Hassan Erraji

Nikriz

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This album is difficult to evaluate. It is a fusion of Arabic and Western styles under the direction of Moroccan-born expat and music scholar Hassan Erraji. Erraji plays the oud (Arabic lute), violin, nay, (the breathy Arabic flute), and Arabic drums. He also sings on one track. Erraji is accompanied by a Westerner on drum kit as well as an electric bass player who does a little work on viola and synthesizer. Half the songs are traditionals that Erraji has arranged for the trio; the other half are composed by the artist or another Arab. The fusion is between Arabic classical small ensemble music on the one hand and a generic sort of progressive rock on the other. It is tasteful, except that one is always worrying that it is about to cross the line into the cheesy, kind of like Hossam Ramzy. The closest thing most listeners have probably heard to this is Tuatara, although Erraji has a much lighter texture.

Most of the songs are interesting. Standouts include the title cut, which is a surprisingly jazzy Turkish traditional. It has a sense of humor to match its compelling beat and feels a bit like Bela Fleck. The Erraji-original "Andalous" is a tribute to the common past shared by Spain and North Africa. In it, Erraji displays his best flamenco-style oud playing and is accompanied by castenets. Ole! Good fun for the connoisseur, but be warned that the album is only 35 minutes long.

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