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Sam Shalabi

Music for Arabs

(Majmua Music; US: 4 Feb 2014; UK: 14 Apr 2014)

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.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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