Emet [Truly] (Atoll Music – France, 2003)
Ishtar, lead vocalist for the French group, Alabina manifested her dream of creating an album based on her mixed heritage (Egyptian, Spanish and Moroccan). According to her press release, “Ishtar transcends the frontiers of diverse religions and cultures to convey her message of peace to the world.” And if you look at the CD liner notes, you will see a contradictory message in which the exotic vocalist strikes a provocative pose wearing lingerie and a fur coat while yanking chains out of her coat. Well, I don’t know what the readers of this review are thinking, but I am thinking that we won’t have peace in the world until we stop exploiting our bodies to sell products and stop killing animals in the name of fashion. And what kind of message is Ishtar trying to send out to Arab women or women in general? Is she trying to convey that we won’t have peace in the world until all women have the freedom to flaunt their bodies in public and wear fashionable fur?
Ishtar does have other talents, including her vocal gifts featured on her debut solo release, Truly. The album also features North African rhythms (recalling groups such as Sawt Atlas at times), Arabic violin, piano, strings and horns. And while all of these instruments embellish this collection of songs, the obligatory programming weakens the carefully thought out arrangements. Ishtar displays her versatility with string-drenched laments, rock and Arabic pop. Her forte is the Arabic pop which is noticeable on Allahalek Ya Sidi with its juicy percussion and trumpet and Lo Dai Baahava. Nasse Ve Tire features flamenco guitar and Ls’orech Ha Yam highlights a virtual duet with the late Ofra Haza. The stunning Horchat Hai Caliptus is the crowning jewel on the CD with its solemn piano, cello and string arrangement and Ishtar’s heartfelt vocals.
Truly (Emet) is certainly worth a listen or two, but I feel that Ishtar needs to rethink her marketing strategies. If she truly longs for peace in the world, then she might consider dropping the Playboy bunny image and let her music speak for it self. And following the example of Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo would also be a good idea. Lhamo after all has set a good example for any of us to follow. She is a walking embodiment of peace.