Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
May 2, 2024 - 11:11am EDT
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About a decade since the release of their first album (Wasla) in 2015, Tarek Abdallah and Adel Shams El Din have collaborated to create a new opus entitled Ousoul. An Arabic word meaning “origin, framework,” Ousoul refers to the rhythmic cycles that are employed in Arabic (as well as Ottoman Turkish music). The duo, that features the oud and percussion (riqq and tambourine), adopt certain traditional cycles, but they also courageously create new ones.

Even though their upbringing, training and experience were no doubt founded on participation in Middle Eastern classical music ensembles (takhts), the two instrumentalists shine as soloists. Tarek Abdallah and Adel Shams El Din are both consummate Egyptian musicians who reside in France. Both present masterful performances that seem firmly rooted in Egyptian classical music while still displaying alluring demonstrations of personality and originality.

Their compositions follow what is known as the “wasla,” the Near Eastern musical suite which links several sung and instrumental forms of different cycles in the same mode.  Flavored with plenty of improvisation, Ousoul consists of five instrumental suites based on five different modes. I particularly enjoyed the opening suite, “Wasla Nahawand” with its six pieces, a couple that include guest violinist Christian Fromentin. The other suites include “Wasla Higazkar” (2 tracks), “Wasla Rast” (3 tracks), “Waslas Bayyati” (6 tracks) and the closing “Wasla Sikan” with its track of original melody called “His Heart of Stone” based on a medieval Moroccan poem. Throughout  Ousoul , we hear musical dialogue that keeps one foot firmly entrenched the past while also giving us delightful sounds that area novel, creative and innovative.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)