Sabri Moudallal
Songs From Aleppo
Institut Du Monde Arabe

cd cover Having first been dazzled by Sabri Moudallal's vocals on the Ensemble Al-Kindi CD "Syria: The Aleppian Music Room" (Le Chant du Monde), I was highly anticipating the arrival of this album of wasla music.

Moudallal is the first muezzin (religious chanter) of the Great Mosque of Aleppo and is considered a national treasure. An unassuming person, who apparently lives only for his music and his religion, Moudallal is master of the wasla, suites of religious or profane music based on the Andalous muwashshah tradition that goes back to the 12th and 13th centuries. This particular form of Arabic music survives only in Aleppo, Syria. The Andalous connection is particularly evident on Muhammad Qadri's lute improvisation and Moudallal's vocal on "Unq al-malih."

At age 77, Moudallal's voice remains supple, full of tonal variety without any hint of strain in the most demanding vocal improvisations. But Moudallal is not a virtuoso for the sake of performance. His aim is to reach a spiritual truth through the medium of music. The CD includes a suite of religious hymns performed in a bouncy, joyous style said to be particular to Aleppo. The religious suite includes a superb rendition of "Ya hadi" interspersed with the traditional muezzin's call to prayer.

Even if one is a total stranger to the Arabic music tradition, Moudallal is one of those singers whose musical personality is apparent as soon as he starts to sing. He makes a musical and dramatic statement in everything he does. Clearly, Moudallal sings with an involvement and abandon that you just don't get with most of the contemporary Arabic singers. This is the real deal from a master of his craft. - Aaron Howard

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