Zein Al-Jundi Carves her Niche

Zein Al-Jundi

Sharrafouni” (WMD Productions, 2010)

Sharrafouni is the new recording by U.S.-based Syrian singer. This new effort aims to reach a wider audience. Although the traditional Syrian roots are still there, Zein Al-Jundi has jumped into the area of Arabic pop. Thankfully, she has stayed away from the cheesy keyboard sounds used by other artists in the genre. Instead, she went to Lebanon where she recorded with acoustic instruments, including Arabic violins, accordion, qanun, nay and oud.

The oud is totally improvisational, recorded in less than half an hour by Andre Hajj, who was one of the session musicians,” indicates Al-Jundi. “Ralph El Khoury, who is a fantastic DJ and sound engineer, did the mixing, with lots of meddling into his business by me.”

Her producer on this occasion the producer is pianist and composer Michel Fadel and the sound engineer is Ralph El Khoury, who is the founder of the Arab electronica group, the REG Project. They take Al-Jundi’s sound in a more modern direction. “The idea and genre of music for the first CD was dictated by ARC Music,” Al-Jundi says. “I picked the particular songs but didn’t have anything to do with the idea. I like and sing all different subgenres of Arabic music, so being self-produced and -funded, it was natural to go with something different, a more modern, pop sound.”

The pieces range from lively Arabic pop and ballads to Latin music and even disco. “Deciding to go on my own versus working with a record label and claiming artistic and business control of this project was an important step for me: coming up with the funds, connecting with the right people, collecting the tunes and, as it turned out, the extremely challenging process of living in the States and recording in Lebanon without an executive producer were all part of the process.”

Al-Jundi left Syria to attend the University of Texas at Austin. She stayed in the United States. Al-Jundi got her undergraduate degree in Architecture and a Master’s in Urban Design. She is locally renowned for teaching Bellydance as much as for her invigorating music.

Considering the size of Austin, there is a very strong (and somewhat-large) bellydancing community. Middle Eastern music is a bit more of a challenge, because there is always so much free or cheap music that it is hard to charge for Middle Eastern shows. Add to that that I have to bring musicians from out of town, and it can be challenging. I have carved somewhat a solid niche for myself as an artist and opened the shows to everyone, instead of catering exclusively to the Middle Eastern community.”

Sharrafouni is a vibrant album by a rising star in the Arabic pop music scene.

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