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The Gilded Serpent presents
Review: "Halawah" on Compact Disc by Reda Darwish

by: Najia El-Mouzayen

San Francisco's favorite Egyptian drummer has again produced a musical offering for the dancer and Middle Eastern music fans. The musician, Reda Darwish, has been featured on such notable titles as "Reda--Walk with the Moon", "Ya Salaam Ya Reda", "Reda's Flower" and "Reda--Valley of the Kings". Those of you who favor Egyptian subtleties in music have undoubtedly purchased one or more of these titles for your own collection! This particular package is a change of pace from the other titles. It seems a mixture of the modern with the past and introduces a little bit of fusion music in the last cut, which is titled "Egyptian Tequila".


1. Halawah 5:24 (Halawah is a sweet sesame candy-like dessert.)By far, the best selection on the CD is the composition "Halawah", which is in the number one position. This piece is one of the three on the recording that was composed by Reda himself. It is a bit of a masquerade piece in as much as the introduction, played with a large keyboard resounding sound, seems to have little relationship to the fine musical themes which follow it. It is a composition played with a fast and energetic pace and was appealing to me, as a dancer, because of its many changes of mood. It includes vocals by Reda and his fellow San Francisco musician, Nazir Latouf. The voices lend it a sound reminiscent of those days in the past that I spent in the nightclubs of Cairo listening to the best musicians that Cairo had to offer. I do not think, though, that Ahmad Adawea will be shaking in his boots over the threat of these two voices on this CD! Their voices are folksy and dower, and they provide just a touch of that "back home" sound.


2. Tarik el Zurai 3:29 (I think that this may loosely translate into something like a person missing something precious he has left behind like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco".) Reda's drumming is quick with a feather touch.Shimmy experts will have a good time dancing to this selection.


3. El Helwa Min Sayeed 5:50 (The beauty in the southern part of Egypt) This selection is slower in pace than the first two cuts but manages to keep a fine sense of energy non-the-less.


4. Kanoon Taksim I 3:18. Played by Fouad Marzouk, this short taksim fairly shimmers with feeling that may evoke a sense of impending emotion in the dancer. It occurred to me that a dancer might combine this taksim with a couple of other selections from this recording, along with one of Reda's drum solos, and create her own little custom show.


5. Love Brake 1:54. Despite its annoying title, is actually quite a fun and funny little Reda drum composition! The short piece has clarity, variety, and humor and no apparent climax, though it does have a definite ending and does not just trail off into the stratosphere like some drum compositions on other recordings.


6. Amar el Zaman 5:19. (The Moon of Zaman) This selection features the vocals of Fadi Hanania who has a pleasant, casual voice along with the prominent drumming by Reda. I felt that the song was somewhat joyless but since I do not understand the words, perhaps that quality was appropriate.


7. Ya Rayeh 3:02. (Rayeh is a girl's name: hence, "Oh, Rayeh!" This song has always been a personal favorite of mine and I did enjoy this delicate kanoon and drum with the sounds of tinkling sagat in the background. It has a clean, clear ending, without fanfare.


8. Haleena Nit Fahim Bilzuk 3:16 (The title seems to mean something like "Let's Discuss This Controversy".) This arrangement has a happy sound with its staccato delivery. It is a tad folkloric sounding within the modern instrumentation. It has a definite end.


9.Nubian Girl 4:28. This cut seems to be something like a medley as it begins with a song to "Samira" then becomes the old and familiar strains of "Mambo Sudanee", which happens to be a tune to which I enjoy dancing. The famous Egyptian saxophonist, Samir Souror is featured and the whole cut is joyous and has a bit of a folk sound, even while highlighting the sax! Now, there is a feat!


10. Bin Shatein Omaya 4:03 (Water Between Two Shores). This somewhat lengthy arrangement has an extremely fast tempo with no particular interesting focus for dance. This tune may be one of those with which one has to have grown up in order to appreciate. I could not seem to focus my dance with it, and to top it all off, it appears to have just "run out of steam" at the end, but then, so did I.


11. Kanoon II 1:56 features the kanoon of Fouad Marzouk and Reda on the drum and reminds one of the live music in the old Broadway cabarets.


12. Love Brake Remix 1:53 is a fun drum solo-like composition with sounds of clapping and voices and other variations of sound. Like the first "Love Brake", it does not seem to build much intensity but is fun while it lasts.


13. Kanoon Taksim III 2:26 is my least favorite cut on the "Halawah"CD. Though it is sweet and tinkling, it appears a bit thin in energy and trails off in to the never-never land of a fade.


14. Egyptian Tequila 3:53 was just made for those dancers who are also wannabe Flamenco dancers. It is bright, happy and takes one back to some long-forgotten night in Tijuana, or was that, perhaps, Doumiyat?

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-would you like to read more about Reda Darwish? click here: "Child Prodigy grows up"

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