Mahmoud Fadl,
The Drummers of
the Nile Go South

(Piranha, 2001)

Mahmoud Fadl's CD The Drummers of the Nile Go South is, not surprisingly, very heavy on percussion. If you ever had any interest in the rhythms and drum sounds out of ancient Nubia, this might be the CD for you.

The Drummers of the Nile Go South contains 10 instrumentals and nine songs that are either performed in Nubian or Arabic. While Mahmoud Fadl is the main drummer, he is joined by a number of artists (at least 18) on various tracks. Some of the main contributors include Gaafar Hargal (a Sudanese bongo player), Salma (a "wedding diva" from Cairo who sings on multiple selections) and Tamir Galal Mohamed (darabuka, spoons and vocals).

Fadl grew up in "old Nubia." When he was a child in the early '60s, his homeland was drowned by the flooding of Lake Nasser. While his village was displaced and his people lost their old lifestyle forever, Fadl has made it a mission to rekindle world interest in the "Black Pharaohs" of his ancient heritage.

The most notable songs on the CD are those where Salma provides lead vocals. She has a very distinct, powerful voice. The structure of "Jibal Al Nuba (Mountains of Nuba)," "Ana Ayan (I Am Tired of Longing For You)," "Shofna Gamar (We Saw the Moon)" and "Al Adil Welzein (Save the Beautiful Broom)" all follow a similar pattern. The lyrics are in Arabic. Salma sings a solo line followed by a group of backup singers who also sing a line. The back-and-forth vocalization drives the composition of each track.

Despite the strengths of the various singers on this CD, the drums have the strongest voice. Many of the percussive rhythms are fairly complex. I have to say that I like the incorporation of spoons. I had no idea what was making the interesting clacking noise in the background of many selections until I read the liner notes. While spoons were not part of the ancient repertoire, Nubians adopted them as they moved to the Suez channel during their exodus from their homeland.

The Drummers of the Nile Go South is an interesting CD, to say the least. While Mahmoud Fadl's music is not something I will listen to on a regular basis, I am intrigued with the old styles presented here. Anyone interested in North African percussion would more than likely find this CD worth the purchase price. I would caution most listeners, however, to find a few samples online first to determine if this music is your cup of tea.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002

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