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Rock the Tabla

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Album Review

After countless albums under his own name and guesting on other people's, the Egyptian percussionist comes out with something very high profile indeed. With people like jazz drummer Billy Cobham, Bollywood composer A. R. Rahman, and Turkey's Omar Tekbilek on board, it couldn't be anything less than stellar, and Ramzy has pulled out all the stops here. Although Egypt is at the core of everything, Rock the Tabla glides musically into many corners of the world, as on "Cairo to India," which brings two countries together quite naturally (as does the bonus cut, "This Could Lead to Dancing," which goes out on a glorious swirl of strings). In between, there's some stellar jazz-inflected material in "Six Teens," where Cobham offers a reminder of why he's so lauded, a pair of percussion duets (Egypt meets Japanese taiko drums and Egypt goes to Mali), and some Maghrebi pop on "Sawagy." The true highlight, however, is the title track, one of the best pieces of Arab rock to ever come out of a pair of speakers, with Tekbilek bringing the mizmar and a carefully unnamed guitarist who sounds suspiciously like a '70s icon (Ramzy worked on Page & Plant's Unledded), giving the tune some hard electric lines that really power it, and which might just be Ramzy's best composition to date. Unsurprisingly, all the percussion is mixed high, but not at the expense of everything else, and listening to the players is like attending a master class in musicality. It's certainly Ramzy's most inspired release in years. He's working with people he admires and who push him hard. The joy is hearing him — and everyone else — deliver.

Biography

Born: Cairo, Egypt

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Egyptian native Hossam Ramzy is the leader and chief percussionist of Pharaoh's Egyptian Ensemble, best known to Western listeners as the backing group featured on Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's No Quarter tour and album. Ramzy began playing the darabouka (Egyptian tabla) at a young age, much to his father's dismay. He moved to Saudi Arabia as a teenager, learning his craft while supporting himself by playing trap drums for radio and television programs. In 1975, he moved to England to study jazz...
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Rock the Tabla, Hossam Ramzy
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