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Egyptian oud master Tarek Abdallah and percussionist Adel Shames El-Din reclaim the Arabic music of the Nahda era

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Time and global communication are among the elements threatening ancient musical traditions, especially in politically turbulent nations under autocratic rule. American access to these riches is being further imperiled by our current administration, though Egyptians aren’t currently banned from entering the U.S. (yet). Still, the opportunity to encounter the music of oud master and composer Tarek Abdallah is nothing to trifle with. He’s a scholar of traditional Arabic music, and as heard on his 2015 album Wasla (Buda), he’s meticulously written a pair of extended suites in the tradition commonly performed in Egypt during the late 19th century into the first half of the 20th century—during a time of Arabic cultural renaissance called the Nahda era. Adel Shams El-Din, a founding member of the remarkable traditional Syrian group Ensemble Al-Kindi, provides accompaniment on the percussive tambourine called the riq, while the suites feature measured elucidation of thematic material that shifts in key and includes substantial improvisation (known in Arabic music as taqsim). The music on Wasla evokes a disappearing tradition marked by elegance and austerity, qualities in short supply amid the current noise of our everyday existence.   v

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