Omar Khairat – Fatima (1999)
November 29, 2011
Perhaps when we think of Egypt in modern times, we think of the recent bloody revolution which saw a much hated president get ousted by the people. Though we don’t live in a perfect world, we often like to remain ignorant of many of the bad things that surround us on a daily basis, and it brings us a little piece of mind. It’s only natural that most of us conjure images of a fictional Egypt; one that has bustling markets, wonderful sunrises and sunsets, and many amazing artifacts of Antiquity. Omar Khairat‘s Fatima is an album that allows us to escape into our imagination and spend some time in our romanticized version of Egypt.
Khairat’s compositions tend to blend Eastern and Western songwriting styles. You’ll notice that throughout many of the songs on Fatima, the string and percussion sections are in the style of Arabic folk, while the juxtaposed piano has a very Western feel to it. Personally, I feel that this is a nice touch the album, giving it vibrance and originality.
The album opens with ‘Fatma‘, a song that starts with a catchy violin lead, driving percussion and a rather perverse bassline. A couple of minutes through the track, and you’ll find that all the groove of the previous minute has disappeared, and the track has broken into a section with strings that cry out to the listener, accompanied by sensual piano playing and gentle guitar picking. It adds a level of emotion that reaches out toward you and tries to touch your soul. ‘A Brave Woman‘ stands out particularly from every other track on the album, the crescendo of the strings accompanied by the entrance of the piano creates an atmosphere that is mysterious, and when all the instruments come in, the mysteriousness forms an innocent playfulness. You just can’t help but adore this track, and it will most definitely stay in your head for a long time.
The one thing I found pretty strange about the album, though, is the fact that the motifs of ‘Fatma‘ are spread throughout the entire album, and you’ll find that almost all of the tracks sound the same. Whereas the start of the album is engaging, you’ll find it distracting to get a couple of tracks through, only to find that you’re listening to parts of the first song reworked and played over again. This is the one thing that I feel is a major letdown for what could have otherwise been a very memorable album. With that said, however, it still warrants a listen.