ARC Music announced today that Egyptian percussionist and composer Hossam Ramzy passed away on Tuesday, September 10th September 2019. He was 65. Hossam was undergoing treatment for a heart condition in Brazil, though the condition was very advanced.
Known as Egypt’s Ambassador of Rhythm, Hossam succeeded in injecting Egyptian rhythms into multiple projects. Hossam Ramzy worked with Jimmy Page & Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Shakira, Ricky Martin and A.R. Rahman, appeared on recordings by Peter Gabriel and Jay-Z, and composed music for numerous films.
Throughout the last three decades, Hossam traveled the world, educating in the art of true Egyptian dance. His concepts of dance and rhythm helped tens-of-thousands of dancers and percussionists perfect their techniques. During this time, he also found the time to release over thirty albums of Egyptian dance and world music, and produce countless more for artists from all around the world.
Everyone knows that the tin
with an assortment of cookies is just so much better than the tins with just a
single kind of cookie. It’s just so much better to sample one’s way through
dark chocolate covered cookies, white chocolate wafers, shortbread squares,
bites of buttery Madeleine cookies or milk chocolate covered cookies with tiny
pictures pressed into the chocolate than a beaten up bag of plain old
snicker-doodles. That’s just fact.
Interestingly enough it can
be the same way with music and our friends at ARC Music know this and have put
a wonderful collection for listeners to nibble their way through on Journey to
the Middle East. This compilation works its way through the music of Syria,
Egypt, Persia, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Turkey. This glorious collection
would delight the most seasoned listener or the newbie listener dipping an ear
into the musical mysteries of the Middle East.
Listener get a dose of the dramatic right up front with the traditional song and dance from Cyprus titled “Cifdetelli” by the folk ensemble Yeksad. Journey to the Middle East turns hip with Hossam Ramzy and Phil Thornton’s “Planet Egypt” replete with hypnotic percussion and call-and-response interplay between mizmar, argul and kawala from the ARC release Planet Egypt.
Up next is “Aziz Jun” by Zohreh Jooya, originally from the ARC release Persian Nights. Fans will simply not want to miss “Midnight Sun” by Dastan Trio. This track is just simply impressive as Dastan musicians Pejman Hadadi, Hossein Behroozi-Nia, and Hamid Motebassem weave a web of improvisational mastery on barbat, setar and tombak that includes some spectacular percussion.
If that weren’t enough to lure listeners to Journey to the Middle East, there’s the sly and sassy “Iraqi Jazz” by Ahmed Mukhtar, the sweetly soulful “Mi Yitneni Of” by The Burning Bush, originally from the ARC release Folksongs from Israel. There’s also “Amaken” by Andre Hajj & Ensemble, the sultry vocals on the Syrian song “Hayyamatni” by Zein Al-Jundi and Armenian dance song “Karoun, Karoun/Nooneh” by Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian.
The Iranian percussionists of Zarbang have on offer “Cycling Feast” and it is a powerful Sufi trance, ancient Iranian call to the wild and percussion extravaganza all rolled into one. Journey to the Middle East keeps up the wild ride all the way to the end with a final track from Ensemble Huseyin Turkmenler called “Rumeli Karsilamisi.”
Journey to the Middle East is a whole assortment treats and everyone knows that’s the best.
Hossam Ramzy is one of the most important currently active percussionists / composers. This CD’s subtitle, “The Heart and Soul of Egyptian Music,” is not the sort of overstated puffery usually associated with the phrase, “heart and soul,” but a sincere expression of the man’s dedication to musical expression.
Like his past several releases, it is also a culmination of his lively, ongoing musing on music in general, and of human life itself. These 14 pieces are compact philosophical and artistic treatises as much as they are tunes.
Life is that which makes a conscious effort to maintain itself and grow. Good is that which abets Life; Evil is that which hinders it. That is Hossam Ramzy’s rhythm and commentary. The songs are microcosms, vignettes upon which he zooms in within the big picture of our shared existence. Each can be interpreted as a day, a crucial event or a demonstrative sample of the life we lead or the life we are offered.
He makes world music accessible to even novice listeners by enriching stark, primordial rhythms and melodies through use of musical sections, exemplary recordings and effects such as doubling that enrich each and every participating instrument.
Versed and expert in many genres and traditions, Mr. Ramzy relaxes on this release with a comfortable bedding in the music of his homeland, Egypt.
Because he is within his own zone of greatest comfort, the result is exquisite and in all ways right, but at the same time free of formality.
The players all sound as if, in one another’s company and support, they are each eager to push themselves to excel, by their own standards. “Habibet Alby,” the sixth cut, is a wonderful demonstration of how musicians can work as a team to build chords, riffs and passages into a song.
