Diaspora’s captivating style on Reggae Arabesque is a combination of musical styles I’ve never heard before: Arabic music with reggae. The group is formed by Jamaican, Italian, and French musicians. Using powerful reggae beats and vocals, the arrangements and melodies are clearly Arabic. Reggae Arabesque’s intention is to widen the African roots of reggae to Sudan, Egypt and beyond through the use of Arabic scales and instruments such as the darbuka and ‘ud, together with the violin. To order the CD check www.myspace.com/diasporamusicuk.
Egyptian musician Moddathir Abdoul Wafa is one of the finest performers of the ‘ud. Spanish label Nesma Music recorded Toola in Cairo. Even though Wafa uses a traditional Cairo-style orchestra, his creative ud technique and string ensemble and percussion arrangements make the music edgy and contemporary. The excellent quality of the audiophile recording and the liner notes in English, Spanish, German and French also help make this CD really attractive.
For a jazz twist to Arabic and North African music, M’Oud Swing has released Modal Citizens. Within the framework of highly skilled jazz fusion, M’Oud Swing adds Moroccan, Egyptian and Flamenco influences into the music. In addition to the usual instruments one finds in fusion (Barry Sames- keyboards, Anibal Rojas-sax, Dave Brodie-bass and Najib Saleem-drums), the band also includes an ‘ud performer, Kadim Kadiri, as well as Middle Eastern percussion played by Joe Tayoun. This is high energy fusion spiced with North African essences. Get the CD from www.moudswing.com.
The ‘ud is found in North Africa and the Middle East. It is also found in Armenia. On Oud Masterpieces, Armenian-American ud master Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian plays a collection of pieces from Armenia, Turkey and the Middle East. His lively ensemble includes accomplished instrumentalists Beth Borgerhoof on accordion, Michael Gallant on violin, Eric LaPerna on dumbek and Bau Graves on guitar.
The Rough Guide to North African Cafe (2007) is a fascinating collection of modern Arabic pop, rai, funky Berber beats, lounge and even some adventurous music from the Maghreb (Northwestern Africa) and mestizo musicians in southern Europe (Spain and France).
Far to the East, Iraq was one of the cradles of Arabic classical music. The CD Maqams of Baghdad (2006) by Safaafir pays tribute to this rich heritage. The extensive booklet provides captivating details about the history of the maqam. Safaafir is formed by Amir El Saffar on santur and lead vocals, Dena El Saffar on joza and vocals, Tim Moore on dumbek, naqqarat and vocals; Johnny Farraj on riqq and vocals; and Omar Dewachi on vocals.