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Gilded Serpent presents...
Outi's CD, "Al Amoura"
Review by Catherine Barros
May 24, 2007

Outi, who had been dancing for a decade in Finland, had the opportunity to go dance in Egypt and that is where she has been since 2005.  This CD is a natural outcome from her time spent dancing in various venues from the Marriott and Sheraton Cairo to the cruising restaurants, Nile Maxim and Pharaohs Nile.

When I first listened to this new CD, "Al Amoura", which was produced in Cairo by and for Outi, I thought "nice, pleasant music".   Then I burned myself a copy to play in my car for my long commute to work and soon I was dancing my way to work.   Anyone who knows me probably has heard me say how much I love accordion music and this CD has made full use of the accordion.  It isn't only the accordion that you get to hear in all these pieces. 

Like much of the more classical style music to which I like to listen, the Egyptian orchestra used to record this CD includes accordion, violins, nay, cello, kawal, kanoon, duffs, doholla, tablas and sagat along with a more modern instrument, the ubiquitous keyboard. 

This music has been created with a bit of the classical feel added to a more modern flavor to give us some very danceable Egyptian music. There is a softer element to all the selections than most of the loud pop music that we have been barraged with lately from Egypt and other countries in the Middle East.  The main singer is Safaa Farid, who also has sung on the CDs produced for Yasmina and Leila.  He has a pleasant voice, which doesn't overwhelm the music.

The selections that are included on the CD can be used for a full show or broken down into several smaller performances.  

The opening number ("Al Amoura") , which was written for Outi by Reda Saad, has that great sound of a classic opening.  It is lively,

which immediately draws your attention, and has several changes in tempo, which keeps up the interest level through out the piece. The additional tracks run the gamut from the expected drum solo and balady sections (both composed for Outi) to a Cocktail Iskandarany, which is comprised of 2 Alexandrian songs followed by an accordion balady. The older songs have a fresh new musical interpretation and include

1) a song written for Oum Kulthoum ("Ya Msaharni/You Keep Me Awake All Night");

2) one originally sung by Abdel Halim Hafiz ("Ana Kull Magul El Toba/Everytime I Say Never Again" - for some reason I think of Jim Boz when I hear this one);

3) another originally sung by Shadia in the film Arham Hoby ("En Rah Minnik Ya Ain - Even If You Go Away from My Eyes");

4) the very nice "El Helwa Dair Shibbakha or Beautiful, Near Her Window", which was originally composed and sung by Muharam Foad.  There is a finale included as the last track on the CD, which is a nice addition to have so a dancer doesn't need to edit something for an exit.

Additional comments from dancers around the world that purchased the CD:
Maria of Colorado says,"I loved this CD. Egyptian Oriental Music with a modern twist, it is very danceable and one I'll use over and over again".

Tuija of Finland says,"I think Outi's style and the music fit perfectly, Outi is young and there is so much 'hope and future and forthcoming love' songs in the cd. Currently, I'm in love with the melaya mix so it keeps being interesting for more than two months. It is worth all the money. You will understand when you get it. It will have longer life time than many others, because it is a new but simultaneously classic collection of timeless music. I can only dream how the songs sound when the orchestra comes here and we all can dance to that music live."

Afra Al Kahira of the UK says, "Al Amoura is a must for any lover of Modern Egyptian music. It's a beautifully crafted collection of very danceable songs."

Complete track Listing from the CD:

  • Al Amoura 5.08
  • Ya Msaharni 6.17
  • Ana Kull Magul El Toba 4.19
  • Cocktail Iskandarany 6.25
  • En Rah Minnik Ya Ain  4.35
  • El Helwa Dair Shibbakha 5.03
  • Balady 4.35
  • Tabla Solo 3.58
  • Al Amoura Finale 0.25

I have to admit that my personal favorite is the Balady track as it has some very nice accordion work done by Reda Saad, who not only composed the balady but also the opening song. 

I think that there is something for everyone on this CD as it contains some very useable pieces of music for performing. 

The music on this CD is what Outi uses for her own shows and was arranged especially for dancing.  Other things that I like about this CD is

that Outi included some informative liner notes to describe the music and a bit out where it came from and the musicians involved. 

This is something that I really appreciate as I think it is important as a dancer to know something about the music that I am dancing to and not having to dig around to find it makes my job a bit easier.  Of course, what it really comes down to for me on this CD is how much the accordion is played.  I keep hearing little sections of accordion balady coming out in different songs and that always gets my attention.  I think this music started to grow on me almost immediately and now it seems like an old friend, one that I hope to keep around for a long time.

When I asked Outi for some background on why she produced the CD, she gave me the following statement:

 "First of all I wanted and needed to have music for myself.

When I teach or travel abroad to perform or when I perform, very rarely, with CD in Cairo, I don't have the music I'm used to dance with my orchestra. So it's very difficult to make really nice work, with "strange" music.

That's why the sound and mixing and everything is meant to sound like a real life performance. There is changing drum accents and melody tricks. There were two main reasons that I decided to sell the CD. One reason is that recording, mixing and all the work is not cheap. And the second is my students. If I use my music in teaching, they will need the music too. Of course I would benefit for putting my name out for foreign dancers as well .

 I wanted to make music that will be good in every way for years. I was willing to put more money and have better result. Most of the instruments are live and not taken from keyboard. As a dancer...

I always want to know more about the songs I use and I know how hard it's to find anything without any Arabic contact. I put a little information about every song. I will put the translation of the lyrics in my website in near future, so everyone can get them.

Some of the songs were chosen by me. Some times Safaa Farid (the singer, leader of the band, and manager) had a couple of ideas and he gave me his suggestions on songs to listen to and chose from and some songs he just wanted to do. He said they would be great. As I have seen and hear his work, I trusted him.  He gave me a lot of support and advice during this process. 

The most important people of all were: Nader Zakaria- He was responsible for all the technical stuff, Mounir Abdel Aziz- who is an excellent drummer and Reda Saad. The three of them worked really hard with recordings, mixing and everything. Without their talent, the result would not be same. I can't thank them enough.

An interesting additional note- in the song listed as "balady" the drummer is Yousry Hefny. He has been working for Lucy for a long time and still is. He is great man to dance with!"

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