Musician and composer Sam Shalabi, known for his work with Shalabi Effect on Alien 8 Records and Land of Kush on Constellation Records, offers up his latest solo album effort titled ‘Music for Arabs’. The new album from Shalabi features sprawling compositions, featuring elements of traditional arabic music, infused with improvisational techniques and electronic elements here and there. Much of this sounds like the stepping stones that have resulted in some of Shalabi’s more well known work, in particular the first and self-titled Shalabi Effect album as well as 2011’s ‘Monogomy’ by Land of Kush, though in this instance there’s a much more personal feeling being given off by the album.
‘Music For Arabs’ encompasses many of Shalabi’s themes and ideas that have been expressed on previous albums, both in terms of the lyrics presented in the music and the instrumentals that are used for the tracks themselves. On his latest effort though, Shalabi seems to have really honed in on his personal style much more effectively than on some of his previous solo efforts. ‘Music For Arabs’ is every bit as experimental and unusual as some of Shalabi’s best and worst work, though this time round it all feels much more cohesive and much more understandable. Although ‘Music For Arabs’ might not be as strong as some of Shalabi’s other projects, it is easily one of his best releases under his own name.
Whilst there’s many strengths to ‘Music For Arabs’ as an album, it still falls under the trap that Shalabi has often set for himself. As most of the music uses improvisational techniques, it gives much of the album a lack of structure that makes it a challenging listen at times. Combined with the fact that ‘Music For Arabs’ is made up of more longer sprawling tracks (as opposed to Shalabi’s previous solo-album ‘Eid’), this makes the album an even more challenging listen than some listeners would perhaps like. Those though who are fans of anything Shalabi has ever been involved in will find a lot to enjoy on this record though.
Although there’s a lot to take in at times on ‘Music For Arabs’, the album is perhaps a much more gentle experience than some of Shalabi Effects’ more recent albums. Everything is as challenging as ever, but it sounds relevant and important. Musically, the album is brilliant, with Shalabi’s playing of the oud being as strong and powerful as ever (of course). It’s certainly an interesting record to see from Shalabi as it seems to offer more insight into the mind and personality of one of music’s most interesting and expressive musicians and composers working in today’s current music scene. Here’s to whatever he decides to do next!
- ★★★★☆ 4/5
- Music For The Egyptians
- The Enemy of My Enemy
- The Wherewithal
- Music For The Egyptians Part Two
Sam Shalabi’s latest solo album ‘Music For Arabs’ is out now.