Amr Diab

Allem Alby

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Amr Diab is the biggest young name in Egyptian pop music, and has been for several years. His jeel (or youth) style takes from the raw street pop called sha'bi, although he's cleaned it up and filed away most of the rough edges, as this disc clearly illustrates. He's also given it a more international flavor, with plenty of contemporary R&B touches and grooves. That said, the essential Arabic feel remains high throughout. The quality of writing and production mean that there's a real personality to all this, emphasized by Diab's gritty, emotional voice -- so he avoids the faceless fate of so much Middle Eastern pop music. He can make a more Western-style ballad like "Te'dar Tetkalem" work well, and also the rich Egyptian taste of "Habiby Ya Omry." Nor is Diab averse to taking chances -- the album's closer, "Khalleeny Ganbak," uses subtle electronic touches and explodes into a fiery rock guitar solo as its crescendo. The language barrier means Diab will probably never replicate his Egyptian pop star status in the U.S., but maybe he doesn't want to; this seems to position him as a more serious artist, as concerned with the depth of his music as with its impact.

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