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Belly Dance!: The Best of George Abdo and His Flames of Araby Orchestra

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Kitsch? Well yes, it is. But apart from being a lot of fun, there's a lot to be learned from this CD. A compilation of what George Abdo and his men did, ostensibly for the belly dancing circuit, although more popular among immigrants from around the Mediterranean and Middle East, it's an object lesson in how a new land changes music. They adapted it to America, making it decidedly more loungy (just listen to Abdo's singing, strongly influenced by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Perry Como), and slowly removing the more ethnic elements, like those awkward quarter-tones in the melody, to achieve a synthesis that was, ultimately, completely American — ready for the new world, hearkening back over its shoulder at the old. The patina of tradition was there, but really, this was American music as much as jazz or rock & roll. And that's quite an achievement. Whether tracks like "Ya Gameel" or the terribly cheesy "Sahirrnee" are classics remains to be seen. But, on the evidence of this, Abdo really did do something — and how many places will you hear cocktail piano and Latin congas ready to wiggle behind a veil?

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Belly Dance!: The Best of George Abdo and His Flames of Araby Orchestra, George Abdo
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