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June 20 2021 6:33 AM ˚

Amr Diab still got it

Amr Diab
Singer Amr Diab performs during the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo November 4, 2007. (Photo: Reuters)
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Ya Ana Ya La (Me or no one else) is an album by Amr Diab, the reigning star of Egyptian pop, that has been at the top of the charts since its release at end of December last year. Having secured himself an enduring position on the Arabic music scene with his debut megahit Habibi Ya Nour El Ayn (My love, light of my eyes) in 1996, Diab has since released countless, successful recordings and videos.اضافة اعلان

Supported by top quality technical audio production and musicians, his good looks and strong presence, a smooth voice, and his undeniable singing skills, Diab has also smartly integrated another, special ingredient to the recipe to making great music: the sound of the nylon-stringed Spanish guitar combined with flamenco rhythms.

This, among others, has become one of his trademarks. Though other Egyptian and Lebanese pop singers have been “inspired” to do the same after him, Diab was truly the first to add the catchy Spanish guitar and dance patterns to his Arabic songs. Listen closely to some of the French group Gipsy Kings’ early songs and you will certainly note the similarity.

The new album does not use this trait as much as the previous ones, and certainly less than the equally if not more successful preceding album Sahran that was released earlier in 2020 too, but the spirit is still here, without a doubt.

The opening title track is a fast dance piece, a hybrid between Arabic and Western rhythms. Mahsoud follows with the above-mentioned flamenco flavor and distinctive beat, while Shokran (Thank you) is more of a traditional Oriental dance song that includes the unavoidable hand-clapping accompaniment — not necessarily a bad thing; a very effective one actually.

Ayez Aamel Zayak (I want to do as you do) brings a nice change in the sonic atmosphere. Its slow tempo is relaxing. The song features vocal harmonies (third intervals on the scale) that are not usually found in Arabic music. Tabl (Drum) does just what its title says; this is the typical drumming dancing beat that makes it impossible for the listener to remain seated if the volume is pushed just a little up and you are in the right mood. It can even put you in a good mood if you are not already. An authentic wedding party staple.

The most attractive melodies are found in Bethazr (Are you kidding me) and Wana Maak (when I am with you). Two numbers that particularly enhance the beauty of Diab’s pop crooner voice. By traditional Arabic music standards, the chord changes are sophisticated, daring, and avant-garde, at least compared to the other tracks that are more conservative in terms of musical composition form.

Ya Dalaao contains phrases that are built on the pentatonic musical scale, the structure of which conjures up the sound of the typical ancient Chinese and Japanese music. This brings a subtle variety, an interesting change to the set of twelve songs that make the album.

The lyrics, like those of 80 percent of pop songs in the world, regardless of the language, speak of love — business as usual, in other words. In Ya Ana Ya La they are even about demanding exclusive love, whereas in Ya Dalaao they talk of simple infatuation, of love at first sight. Other songs are about learning how to turn the page and move on with your life after splitting (Ayez Aamel Zayak), or being grateful to what life gives us (Shokran).

El Gaw Gameel (The weather is fine) is a cheerful, light-hearted song, both in its sweet melody and in its words.

Is Ya Ana Ya La an album that is pleasant to play, to sing along with (some of the tracks at least) and to dance to? Absolutely. Does it innovate in any way? Not much.

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