Andalusian Music from Algiers

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Nassima's Andalusian Music from Algiers is a fascinating trip into Arab-Andalusian music in the form of the san'a tradition, and the performance of an entire nuba sika. It's a vocal and instrumental suite in five sections, the tempo gradually increasing in the last two. The sung poems, or muwashshahat. For the complexity and formality of the form which is quite ancient -- dating back to the Islamic conquest of Spain -- it's easy on the ear, and at times quite beautiful (such as the vocal line of "Ishtikhbar," where singer Nassima shows the huge quality of expression in her voice). The ensemble playing is spectacular, and the mix of instruments -- ranging from oud to lute, mandola, violin, and ney flute -- makes for a real Mediterranean fusion of Europe and the Maghreb. It's fabulous music, if somewhat demanding -- perhaps the closest analogy is light opera, although it's far more rhythmically oriented. Originally a male preserve, Nassima has made san'a her own, helping to preserve a strong oral tradition.

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