Hamza El Din is one of those amazing performers that you have been searching for your entire life. His vocal and musical abilities are sublime. At the same time, his music sounds both ancient and accessible. Hamza's music is meditational. The songs will gently paint pictures in your mind of the rolling Nubian desert scenery. Much is said of his musical abilities, but the rhythm is also a highlight as the doumbeks and handclaps add to the trance inducive sounds. His voice is very deep (like an Egyptian Johnny Cash) and his oud style expressive. Traditionally, the oud is an accompanying instrument and is almost never played by itself and usually does little or no improvisation. It is Hamza who can maintain the integrity of this music while being an innovator at the same time.
For those of you who know the Grateful Dead, you will know that the band worked with Hamza beginning with their trip to Egypt in 1978. Throughout the 70s and 90s, Hamza joined the band on stage many times -and for good reason. In the new millennium, Hamza still plays with Mickey Hart's Planet Drum.
Hamza has many great albums like "Songs of the Nile" (JVC, 1982) and "Lily of the Nile" (Water Lily Acoustics, 1990) but this is his best. While I've heard a few songs here played on other albums, there's something special about "Eclipse." The only explanation is producer Mickey Hart.
Did you know that the oud is the root instrument where the modern electric guitar comes from? Travel back to your roots, to the collective roots of humanity and listen to something that is both ancient and timeless.
........ A PORTRAIT of HAMZA EL DIN:
Performing brilliantly on the Oud (the precursor of the lute, pipa and biwa) and the Tar (the ancient single-skinned drum of the upper Nile), along with haunting voice and spellbinding compositions, Hamza el Din combined the pleasures and subtleties of Arabic music with his indigenous music of his native Nubia. In his masterful hands, the oud became a virtuoso instrument as well an accompaniment to his gentle and hypnotic singing. He single handedly created a new music, essentially a Nubian-Arabic fusion, but one in line with both traditions and informed by Western conservatory training. His music has captured the interest of millions of listeners from Europe, Japan and North America.
First discovered by Western audiences through his performance at the Newport Folk Festival and Vanguard recordings in 1964, his 1970 Nonesuch recording, Escalay: The Water Wheel is legendary among musicians and connoisseurs. His best known recording in the U.S is Eclipses, produced and engineered by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart. Hamza's music has also appeared in movie soundtracks such as the Francis Coppola film Black Stallion, You Are What You Eat and the Robinson's Garden of Japan. His latest releases (on Japanese labels) include: Nubiana Suite "Live in Tokyo", a King recording Songs of the Nile (on the JVC World Sounds series), and a re-release of Journey, a companion to his best-selling album of the same title, (Nile no Nagareno Yoni) Chikuma Shobo Publishing, Tokyo, Japan. Hamza appeared regularly with the Kronos Quartet, which includes Escalay: the Water Wheel on their chart-topping Pieces of Africa album (Elektra/ Nonesuch, 1992).