Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Farid Most Sublime

As with Asmahan, it’s nearly impossible to select just one out of Farid’s plentiful repertoire, but in the end I settled on “Ya Albi Ya Magrouh” (O my wounded heart). This song is so old and obscure that I have not found it anywhere on the web. It’s a perfect little gem, a tightly composed classic that shows off both Farid’s musical composition and vocal talents. I much prefer the early studio recording to the more common live performance, where the constant audience noise and interruptions, coupled with Farid’s own haggard voice late in life mask the beauty of this lullaby-like tune. After ferreting around at various cassette shops, I was thrilled to finally find the taped studio recording buried in a drawer of a tiny place on Shawarbi. The atrocious and unbearably kitschy pink cover concocted by the execrable Randaphon is small price to pay for this find. Eventually and inexplicably, however, the cover has grown on me.

“Ya Albi Ya Magrouh” is Farid at his most dolorous and expressive, his voice perfectly evincing that rich, velvety, ever-so-slightly nasal quality for which he’s so rightly appreciated. There’s just the right amount of plaintive melancholy here, thanks in part to Ma’moun al-Shinnawy’s calibrated lyrics, and Farid’s incomparable gift of striking just the right chords. As he sings the line about the doors of heaven opening to receive the supplicant’s lament, you feel his voice soaring upward even as it retains its calm timbre. But it’s the extraordinary melisma toward the end of the song that always takes my breath away. I love this song so much I listen to it at all times of the day and night, but for some reason its magic is most potent at the juncture when late afternoon yields to the incipient threads of sunset.