It can't be said too often that music is one of the best bridges between the West and the Arab world: the 11 singers featured in Arabia: The Women's Voice
are ambassadors for peace. And in the case of Oum Kalthoum, even across Arab-Israeli battle lines. Her strong, pure tones conclude this collection, which begins with the present and then works chronologically backwards. We get a plethora of singers backed by furious electro effects, but what strikes you is the way their voices remain quintessentially Arabic. That dusky, lazy tone, which so often lingers microtonally below the note, seems impervious to extraneous influences. As we go back in time, the accompaniments become simpler and more engaging: massed strings in unison, plus an accordion or a lute or a zither. My favourites are Nagat Al Saghira, who was a child-star of Egyptian cinema in the 1940s, and the great Lebanese singer Fairouz. Nobody has ever successfully replicated her deep, dark timbre and it seems doubtful that anyone ever will. --Michael Church
UK compilation featuring a supreme selection of Arabic women singers. 11 tracks, Najwa Karam 'Ariftu Albi Lamin', Nawal Al Zoughbi 'Maloom', Dania 'Ya Glebey', Howayda 'Nari', Madonna 'Habibi Tal Alyea', Latifa Wadeh 'Kerihtak', Julia Boutros 'Hejar El Mensiyen', Warda 'Balwans Bek', Nagat 'Ana Bashak El Bahr', Fairuz 'Sahana Al Leye' & Oum Kalthoum 'Matrawak Dammak'. Manteca.