a bit of personal insight: my brother Majid and I have absolutely nothing in common when it comes to music. But Foad is the one exception to that bit of privileged information. The hit maker of the mid- and late 90’s hasn’t had much luck since the release of his somewhat-decent album in 2002. This time though, with the release of “Walah Nos Kelma” Fouad takes that much needed bold, but beautiful step. For starters, I am glad he took this album seriously and dropped some pounds to take some good promotional photos for the CD’s cover. Watch his “Taminiy ‘Aleek” song/concert to see his fan base.Ya Fouad: please don’t stop now! You still have four or five good albums left in you, buddy!

Nancy Ajram
The Arab world’s hottest pop performer has reached a new level. She released her album “Bitfakir Fi Eih” with a chain of great songs that I can actually count on more than one hand. I have always liked some of her songs (you know, a song here on this album, a song there on that one) but this album just makes me like Nancy. An all-around true star, she aims higher and reaches new heights at a time when artists are a dime a dozen. Her “Betgy Sertak” is a proof that this gal can really sing. “Bitfakir fi Eih” introduces hard metal music to the Arab musical scene, while “Lamsit Eid” softly touches your heart on so many levels. “Ebin Eljiran” just serves as a reminder as to why we all love Nancy. Her recent wedding only prepares us to say Mabrook, Arabic for Congratulations (Side note: contrary to most Arab stars, Nancy did not marry a fitly rich business man)

Sea of the Stars
A sound track of an Arabic movie financed by Pepsi about a small time promoter who wants to throw a concert with the biggest Arabic stars in order to save his business, the album features songs by Wael Kofori, Carol Semaha, Ahmad Shareef, Haifa, Rowida El Mahrouqi and others from among today’s “best” singers. Overlooking how horrible the movie is, the soundtrack is not all that bad. I enjoyed “Jeet” by Carol Semaha, and Wael’s song “Shu M’bakiki” but the bust tracks on the CD come from the up-and-coming Lebanese babe Brigit Yagy a former Super Star contender who has three songs on the soundtrack and to say the least, gives her audience the biggest bang for their Dinar. Try putting “Sybalak Albi” on your musical pipe and smoking it for a while.

Mohamad Mounir
A native from the south of Egypt’s, Mounir is one Arab entertainer that was born to be an American Rock Star. A devoted Sufi, he is seen by many as more than just a singer, especially when fusing old and new musical varieties and breaking out of the love song pattern, into more religiously themed compositions. His previous album was a wonderful Sufi album. His “Taam El Beyout” album features songs in a flowery arrangement of different styles which creatively mixes Arabic with the southern language of Egypt’s Aswan in his “Naygiri Beh” track. “Younes” is a creatively titled hit. But it’s “Kan Fadel” and his remake of the treasured Algerian song “Tahit El Yassmina” that speak to me in so many ways.

The Lebanese diva and my own personal sugar mama released an album in late 2007 entitled “Ayami beek” I must confess the following: Anything this gal sings, I would buy and listen to. Elissa’s style is known to portray the vulnerable girl that will always love you for who you are and not for your potential. “Awakhir El Shity” is a nice attempt to break into a new territory of calmer lounge music, while “Khod Balak A’leeah” is a great song that reminds Arab men to be kinder to the women in their life. In short, Elissa is hot (especially when she wears shorts). One thing though: Elissa sounds good on CD, but I hear that her concerts are like a death march where she only stands on stage doing the model walk and singing playback. She might be uptight and too jealous of Amr Diab, but I will listen to her new albums and old ones. Rumor has it that she’s about to announce her engagement. Elissa, Habibti please call me before you pull such a crazy stunt.

Nawal El Zogbi
Growing up, we all have those special artists we heard on the radio or saw on the t.v. and we all wish them the best. For me, Nawal was one of my special artists. Nawal’s newest album “Albi Isalo” is perhaps the Middle East’s bestselling album in 2008 and for good reasons. Nawal has always made good songs and she rarely misses with her choice of songs. This album is sure to be with us for a long time (and I mean a looong time), not only because of its vibrant style, but also because of its colorful musical arrangement. Crank up “Albi Isalo,” “Shu Hal Alb,” and “Tigy Menak” to get a better sense of the genius of this album. Nawal, I am sorry for your recent divorce and hope it won’t stop you from making some quality hits. (Unfortunately, her husband still manages her career)

This girl made the cut only because of her ability to make an album with 12 tracks while pulling off all her business gigs and concerts in style. While I may never call myself a Haifa fan, I admire her as a business woman who is able to sing, party and make lots of money. Her album “Habib Ana” has a couple of catchy songs like “Mat’olsh la had.” Simply put, Haifa is one of those women with little talent, but one who possesses a great sense of style and the looks to do really do well in the entertainment business. Good for her! In the end though, she will always be like the city of Haifa: beautiful, sunny and always showing a lot of skin.

Amr Mostafa
While composing many of the great and memorable hits of Amr Diab, Samira Said and the likes, this composer-turned-singer is capable of making good music, but not necessary for himself. “’Alama Fi Hayati” is the title of Mostafa’s latest album, and while the album is far from the karaoke music style we can expect from Egyptian stars, the album doesn

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