1/  Al Hinna                                   (M.A.Wahab)                   5.29
  2/  Sittel Habayeb                             (M.A.Wahab)                   6.35
  3/  Hanil Widd                                 (M.A.Wahab)                   7.22
  4/  Ibnil Balad                                (M.A.Wahab)                   3.26
  5/  Theme & Variations                         (Shaheen)                     7.52
  6/  Bortuqal                                   (M.A.Wahab)                   4.58
  7/  Mudnaka                                    (M.A.Wahab)                   6.00

          Recorded at Sorcerer Sound
          Produced by Bill Laswell and Simon Shaheen
Simon Shaheen: featured violin, oud; Ibrahim Salman: quanoun; Sheikh Taha: accordion; Anton Hajjar: ney; Najib Shaheen: oud; Ramzi Bisharat: tabla; Michel Baqlouq: daff (tambourine); Hanna Mirhige: mizhar (frame drum); Bobby Farah: sagat (finger cymbals); Nessim Dakwar, Kamil Shajrawl, Artemis, Theodos & Gabriel Palka: violins; Simon Shaheen: viola; Michael Richmond: double bass; Michael Finkel & Vladimir Greenberg: cello; Paula Bing: flute; Laura Shaheen, Nermine Rawi, Louise Salman, Youssef Kassab, Maurice Chedid & Simon Shaheen: chorus.

Vladimir Greenberg: conducting and arranging assistance on "Theme and Variations" Theme & Variations inspired by "Min Gheir Leh" (M.A.Wahab) Adapted, arranged and conducted by Simon Shaheen

          1990 - Axiom/Island (USA), 539 865-1 (Vinyl)
          1990 - Axiom/Island (USA), 422-846 754-2  (CD)
          2016 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital)
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


I should try drifting off to ‘The Music of Mohammed Abdel Wahab’ by Galilee-born oud and violin terror Simon Shaheen. But no chance of dozing. This is the real stuff. When you think of Middle Eastern orchestral music, Wahab's arrangements are what your mind's ear hears. Short, addictive melodic phrases. Furiously churning handdrums. Witty dialogues between see-sawing string sections and solo instruments. Wahab's songs possess such technicolor depth, it's hard to imagine them paired with images without redundancy. But many of his pieces were composed for the Egyptian cinema in the '30s, when Cairo rivalled Bombay and Hollywood as a filmmaker's paradise. His lapidary treatment of traditional motifs bends to inevitable formulaic impulses, as the compositions stretch the screen with western harmonies ("Al Hinna") and those Latin rhythms ("Ibnil Balad") no African musician seems capable of resisting. But Wahab, who masterminded the original fusion recipe that launched a thousand Hindi soundtracks plus taarab offshoots--with few alterations, "Hanil Widd" could be a Zanzibari wedding song--is easily forgiven for quoting his own brilliant self. Wahab was as much a gifted vocalist as composer, yet most of the cuts here are instrumental. Shaheen's amazingly evocative string work fills the void. Though the disc's centrally located "Theme and Variations" concerto for oud and orchestra is the intended tour de force, "Mudnaka", on which Simon fiddles as the orchestra burns, doesn't leave a single brick standing.

Bob Tart (courtesy of the The Beat magazine website)