Egypt's top female singer with a set of modern Middle Eastern pop. Compelling, rich...
Garth Cartwright 2002
Samira Said is one of the most popular contemporary singers in the Middle East. Yet she is largely unknown in the West. That looks about to change with Samira's nomination for a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award and with the release in the UK of this excellent new album.
Samira's originally from Morocco but don't expect to hear elemental Berber trance music (as championed by The Master Musicians Of Jajouka) or tough gnawa grooves. Samira has long been based in Cairo, Egypt, and Cairo is to Middle Eastern pop what Bombay is to Indian film.
Youm Wara Youm finds Samira retaining her Arabic roots while effectively blending many contemporary Western pop elements. On the title track Samira duets with Cheb Mami across a pulsing electronic beat while Arabic strings dance around their vocals. "La Binna Kilm" is epic Arabic pop with strings coiling behind Samira. "Kol El Awkaaj" has a muted chorus of 'yeah yeah yeah' and bouncy beats to show Samira can compete with Kylie on the dance floor.
"Abeltak Leith" is my favourite track: beautiful forests of violins fill the air while Samira gently wails over a very subtle rhythm. "Min Youmi" is certain to be a hit in the discos of Cairo and Beirut with its fast beat and massed vocal chorus. Tasty oud playing too! "Kan Mali" starts off with menacing, almost soundtrack atmospherics then blasts off into a hard house beat with Samira's gutteral Arabic phrasing ripping across the rhythm.
The arrangements are constantly interesting, and the mix of Arabic and Western styles never feels forced. The amount of space between voice, string instruments and beats helps you appreciate how potent a vocalist Samira can be. If you love rai, you'll like this.