Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Afternoon Ghosts

Out of all of Abdel Wahab’s prodigious output, this 1929 gem is my favourite, especially perfect during quiet afternoons staring out the window or sipping tea. It’s wafted through our house since childhood, one of my earliest memories of music appreciation. Part of Abdel Wahab’s forgotten early oeuvre before his modernist turn, Lama Enta Nawi T'ghib 'ala Tool treads the same ground as traditional Arabic songs of loss and heartbreak (and endlessly whining about that loss and heartbreak). The beloved departs without notice, leaving sadness, long hours full of loneliness, and rueful reflection in his wake. Somehow, however, Abdel Wahab renders this potential fest of unbearably maudlin sentiments into a light, airy, pleasing tune, helped along by an earnest male chorus. The lyrics combine forthright Egyptian ammiya (why didn’t you say so before leaving for so long?) with poetic images of the heartbroken companion left behind, seeing apparitions of his beloved: “I rise to embrace you but find only my illusions.” Like a lazy afternoon rag, Abdel Wahab’s voice induces a reflective mood, where fleeting apparitions mingle with the solid and mundane.