“Ana W’Habibi” is an entrée for percussionists, utilizing rests as well and effectively as it utilizes notes. Throughout these and the other dozen cuts on “El Berencesa,” Hossam Ramzy is in the driver’s seat, not only playing, but conducting with his instrument.
Congratulations to the artist and all those who seek this release out for their own collections.
Born in Cairo, on December 15, 1953, Hossam Ramzy’s musical career began at the age of three when he was given his first drum, an Egyptian tabla. Hossam’s passion and talent for percussion was noted by his family, and he was encouraged to study under leading Cairo music teachers. A move to Saudi Arabia, where he met people from many Bedouin tribes, gave the young Hossam a rich insight into the cultural origins of Middle Eastern music.
In the mid 1970s Hossam arrived to England, and enjoyed great success as a jazz drummer working with respected musicians such as Andy Sheppard and Geoff Williams. Hossam soon found himself turning full circle back to his first love, the Egyptian drums, and the thrilling dance rhythms of the Middle East. He then incorporated his rhythmic experience into creating a new sound since heard on hundreds of well known albums.
The distinctive sound of Hossam’s Arabic and North African string arrangements, and his exciting percussion, soon caught the imagination of Peter Gabriel. Hossam was invited to perform on Passion, and later on Us and Up.
Hossam then developed his skills in both string arrangements and production, and has played on, arranged and produced many songs for some of the world’s leading artists such as: Yesim Salkim, Celick Erici, Cheb Khaled, Tarkan, Rachid Taha, Faudel, the Gypsy Kings, etc.
In 1994 Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) invited Hossam to bring together a band of Arab musicians and work on their reunion album No Quarter – Unledded. The album was a worldwide bestseller. This led to Hossam joining Page and Plant on their historic reunion 1995/96 world tour.
A subsequent highlight was his involvement as orchestra director and lead percussionist for the historic 1-2-3 Soleil concert and album, which brought together the talents of Khaled, Taha, Faudel, and many of North Africa’s leading musicians.
Hossam released numerous albums of Egyptian dance music for ARC Music, and in November 2001, at the label’s 25th Anniversary party, he was awarded a special Platinum disc for being their top selling artist, with over 200,000 sales.
His extensive discography includes: Afro-Celt Sound System, Marc Almond, Joan Armatrading, Ash, Claudio Baglioni, Big Country, Bond, Chick Corea, Pino Daniele, Anne Dudley, E.L.O., Celick Erici, Faudel, Peter Gabriel, Boy George, Gypsy Kings, Deborah Harry, Greg Hunter, Jay-Z, Kamal Ka?et, Alexandros Karozas, Cheb Khaled, Donal Lunny, Mathilda May, Loreena McKenitt, Maryam Mursal, Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Procol Harum, Rolling Stones, Rachid Taha, Tarkan, Barbara Thompson, Mari Wilson and Paul Young.
Film Soundtracks: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Saint, Stargate, Stealing Beauty, Wings of a Dove.
Hossam was honored in 2014 with the significant Taichi
Traditional Music Awards (Chinese Institute of Music) for his project Bedouin
Tribal Dance, portraying the traditional wedding rituals of nomadic Bedouins.
In 2019, he gave a special performance alongside Loreena
McKennitt at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall.
Hossam Ramzy died on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019
Best of Farid Al Atrash (ARC Music, 1994) Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz (ARC Music, 1994) Best of Oum Kalthoum (ARC Music, 1994) Best of Mohammed Abdul Wahab (ARC Music, 1994) Baladi Plus (ARC Music, 1994) Sultaan (ARC Music, 1994) Egyptian Rai (ARC Music, 1995) Source of Fire (ARC Music, 1995) Gamaal Rawhany – Soulful Beauty (ARC Music, 1996) Eternal Egypt (1996) Ahlamy, with saxophonist Rafat Misso (ARC Music, 1996) Eclectic with Big Country (Castle Music, 1996) Best of Hossam Ramzy (1997) Messiah Meets Progenitor (1998) Ro-He with Essam Rashad (ARC Music, 1998) Rhythms of the Nile (ARC Music, 1998) Immortal Egypt (1998) Amar (2000) Sabla Tolo — Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion (ARC Music, 2000) Faddah (ARC Music, 2002) Qanun El Tarab (ARC Music, 2002) Flamenco Arabe (ARC Music, 2003) Hossam Ramzy Presents Egyptian Sufi Sheikh Mohamed Al Helbawy (ARC Music, 2003) Enchanted Egypt (New World, 2004) Bedouin Tribal Dance (ARC Music, 2007) Secrets of the Eye (ARC Music, 2007) Sabla Tolo II (ARC Music, 2007) Sabla Tolo III (ARC Music, 2008) Ruby (ARC Music, 2009) Rock the Tabla (ARC Music, 2011)
After his fruitful collaboration with master Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy on the best selling album Flamenco Arabe, flamenco guitar virtuoso Rafa El Tachuela returns with a masterpiece of work, a collection of romantic and beautiful compositions in Flamenco Romantico.
