Personnel: Hossam Ramzy (percussion); Ihab Tutu, Abdulla Abu Sheffa (violin); Ali Mohammed, Aziz Ben Salam (nay); Mostafa Sax (alto saxophone, keyboards); Samy El Bably (trumpet); Walid Fayed Mohammed Fayed, Michael England (keyboards).
Audio Mixers: Dave Knowles; Bahaa Abdulla; Mike Day; Bashir Abdel 'Aal; Hossam Ramzy.
Liner Note Author: Hossam Ramzy.
Recording information: Bashir Abdel Aal Studios, Heston Middlesex; Blue Moon Studios, London, England; David Ash Studios, London, England; Empire Studios, Cairo, Egypt; Keda Studios, Southall, Middlesex, England.
Arranger: Hossam Ramzy.
Rai has to be just about set to take over the world. The rhythms are undeniable, the grooves ecstatic, the craftsmanship of a Rachid Taha figure absolute. Nonetheless, its rise has been slow in the West. Courtesy of journeyman Hossam Ramzy though, we have an album of the Egyptian interpretation of rai. Instead of the gloriously tight executions and string arrangements of Algerian rai, Egyptian appears to be focused more on the multicultural aspect, with a large scale jam session as the outcome. Instruments and songs are plucked from around the Middle East and North Africa, each performed exquisitely by a crack troop of performers. However, the execution is more akin to the old New Orleans aesthetic of collective improvisation. Sure, there's a theme and an underlying song to be played, but all of the players attack simultaneously for much of the album, with the result being a bit exhausting. The joy inherent in its Algerian counterpart is still present, and the passion is expressed through the multitude of rhythms rather than the power of the arrangement. Performances on trumpet and ney highlight the album, with solos by Aziz Ben Salam and Samy El Bably pouring out emotion notably well. Ramzy has a trademark touch of fusion and exploration in his work, meeting the old with the new, and rai is an excellent ground for such exploration. The sound isn't nearly as tight as that of the greats of rai (Cheb Khaled, Faudel, Taha, Cheb Mami), but the point isn't tightness here, it's the joy of music. In that light, it's a nice album. Don't pick it up as a preexisting fan of rai, but do pick it up as a fan of Ramzy's other work (o r even light belly dancing perhaps). ~ Adam Greenberg
Rolling Stone (6/1/95, p.62) - "...A listen to....EGYPTIAN RAI gives you an idea why [Led Zeppelin] hooked up with a Cairo belly-dancing orchestra in the first place. Loud, fast, hardhitting and trippy, Ramzy and the group are the Middle Eastern equivalent of classic guitar rock..."
JazzTimes (7-8/95, p.109) - "...a diverse outpouring of traditional and cross-pollinated Middle Eastern music that demonstrates the adaptability of the Algerian-spawned rai movement, a rebellious musical strain that embraces street-wise expression..."
Option (7-8/95, pp.131-133) - "...Ramzy's hand-drum leads the group with intricate rhythmic patterns, and while the arrangements rely on traditional instrumentation (violin, oud, bamboo flute, etc.), you can easily hear some well-integrated innovations; various cuts offer accordion, saxophone, and some genuinely jazzy trumpet lines..."