Mohamed Naiem,
Master of the Arabian Flute
(ARC, 2004)

This CD features Egyptian Mohamed Naiem playing the nay, an Arabic reed flute made from the reed plant. The sound is beautiful, although since it only has a few holes and no keys, it can produce only a limited range of notes and sounds.

Hossam Ramzy plays a number of different percussion instruments on the album. (In fact, the CD's full title is Hossam Ramzy Presents Master of the Arabian Flute.) Ramzy has extensive experience playing with Western musicians, including Jimmy Page, Luciano Pavarotti and Boy George.

Most flute CDs include other instruments. The key is keeping the natural sound of the flute, while providing a variety among the various tracks. Ramzy and Naiem take a clever course of action here. The first track has just Naiem playing the flute. The second has just Naiem and Ramzy. As the tracks progress, more instruments are added. At first it is a barely discernable synthesizer in the background, but the band increases and Ramzy overtracks himself with percussion. But even though the sound becomes fuller, it never loses the sense of being natural.

The later songs are perhaps closer to jazz than the actual folk music of Egypt. The last track, "Al-Reda Wal Noor," could even be a Bollywood soundtrack. However, all retain an acoustic sensibility and do not fall into new-age synthesized slush. "Fantasia" is backed with electric piano, but it is a tasteful jazz number and a nice change of pace.

Naiem gives a brief description of each song in the CD booklet. The sixth track, "Farah," may sound a bit too sweet with its acoustic piano. But he writes of this one, "This is the name of my lovely daughter," so the sweetness is understandable.

The booklet has a section about the flute and even tells you how to play it. This is a well-done CD that presents the beauty of Middle Eastern flute music while retaining the listener's interest.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 2 October 2004

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