Nubia - Hamza El Din, Escalay (The Water Wheel)

Posted By MiOd On Saturday, November 10, 2012 Under
NUBIA: ESCALAY (THE WATER WHEEL)
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Hamza El Din (b. Toshka, Egypt, July 10, 1929; d. Berkeley, California, May 22, 2006), was a Nubian oud player, tar player, and vocalist. Born in the village of Toshka, near Wadi Halfa in southern Egypt, he is considered by some to have been the father of modern Nubian music. Originally trained to be an electrical engineer and after working in Cairo for the Egyptian national railroad, El Din changed direction and began to study music at the Cairo University, continuing his studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome; he also studied in Ibrahim Shafiq's Institute of Music and the King Fouad Institute for Middle Eastern Music, and traveled in Egypt on a government grant collecting folksongs. His performances attracted the attention of the Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan in the 1960s, which led to a recording contract and to his eventual emigration to the United States. Like much of Egyptian Nubia, his home village of Toshka was flooded due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, creating in El Din a drive to preserve and promote his culture. In 1964 and 1965, he recorded two albums for Vanguard Records; his 1968 recording Escalay: The Water Wheel is recognized as one of the first world music recordings to gain wide release in the West, and was claimed as an influence by some American minimalist composers, such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley.[1] In this period, he mentored a number of musicians, including Sandy Bull. Later, he released albums for Lotus Records and Sounds True. His album Eclipse was produced by Mickey Hart. He performed with the Kronos Quartet on an arrangement of Escalay in 1992. His pieces were often used in ballet performances and plays. El Din held a number of teaching positions on ethnomusicology in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s (in Ohio University, University of Washington, and the University of Texas), eventually settling in the San Francisco Bay Area after studying the biwa in Tokyo Japan during the 1980s. In 1999, he released his last album, "A Wish". He died on Monday, May 22, 2006, at the age of 76, after complications following surgery for a gallbladder infection at a hospital in Berkeley, California. He is survived by his wife, Nabra.

One of the first world-music releases to reach Western ears (originally issued in 1968), this album rightfully established Hamza El Din as one of the leading instrumentalists on the lutelike oud, which he taught to guitarist Sandy Bull and others. The three tracks that comprise this disc, all lengthy improvisations, showcase El Din's remarkably fluid technique and his Nubian roots, whether on the traditional "Song with Tar" or "I Remember," which was originally performed by Egypt's greatest diva, Om Kalthoum. Perhaps the best example of El Din's instrumental meditations, however, is the title track, which is his own composition. Its lines ripple and sway, then stop to ponder and work around a phrase before moving on--a style unique at the time, but which influenced a generation of oud players that followed. A masterpiece.

(01). The Water Wheel
(02). I Remember
(03). Song With Tar

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