The Lion Roars: Live in America

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Hakim's 2000 U.S. debut won plenty of praise, but to follow it up a year later with a double live CD could seem an odd decision on the part of label Mondo Melodia, and certainly daring. However, the results are more than worthwhile. Recorded in Brooklyn, NY, during a tour in early 2000, the power of this release easily eclipses Hakim's studio work. Already a major star in Egypt, he has a powerful voice that manages to be both rich and raw at the same time, as on "Intro," where he gets to display his vocal chops on an extended mawal (or introduction), working around the song's scale like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. And here, the faithful fans certainly respond, loudly and enthusiastically, as Hakim and his band roar through a set of songs familiar and unfamiliar. The musicians themselves, percussively heavy, are very rooted in the Egyptian street sha'bi tradition, playing with a raw urgency, heavy on the accordion and brass. At times the songs can take odd turns, like "Ayunu Nar," whose melody is eerily reminiscent of "The Slinky Song," but once you're over that, it becomes irresistible, as do most of the pieces here, from the Middle Eastern hit "Esma Yalli" to the storming closer "Yaho." And the enhanced second CD features a ten-minute video of Hakim and crew performing live in Egypt, so you can watch, as well as hear, this phenomenon -- this lion does, indeed, roar.

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