Hamza el Din

A Wish

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Hamza el Din has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the world's great oud players, and the mastery he displays here quickly establishes just why he's so lauded. The virtuosity shown on "Greetings," for example, is a sheer delight, his nimble and thoughtful fingers creating lovely melodies behind the vocals of Shizuru Ohtaka. But it's on "Sunset," which is variations on a theme by Riad el Sumbati, that the power of his playing truly begins to shine. Completely solo, he works in the maqam, or scale, building his work. However, he's not afraid to leave his oud behind, and just use rhythm, as he does on "Nagrishad," where the only instruments are beaten and the vocal carries the only melody. But the centerpiece is the title track, a gorgeous song graced by the cello of Joan Jeanrenaud and W.A. Mathieu's piano, which, with their Western tunings, bring the piece to a place that's not completely of el Din's Nubian homeland. It's a lovely work whose themes resonate and last long after the CD, and it might well be the most accessible -- at least to Western ears -- music that el Din's composed in a long career.

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