Review - The Rough Guide to the Music

Artist: Various Artists

Overall, this is an excellent collection of Egyptian music. And, despite its multifaceted intent, it clearly tilts toward the sounds of modern Cairo, with cursory nods to Nubian artists like Hamza El Din and traditional singers like Abdel Halim Hafez, a mixture that's easily ascribed to the producers' desire for comprehensiveness. Yet, by the end of the disc's 70 minutes, the absence of the legendary Umm Kalthum is a screaming negligence. Imagine a "Rough Guide to Jazz" without Miles Davis or a "Rough Guide to Classical Music" without Beethoven. It would be absurd, yes? And without Kalthum, that's exactly what this compilation is: absurd. The transcendent impact Kalthum's voice had on Egyptian music -- and the country's contemporary culture -- was enormous, and she was perhaps the most important Egyptian musician ever. So yes, traditionalist, song-oriented fare from Warda and Nagat El Saghira are excellent inclusions; and contrasting pop fluff from Amr Diab with the melancholy Nubian surge of Mohamed Mounir provides a clue to the diversity of Egyptian music. But, honestly, without Umm Kalthum, no collection of Egyptian music is anywhere close to complete.

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