Omar Khairat

Am Ahmed

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The EMI conglomerate's Dubai branch has reissued several fascinating examples of popular music from the Arabic world that has been influenced by Western forms. This one, originally recorded in 1986, is devoted to Egyptian film composer Omar Khairat. His training encompassed both Arabic and Western classical forms, as well as American jazz and blues. The short booklet notes are largely aimed at a domestic audience, but they offer the useful information that Khairat's music "is considered to be a pioneering effort in bridging the space between...eastern and western approaches to music." The notes do not match the pieces actually presented on the album, but much of Khairat's music was written for films or television, and it would appear both from the nature of the track titles here (Objection, The Snake, Don't Lose Your Mind) and from the episodic, dramatic quality of the music that these pieces were drawn from soundtrack scores as well. They can proceed for several minutes in an idiom that could have been drawn from any number of American or British soundtracks of the 1960s or 1970s, perhaps for films with some kind of exotic setting. The orchestra is dominated by strings and minor keys; sometimes there is an oud or another Arabic stringed instrument, but elsehwere a piano is pressed into service to produce a similar effect. But Khairat often reveals the Arabic content of his style in little jazz-like breaks at phrase ends, with a wholly novel effect. The two thematically related representations of a snake are especially interesting, influenced as they are by generations of Hollywood or London snake-charmer music, but nevertheless entirely distinct from those. The sound, produced in a Cairo studio in the mid-'80s, is apparently analog, but entirely sufficient for the music's needs. Recommended for any collection of East-West fusions.

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