(ARC, 2002)

Natacha Atlas, belly-dancer-turned Egyptian pop-star, has been selling well at home and away, so it's not surprising to see another singer covering some of the same ground. Dalinda gets off to a good start with Hossam Ramzy in her corner. Ramzy started his professional life as an Egyptian percussionist, but has played with musicians from English sax man Andy Shepherd to ex-Zepplins Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. He has had a hand in hundreds of recordings as musician, composer and arranger. I especially like the wildly exotic string sections and percussion that make his work among the most entertaining introductions to Middle Eastern music.

Dalinda takes advantage of the arrangements with a solid voice, less sensual than Natacha's, but stronger. Born in Libya of Bosnian parents, she adds North African cool and Russian soul to Ramzy's already eclectic approach. She is convincing in the romantic ballads and just as comfortable when Ramzy's percussion pushes the tempo.

The 11 tracks are filled with tasty little touches. The late El Bably plays trumpet on "With Every Sunrise" in a warm, burry style reminiscent of Miles Davis in its economy of notes. Hints of European techno spice "Since the Day You Left." "You" will have the susceptible up and belly dancing. The textures of "Blue" could be backing African singer King Sonny Ade. The varied elements mesh nicely thanks to Ramzy's arrangements, his swinging percussion and Dalinda's fine voice.

Turquoise is the most recent catalyst for my thoughts about the music that dominates American airwaves. The album uses elements of western styles, but has the sophistication and skill our pop music seems determined to stamp out. Songs include emotions other than teen lust and anger. (Not that I begrudge the success of divas and rappers. Someone has to rock SUV suspensions and precipitate premature deafness.) Instumentation goes beyond guitars and drum tracks. Rhythms are complex and dynamics wide-ranging.

The downside? Well now probably isn't the best time ever to blare Middle Eastern music sung in Arabic. Leave it to Rambles to review a disc that, the last time I looked, was Amazon's 255,468th best seller and includes an appearance by an accordion player named Osama.

But expand your horizons. Take a chance. Ashcroft can't be everywhere. This is good stuff.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 6 September 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.