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‘JEERAN’ a glimpse of the local music scene

‘JEERAN’ a glimpse of the local music scene

(Dp-news-jordantimes)

The note on the CD cover says: “Jeeran Music is a forum for the young professional musicians in the Arab world to show their talent, to make their music heard and to get a chance to connect with the entire Arab world.”

Jeeran Music has been distributing a most interesting compilation of 17 pop songs and instrumentals performed mainly by Jordanian artists but also by musicians from other Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. The project aims to promote local artists by giving them wider coverage. The word “jeeran” is Arabic for neighbors.

Jeeran.com is one of the most successful, most visited Jordanian Internet portals. Last month representatives from Jeeran were offering complimentary copies of the CD to visitors at Jordan Festival.

From the strongly reggae-flavored opening song by Salalem to the jazzy “Ramallah” instrumental by Jordan pianist Omar Faqir the collection covers a wide range of pieces and genres. Another well-known Jordanian composer featured on the CD is the popular Aziz Maraqa who performs one of his hits, “Ya Bint el Naas”.

The quality of the songs varies slightly throughout the 17 tracks but more than 10 of them qualify as good-to-excellent music. The disc shows the rich creativity of the musicians and the bands.

Equally impressive is the fact that we are miles away here from the excessively commercial music that plagues the Arabic pop music scene, the kind that relies more on the visual impact of a video clip than on the actual musical contents. There is a substantial amount of genuine inspiration and creativity in all of the pieces featured on the CD.

Most of the songs are performed in Arabic. Ruba Shamshoum, however, does a fine rendering of “Bye Bye Blackbird” in English. The song was written in 1926 by American composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. Shamshoum demonstrates a rare flair for the bluesy-jazzy swinging feeling of the song. The refined recording is done with the voice of Shamshoum supported by just one instrument: the bass guitar!

One of the most inspiring tracks is “Isharaat Istifhaam” (question mark) performed by the excellent and innovative Syrian jazz-pop act Itaar Shame’ who also performed this year at the Jordan Festival. Another great song featured on the CD is “Baytek Ya Najwa” (your house, Najwa), a song by May Nasr with a beautifully sounding male choir singing in the background. It is the typical soft, traditional Arabic ballad.

If most of the music is progressive, attempting (often successfully) to blend pop, folk, rock and jazz with Arabic, some of the tracks remain close to the Arabic song tradition where the simple, pure beauty of the monophonic melody constitutes the main element.

“Traffic” by the band Culture Shoc (no misspelling) is an energetic pop dance track sung partly in English and partly in Arabic. And then there’s the unavoidable Arabic rap piece: “Titkhayili an Waqi’i” by Mc Puck - perhaps not the best of the CD but it does completes the image.

The idea indeed is good and goes beyond what perhaps the producers initially had in mind. The collection is a rare opportunity for expatriates and foreign visitors in the country to get a glimpse of the young local music scene by playing just one CD without having to sample a large number of discs.

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