The moods evoked on the 12 instrumental tracks range from harmony and longing to quarrels and beauty. Born in Berlin, Rafa El Tachuela began teaching himself flamenco guitar at the age of thirteen.
He has toured through Europe as a soloist. Our picks on this album include the upbeat Con Temperamento and the Arabic-tinged Juntos en la Inspiracion.
So rarely in life we are given exactly what we want. For musicians those dream collaborations are just that – dreams. Well, Hossam Ramzy , Egypt’s Ambassador of Rhythm, got a whole CD worth of those dream collaborations for his Rock The Tabla CD out on the ARC Music label. And, we’re taking collaborations with the likes of A.R. Rahman, Billy Cobham, Manu Katche, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jimmy Waldo, Chaz Khoshi, Phil Thornton, John Themis and Joji Hirota. That’s a whole lot a dreams come true. If the collaborations are anything to go by Mr. Ramzy must have a fairy godmother in his closet or something.
Starting out his early career as part of England’s 70s jazz scene with performances with Andy Sheppard and Geoff Williams, Hossam Ramzy began to explore his own Egyptian drumming roots and a flavored Middle Eastern repertoire with Peter Gabriel on the recordings of Passion and Us. Working with the likes of Joan Armatrading, Mari Wilson, Cheb Khaled, Rachid Taha and Faudel, as well as teaming up with Arabic musicians for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on the reunion recording No Quarter – Unledded, Mr. Ramzy has kicked the music world square in the rhythm section.
His film music credits are just as impressive with work on such movies as Stargate, The Saint, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stealing Beauty and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He also has a 2007 concert with Chick Corea, Isaac Hayes and Mark Isham to his credit and has worked on Shakira’s She Wolf as an arranger and musician.
Rich and lushly worked, Rock The Tablaa opens with a combo of styles incorporating flamenco, Arabian and Greek influences with a dash of Cairo street music thrown in for good measure on “Arabantana” before swinging into the slick and sassy “Cairo to India” with A.R. Rahman at the keyboards. Arabic flash with jazzy overtones “Six Teens” hits the spot with Billy Cobham on drums, Mr. Ramzy on Egyptian and world percussion, Ossama El Hendy on keyboards, sequencers and bass, Phil Thornton on e.bow guitars and Mohammed Ali on electric violin and oud.
Other goodies include the sizzling “Ancient Love Affairs” with Elhamy Ezzat on vocals, Jimmy Waldo on keyboards, sequencers and bass, Tim Pierce on guitar, the Hassm Ramzy String Ensemble as well as Mr. Ramzy himself, the kick ass percussion track “Shukran Arigato” with Mr. Ramzy and Joji Hirota and the West African inspired “Bluesy Flusey” with Mohammed Ali on electric violin and Sayed Al Hosseiny adding that special something on mizmar. “Sawagy” is truly inspired with vocals by Houda El Sombaty and some flash provided by Abdalla Helmy on nay. “Dom & Doumbia” is just as spectacular with Nahini Doumbia on bjimbe, djundjun and African conga against Mr. Ramzy’s Egyptian percussion on this rhythm saturated stunner. Dipped in swirling colors of keyboards, Egyptian percussion, some incendiary guitar lick and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on mizmar, title track “Rock the Tabla” … well, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
“My music is very much part of what is happening in Egypt today” – Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy
Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy realizes a 10-year dream with his latest album ‘Rock The Tabla’ – to be released later this month, on August 30. For this album, Hossam decided to invite some of his friends and the musicians he most respects and admires to join in: and these include legends A. R. Rahman, Billy Cobham, Manu Katché and Omar Faruk Tekbilek!
From Led Zeppelin to Shakira, Hossam has worked with some of the biggest stars and most talented musicians in the world. Ramzy first heard Billy Cobham playing on the Mahavishnu Orchestra album ‘Birds of Fire.’ A.R. Rahman contacted Ramzy in 2002 to play on the soundtrack of the film ‘Meenaxi: A Tale of 3 Cities.’ Ramzy had previously worked with Manu Katché on Peter Gabriel’s albums, and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on a tour of Australia.
Ramzy left Egypt for England in the mid-1970s to explore a career as a jazz drummer, and later blended ethnic Egyptian percussion with a range of Western styles and musicians. Earlier this year he released the album “Egypt Unveiled.” Ramzy dedicated the music of this album “to every Egyptian man, woman, child and elder who stood up to the suppression and who are creating the future of history to come.”
