Dear readers, this is my very first CD review, so I decided to make it easy on myself.
Masters of Bellydance Music is a ridiculously good, one-great-song-after-another, endlessly listenable album.
See? That was easy.
Okay, I guess you probably want to hear a little more. Masters of Bellydance Music is a compilation of fourteen tracks with a predominantly Egyptian, raqs sharki focus. The collection includes classics such as Tamr Henna, Aziza, and Enta Omri. It also brings in some folk flavour with songs like Souher Zaki Fi Balady and Fatme Serhan’s Ala Warag Il Foull on the balady end of things, and Saidi Party and Afrah Al Said for when you want to get your cane out.
What really gets me about this album is the quality of the recordings. The music is played with real instruments, and the sound is so clear and crisp that you can hear every single note and trill. Everything sounds like it was recorded yesterday, and ready for your performance tomorrow.
Most important though is the richness of the music. I have had my copy of Masters of Bellydance Music since 2007, and have listened to it many times. Most of the time I listened to it passively, waiting for a bus or dancing around my apartment — it’s impossible to hear these songs without wanting to move. But when I’ve also listened more actively I noticed that so many of the songs are interesting. They are the exact opposite of one-rhythm pop music, and they do not get old no matter how many times I listen to them.
The only thing that’s difficult about picking an album I like this much to do my first review is that I have a hard time picking my favourite tracks. Layali Al Sharq is up there, as is the album opener Rakasni Ya Habibi. Raks El Sheik grows on me more and more as I listen to it. But there’s not a single one I’d want to skip! Instead, I’m looking up the artists to find out what else I can get by them.
(Full disclosure: I thought this was a review copy as I was writing this review, and kept thinking, “yes, this is a review copy, but I would have been glad to spend the money.” Then I saw on Amazon that I bought the CD myself, ages ago. And yeah, it was money well spent.)