Mohammed Aman

Saudi Arabia: Tradition of Hejâz

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Hejâz is a part of Saudi Arabia whose musical traditions have received little exposure in the West, and Mohammed Amân was once a muezzin -- the man who calls the faithful to prayer -- an odd person, perhaps, to be singing these songs, which are often charged with plenty of erotic imagery. That said, the general perception of the Islamic attitude to sex is rather more Victorian than the actuality. There's plenty of wonderful poetry to be enjoyed here, and some remarkable singing, especially when he lets rip on the introductory mawals, where he can expand and improvise on melodic themes, as on "Ya Sayyid El-Helwin." His oud playing isn't world class, but the sparse instrumentation of violin and qanoun (a kind of hammered dulcimer) offers a good backdrop for his voice, as does the additional, frequently polyrhythmic percussion. This is very much the real deal, thoroughly authentic and unsweetened, which means it's not always easy listening. But for those who overcome the challenge, tracks like the glorious "Wa-Lamma Talaqayna" make it all worthwhile.

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