There is something fascinating about reviewing music sung in a language other than your own. If I was listening to music that was part of the modern western pop canon, then it would be easy to be led by the lyrics, to be taken by the hand and gently dragged to the place that the artist intends the listener to go, guided by the words and message being broadcast.

In the case of Haneen, it is music that lands on my ears only in sonic terms, meaning that the music, rather than the lyrics, do the work. And if lyrics communicate directly with the head, the music, of which the vocals now become an important part, unable to talk to me in the usual logical terms, speaks directly to my heart…and perhaps even my soul. Music delivered this way is about emotion and evocation, nuance and feeling, about subtlety and suppleness, and Haneen is all of these things and more.

Opening track Ya Reit is, to these western ears at least, the perfect sound of the Middle East, a blend of modern instrumentation and traditional sounds, built of drift and drama, simple beat-driven grooves and pure grace. And, as I mentioned earlier, with the words lost to me, the vocals become a lead instrument, ebbing and flowing, rising and falling to emphasise and endorse this gorgeous sound.

Jamalak Ya 3asal, is built around the gorgeous sound of the Oud (I think…correct me if I’m wrong) which is in turn cocooned in all manner of wind instruments and energetic beats, strings and soaring voice and Shou Sar Feyee Balak, is a gentle, lilting ballad, the perfect understated sound to act as a platform for Ghaly’s expressive, not to mention impressive, voice.

Mghroumi is a clever blend of chilled electronica and modern dance beats, and traditional sounds, a blend of east and west, past and present, making for something that feels both familiar and wonderfully fresh.

The title track appears both as the perfect final track of the album and as a live version, proving that even without all of the clever enhancements and tricks that the studio has to offer, Ziad Ghaly and his music is as graceful and gracious live as it is on record.

It’s been a long and fascinating journey for Ziad Ghaly, raised in Montreal and honing his craft across the United States, he has sung in both English and Arabic and has been given the oppotunity to take his music across the world, from Europe to The Middle East and beyond. Haneen might be his debut album, but it is the product of years of experience and musical development. And if, as Ziad Ghaly believes, that there is an elemnt of divinely inspired destiny allowing him to follow such a path, then it is a path that he is making truely his own.

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