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Zein Al-Jundi
WMD Productions (

"Ya Habibi"
It seems Syrian singer Zein Al-Jundi wasn’t entirely pleased with the way her debut album, 2004’s Traditional Songs from Syria, turned out. But then, you can’t blame her for being particular. After becoming a child singing star in her native land, she opted out of the music business and moved to Texas to attend college and earn degrees in architecture and urban design. Music, however, was a passion that still had an upper hand, and Al-Jundi went to Cairo to record that first disc.

For Sharrafouni she sought a more cohesive blend of traditional and experimental. Recording largely in Beirut (during a period of uneasiness following the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war) she got the sound she was after. The tracks on Sharrafouni bubble with electronic beats and acoustic instruments (ney, oud, accordion, qanun, darbuka, strings), forming a sturdy framework for Al-Jundi’s supple, sensual voice.

Unexpected touches like the Latin feel of “Ya Habibi” and the rock guitar riff that propels the Rachid Taha influenced “Tab Toll” don’t compromise the overall Arabic grace, and a version of the massive Lebanese hit “Shiki Shiki Baba” is pleasingly poppy. Actually, the whole disc is quite nice, and though listening to it prompted me to revisit the pleasures of the Traditional Songs from Syria album afterward, this other side of Zein Al-Jundi expands upon her range and talents admirably. - Tom Orr

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