Farid El Atrache / Nagham Fi Hayati / Wewantsounds – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

More deep-lying Egyptian soul music from the tuned-in crew at WeWantSounds: this time round we set the controls for 1974 and the wonderfully plotted  soundtrack vibes of Nagham Fi Hayati (from the film of the same name – translated as “The Melody Of My Life”).

What you get are four expansive tracks, thirty-five minutes of high drama, swooning strings, heartfelt vocals, shimmering percussion and grooves galore. Its immersive, soul-stirring stuff: perfect for decompressing from today’s war-torn realities, and relocating your mind into the sand-strewn imagination of Farid El Atrache.

Opener, Alachan Malich Gheirak, kicks off at a stately pace, a snaking bassline underpinning those heavy string riffs, the desert disco feels in full effect before a keening vocal from Farid brings the sadness – heightened again by the omnipresent strings. Cinematic, tugging at the emotions – leaping across cultural and temporal boundaries with ease. Perfect fodder for the open-minded DJ seeking to build a vibe.

Hebina Hebina ups the tempo, an urgency creeping into the proceedings as the backing vocals bolster another sterling lead performance from Farid: the plot thickens as a whirling dervish of a tune emerges from the star-crossed patterns. Its funky as hell too, which never hurts. A classic slice of Egyptian musical heritage, polished and re-presented for your listening pleasure. Check the drop at four minutes in: a heartbreaker.

Farid was known as the king of the oud and passed away the year that the album came out: what a fantastic legacy to leave. There’s a full Egyptian orchestra giving heft and pomp to the arrangements, a widescreen ethos of love and passion that literally drips from the grooves on Ya Habayibi Ya Gheibin (My Absent Loves). Its chock full of twists and turns, dramatic descents and horn-fuelled flourishes – a global banger without a doubt.

Takassim Oud plays us out with Farid’s flying fingers flashing over his instrument, and with a lush, live feel to the recording: virtuosity on view, the crowd absolutely loving the show. Brian Eno’s a fan of the album apparently, and you can see why: Farid embodies what he was searching for with David Byrne all those years ago – a musician without boundaries still enthralling, still entrancing, still magical. It’s another winner from WeWantSounds: seek it out people.

Farid El Atrache’s  Nagham Fi Hayati, is available to preorder from Wewantsounds. 

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