Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kadim Al Sahir - Alrasm bil Kalimat (Album Review)


I bought the album when I was in Abu Dhabi last year October. It was around that time when the album first came out. During my three weeks stay the only music played at the Abu Dhabi Carrefour super markets were songs from that album.

Kadim Al Sahir is a pioneer and made his mark making songs with lyrics in Classical Arabic. I don't listen frequently to songs from such a genre, so I have to be careful with what I say about Al Sahir songs. Having said that, it does not mean I did not enjoy songs like “Hel Endaki Shak?” (Do You Have Doubts?) and “Ikhtary” (Make A Choice) from this master of profession Iraqi singer. Speaking of those two songs, mind you there is some 9 years gap between each song when I first listened to them, but both carry some special magic formula – here I am not making comparison or to say that they are better or worse than other Al Sahir songs like “Layla” (not Eric Clapton), or “Madrasa Al Hob” (School of Love), or even “Qooly Ohiboka” (Say You Love Me)…etc

Now that I talked about how I see Al Sahir’s music, I want to say that the magic formula I just mentioned is felt with a big dose on the new album, “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (English: Drawing with Words), especially on the title song, but lets stop here, I will talk about this song in a bit.

All songs on “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” album were composed by Al Saher himself, except for “Al Jareeda” (The Newspaper), a song with lyrics written in Gulf-Region dialect, and composed by Mohammed Shafiq, A Saudi musician who worked in the past with Al Sahir on songs from previous albums.

The album kicks off with “habeebety” (My beloved). The lyrics of the song are taken from a poem written by the legendary Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. Not my favorite song from the album, but I liked most the use of wa-wa guitar effects. From reading the lyrics and listening to the music I imagined a man deep in love with his woman, do passionate about every move, look, touch, even with the way she dance. The video clip of the song translated the song in the best way possible and as I anticipated. The second song is the orchestra like hit single “Al Mahkama” (The Court). This is an epic song, and to many it is the surprise of the album. The song is a duet with Moroccan female singer Asma Lemnawar. I read somewhere that the song originally made to have Al Sahir singing the song with Syrian female singer, Asala but due to financial differences such cooperation was doomed. Anyway, If these rumors were true, the second best choice is resulted in a masterpiece. The lyrics of the song is written by the great poet Kareem Al Iraqi, a man known for his god-gifted ability to bring words to live with deep words and passionate sentences. No one could or can beat this man in such a style. The song tells the story of a man and a woman standing virtually before the judge and pleading for justice, each presenting his case and tell stories of pain, agony, jealousy, bad friendship, and what was in the past and what has become… but… did they lost the love they had for each other?… contradiction within human nature... happy ending?

Below is the official video clip of the song, which was filmed in Ukraine, and directed by Hussain D’ebis.

There are six songs from the album performed with Iraqi dialect. Having that number of songs in Iraqi dialect has indeed boosted my support for this album, not being bias here, but the music is so beautiful that no one can just dare to skip from one song to the other. Each song carried a different flavor, musically, of course: there is the traditional Choby dance on “600 boosa” (600 Kisses). I was expecting the song to be played live when I attended Al Sahir's concert a couple of months ago in Brussels, but that did not happen. “Daggeet ween il bab” (Knocking the Door) is another Iraqi dialect song and have the same feeling as songs from al maqam al iraqi songs, such as "Gulli ya Hilo" or "Ghali wil Nabi Ghali". Al Sahir does not need to prove anything to anyone, but putting traditional musical elements to a newly created song like this is another living testimony of his genius. The next song, “Iskut” (Don’t say a Word) has a spoken words intro, I am not a big fan of this, but when the music starts till the end (it did not need a number of times of listens), it makes it one of my favorites from that album, especially with the high pitch part in the middle of the song, just stunning. A big salute to the way this song is mixed too. Another epic song from this album is “mo tabee’y” (Not From This World), it falls in the same realm as "AlMahkama", in my opinion, but sang with Iraqi dialect. It is a song that is like another piece of jewelery presented in a luxury box to the listener, a fantastic story telling of a man listening to his best friend who is torn apart by the thin line between love and hate. The last, but not least is the song “Il Hilim” (The Dream): gives me the impression that this song is an attempt to approach Lebanese and Syrian listeners, yet, this mid-slow tempo (I call it "saltana style") is by no means considered as commercial or a fills-up for the album. I just love to repeat the beautiful intro of the song before I pull my finger away from the CD player to listen to the song as a whole.

If I want to talk about the title song from this album it would needs a separate post to write about, so I will keep it brief, especially when I see myself ignoring the rest of the album is a sort of injustice, in my opinion, and to this great musician (and I have to mention his band) and to the effort he put on each song. For that reason I decided to write a full album review, as already seen.

The song “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (Drawing with Words) is composed by Kadim Al Sahir himself and the lyrics are taken from a poem written by Nizar Qabbani in 1966 – a poem that generated a lot of critics then because of the language and reference to a lot of details in the female body. "Don't ask me to recall my past life, as the story is long, my queen. You find me in every era, like I am millions years of age." It is a story about a man looking back at his past glories, his conquests in the land of sirens, and what has become of him today; a decaying soul, incapable of love and passion, the pen and the paper became his only salvation.

The music of the song was done using heavy symphonic arrangements. I felt like 9.34 minutes is too short for such a magnificent piece of music. The song is warm and powerful, rich with its musical elements; genius to merge classical music instruments in such a way with Arabic music style and scales i.e. maqams.

The mastering and mix of two songs from the album “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (Drawing with Words)has been done at the Masterdisk Studios in Paris, France, but the rest of the album was mastered and mixed at the AVATAR studios in New York June 2009. This is the same recording studio that hosted a great number of music pioneers such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, John Mayer, and Al Di Meola.

For heavy metal fans, this is the same studio where progressive metal legends Dream Theater recorded their superb albums “Black Clouds & Silver Linings” and “Systematic Chaos”.

To summarize the above, the songs are like priceless paintings that depicted love, relationships, emotions such as shyness, sorrow, contemplation, deprivation and sleepless nights, as well as good and bad friendship.

Final word, buy this album if you didn’t, listen to the songs, enjoy perfection in music making and its arrangement

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