Record of the day: Simon Shaheen, "The music of Mohamed..."

Record of the day: Simon Shaheen, “The music of Mohamed…”

Simon Shaheen
The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Cd Axiom 422-846754-2)

It is difficult for Italian listeners to imagine the importance of a composer like Mohamed Abdel Wahab, his fame is
still widespread throughout the Middle East at levels not comparable to any Western composer.

Not only did Abdel Wahab compose the Egyptian national anthem, but he is considered the father of Bollywood, a musical-cinematographic phenomenon widespread throughout the eastern territory: a skilled singer and instrumentalist of the oud (stringed instrument similar to the lute) Wahab was also a famous actor; the very character he played on screen starting from 1933 created the archetype of the romantic and passionate hero who is still played in these films today. His seven starring films are still successfully shown on television and the more than 1800 songs he composed have become an integral part of the daily lives of millions of people.

Wahab was the first oriental composer to mix the traditional music of his country with elements taken from music
Western, inserting into his songs instruments (accordion, clarinet, electric guitar) different from those of the Arab tradition and rhythms such as tango and rumba with decidedly interesting results that you can listen to in this CD produced by Bill Laswell. The excellent oud soloist Simon Shaheen reinterprets some of his most famous themes not only among those written for the cinema but also several patriotic songs with a more serious style.

The ensemble of instrumentalists led by Shaeen is made up of first-rate virtuosos who with spectacular precision convey the rhythmic-melodic complexity of Wahab's scores, often composed of rapid superpositions of panels of contrasting character.
Songs like “Al Hinna”, “Sittel Habayeb”, “Mudnaka” are authentic jewels full of melodic inventiveness and overwhelming rhythms; even the Variations that Shaeen himself composed on Wahab's song “Min Gheir Leh” (composed at the age of 81 and sold over two million copies in a short time) are a beautiful piece that takes full advantage of the skill as an orchestrator that Shaheen possesses to an extent remarkable.

Warm, passionate music, with an often irrepressible vitality, it truly deserves to be known even beyond the confines of its gigantic public success in the Arab world.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.