Where Flamenco Meets the Middle East

Ali Khattab - Al Zarqa
Ali Khattab

Al-Zarqa (Nuevos Medios, 2010)

Egyptian guitarist Ali Khattab brings together Flamenco and Arabic music on his new CD titled Al-Zarqa. The album came out a few weeks ago, released by Madrid’s reputable Nuevos Medios label.

Although Ali Khattab has been living and studying Flamenco in Spain in recent years, he recorded Al-Zarqa in Cairo, with a large ensemble of musicians, including two special guests, Omar Beshir on oud and Abdou Dagher on violin.

Al-Zarqa presents traditional flamenco forms combined with the Arabic sounds of Egypt and Arab-Andalusian influences. Ali Khattab is a skilled guitarist and does not hesitate to venture into the more difficult flamenco forms. He uses traditional Flamenco rhythms such as the buleria, performed with Middle Eastern/North African percussion instruments.

Ali Khattab
“The term Al-Zarqa harkens back to the time of Al Andalus. The Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula called a type of dark haired woman with blue eyes Al Zarqa, a Moorish woman with pale eyes,” says Khattab. “Since my compositions are born out of the influence of the Middle East and flamenco, of east and west, I think it was very appropriate to use it to give title this project.

Flamenco palos (genres) such as soleá, seguiriya, taranta, tangos and rumbas are gathered here together with its eastern ancestors, the traditional maqamat of the Middle East, hijaz, rast, nawaathar, and nahawand.

With this music I started a voyage to far away times, mixing delicately the rhythms of the desert with echoes and sounds of ancient tribes. Without lyrics or language, without borders or territories, I wanted to take my music to its origin, an unknown place, full of mystery: the true roots of music.”

Ali Khattab, born in Cairo in 1977, became a professional musician at 17. His passion for Flamenco and Andalusian music led him to one of the cradles of flamenco, Jerez de la Frontera. He spent a lot of time in Andalusia, meeting and performing with influential flamenco musicians, singers, guitarists, and dancers who introduced him to the essence of flamenco.

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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