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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

ZEIN AL-JUNDI

By Paul-Emile Comeau

Traditional Songs From Syria
ARC

Austin, Texas is known for being a musical hothouse but Zein Al-Jundi isn't the type of artist that springs to mind when thinking of the city. Al-Jundi was born and raised in Damascus, Syria but moved to Austin in 1982 to study at the University of Texas. After an eighteen year hiatus she returned to her musical career. With the help of Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy, who also served as producer, she recorded this album in Cairo with an eight-piece orchestra (three violins, cello, oud, qanun, ney, keyboards) that plays sweeping, nearly majestic arrangements. Al-Jundi's voice soars above it all with songs that are implacably Arabian in flavor and rendered more so by Ramzy's percussive support. The singer interprets several genres of Syrian songs, most of which have a common theme, that of love and all the concomitant emotions of joy and suffering that such things as enchantment, betrayal, separation, and desertion often evoke. After so many years of being away from her craft Al-Jundi sounds as if she never left.