Mahmoud Fadl / Ali Hassan Kuban

Egypt Noir: Nubian Soul Treasures

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Nubia is ancient, the place where Egypt meets Africa. For all intents and purposes it's gone, wiped out years ago by the Aswan Dam, but it lives on in the musicians who moved to Egypt. It's almost some of the most fertile Egyptian music at weddings and in clubs, as this exhilarating compilation shows. The late Ali Hassan Kuban was the godfather of it all, the king of the Cairo wedding music scene, but those who've come later are just as vital, like percussionist Mahmoud Fadl, who keeps traditions alive and brings in innovations, and Salma. But they're simply the best-known names here. Every track is glorious and shows a different facet of Nubian music, some modern, some quite traditional. It's funky, but never American. Yet the pentatonic scale makes it sound perfectly normal, even familiar to Western ears. Nubia is definitely ready for its close-up.

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