Habib and Hassina Guerroumi
Zuta Music is a new label out of Israel which, so far, has specialized in Arabic music traditions. Two of their six releases at present feature two of the twelve Noubats found in the Algiers school of Andalusian music. Algerian Habib Guerroumi is an accomplished oud player and vocalist. He is accompanied by his wife, Hassina Guerroumi, who plays the darbouka. The two Noubats are presented in a complete form, each a lengthy suite comprised of many pieces that follow each other without pause. There is a variety of rhythms and styles with the different pieces, though all share the same mood given by the mode of the Noubat. Each Noubat begins with an instrumental prelude where the sweet and delicate playing of Habib Guerroumi's oud is highlighted.
Most of the pieces which follow have vocals, and that is one of the strongest features of these albums, Habib's voice. Unlike many vocalists in Arabic traditions, his voice is fairly modest and without great intensity. Yet his modest voice is exceptionally beautiful and effective. His singing persists in my thoughts long after listening. It is both meditative and full of quiet emotion in its long melismas. In this delicate context, Habib is capable of more forceful heights, like the florid "Layali's" in the Qadria which ends the Nouba Al'Dhil. Both of these recordings are rewarding and help give a fuller picture of the world of Arabic music. - Dave Dalle
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