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The Belly and the Beat

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Album Review

Now here's an interesting disc. Described on the back as "an urban-ethnic fusion of Arabesque grooves and melodies incorporating house, hip-hop and techno in a sensual Eastern cocktail" you will be forgiven for thinking it sounds like a heavily adulterated mess. Instead, the strongly acoustic sensibilities make it (for the most part — "Naseeb" really is a mess) quite thrilling listening, grounded by the percussion. There's a little bit of traditional Egyptian and Arab-Andalusian material, but even the contemporary work is heavily influenced by what's gone before, updating the traditional styles rather than bringing in something very radically new. Some pieces, like "Imlal Ilaqdah," are a joy to hear, and "Multiple East," featuring the oud, or the closing rapid-fire percussion of "Banaat Turbo" are both immensely pleasurable. Although this is marketed as music for belly dancing, it stands up as music for listening. Although none of the players stand out as world-class virtuosos, together they create something bigger than all of them, which is no mean achievement.

The Belly and the Beat, Turbo Tabla
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