Hossam Ramzy joins us for an exclusive interview to discuss his new album, the musical forms and collaborations, and future work.
Q: Tell us how you got inspired to do the piece “Billy Dancing” in your album!
I got inspired to create this song while I was thinking of writing a piece that will incorporate the amazing world drummer Mr. Billy Cobham. He and I jammed together on many occasions and this rhythm in 9s is one of our favorites. Then I thought how about incorporating a true southern Egyptian Saidi Rhythm that we love to dance to!!! And it worked very well as a question and answer platform between the two of us. And as the Egyptian style of dance is known worldwide as “Belly Dancing”, I thought to myself… How appropriate to call it “Billy Dancing”! He loved the idea too.
Q: How would you compare the Indian tabla with Egyptian tabla?
The are so many similarities and so many differences. The main difference is that the Egyptian tabla is a one drum instrument, while the Indian tabla is in two parts: dayan & bayan. Another important point is the Indian tabla can be tuned to various notes. The Egyptian tabla has two basic sounds from the same drum: a dom and a tack.
The Indian tabla can be played as a solo instrument and as accompaniment to the rest of the group. The Egyptian tabla is played as part of an ensemble of percussion instruments such as the duff (frame drum), req (fish skin Tambourine), doholla (bass Egyptian tabla), mazhar (large frame drum with cymbals) and also the sagat (finger cymbals).
The Egyptian tabla keeps the rhythm and decorates musical phrases, same as the Indian tabla. We work in cycles of rhythm, same as in the Indian tabla. We do not usually cross pollinate rhythms and cycles as we play within a unit frame of cycles — unlike an Indian tabla player who would be given the freedom to cycle around in different counts while keeping the main frame of the rhythmic cycle apparent to the listener and the rest of the orchestra.
There is so much to say… but these are main and most basic points I can think of!
Q. How has your experience been in collaborating with A.R. Rahman?
It was a magical experience. AR is such an incredible artist who is one of the most generous people I have ever met in my experience within the music industry. A truly knowledgeable composer and musician who understands music from every corner of the planet.
He invited me to his home and studios in Chennai where I was given a brotherly welcome. He was very busy with all the interviews by almost all the press, radio and TV stations in the continent after winning the Oscars for the film “Slumdog Millionaire”. Still, AR made the time especially for me, took the time to arrange the song “From Cairo To India” and supervised every step of the recording. This included percussion, strings and vocals too.
I was so pleased with my visit there, I am looking forward to going back to work with him again and again!
Q. What future albums/videos do you have in mind?
Right now, I have a few projects that I am working on. One of them is a video clip for the song with AR, which we will film in both Egypt and India. I am working on an instructional Belly Dance DVD for dancing to drum solos from my Trilogy “Sabla Tolo I, II & III”. This should take the best part of what is left of 2011 and some of 2012.
I am also producing work for a few artists for the mainstream world of music: one is Miss Sebnem Bamsey from Turkey and the other is Miss Cora from the US.
Q:. How would you place your music today in the context of the changes happening in Egypt?
This is a very interesting question. My music is very much part of what is happening in Egypt today. I believe in coincidences and I believe in synchronicity. I released an album earlier this year, and it happened to be on the day it all started in Tahreer Square in Cairo! The 25th of January 2011. This date was decided in advance by the director of ARC Music Productions, not me. And guess what was the name of the album, which was chosen 10 months before the release date: “Egypt Unveiled!”
Danced all over the world, bellydance is linked to some of the richest folk, pop and classical music traditions of the Middle East. Think Global: Bellydance (RGNET1161CD) presents some of the best contemporary bellydance musicians and singers to have set the world on fire. Bellydance is a round up of the musical styles that have developed in tandem with the traditional Raqs Sharki (or Bellydance) dance of Arabic North Africa. The compilation brings together music from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and beyond. The tracks have been also been sequenced to suit a bellydance performance.
Notable inclusions on the CD include Hossam Ramzy, who has collaborated with the likes of Page & Plant, Joan Armatrading and Peter Gabriel (on the Passion album which formed the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ); The Cairo Orchestra, one of Egypt’s most famous bands and the house band of the Al-Ahram nightclub in Cairo; Richard Hagopian & Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s ‘Gypsy Fire’ project, an attempt to recreate the musical melting pot of New York’s 8th Avenue in the 1930s; Omar Faruk Tekbilek, who has worked with Don Cherry, Youssou N’Dour and Trilok Gurtu; and a legend amongst Egypt’s musicians, Dr Sami Nossair, the head of Cairo’s Music Conservatory.
Bellydance has been produced in collaboration with Oxfam, an independent organization and registered charity. They work at all levels from global to local, including international governments, global institutions as well as with local communities and individuals to ensure that everyone’s rights are fulfilled and protected.