Um ... What?
Music for Arabs has got to be a joke title, right? Egyptian oud player Sam Shalabi has collaborated with numerous musicians from all over the world during his lengthy career, and one can’t help feeling that the in-your-face title of this challenging sonic collage is a bit of refutation to well-meaning titles from the likes of the Rough Guide series (The Rough Guide to Arabic Revolution, … to the Best African Music You’ve Never Heard, etc). In any case, Shalabi’s latest has more in common with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music than anything else, a lengthy series of sound collages made up of seemingly random noise, spoken-word bits, found sounds apparently recorded on the street, radio fragments, and – oh yes – occasional strands of actual music. The whole things is, I guess, highly experimental, which is a polite way of saying “something that you’ll listen to once and then put away forever”. Much like Metal Machine Music. For fans of genre-pushing “sonic art” only. Shalabi is a fine musician, but there is little evidence of it here; he is busy pursuing another path entirely.