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Kazem Al Saher
The Impossible Love
(El Hob El Moustahil)

By Srajan Ebaen
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Kazem Al Saher "The Impossible Love" (El Hob El Moustahil)

Compact Disc Compact Disc: Mondo Melodia 168 850 016 2 Compact Disc

Genre: Popular Arabian love ballads 

  Since the zenith of Oum Kalthoum, and with more than 30 million of his own sold albums under the belt, Kazem Al Saher has developed into the biggest vocal sensation the Middle East has seen yet. Initially self-taught from listening to famous composers on the radio, he was accepted into the Baghdad Museum Academy when he embraced the oud as his instrument. Still, despite constant rebukes from commercial producers, Al Saher kept steadfast to his dream of making it as a singer. When a video of his song “The Snake Bite” was secretly maneuvered into an Iraqi television broadcast just after the Iran-Iraq war, the authorities demanded that he change the lyrics or have the song banned. His refusal only enhanced his growing popularity when he followed up instead with concert tours and recordings for different Kuwait labels. Though the conservatory kept denouncing his music as pop, by now Al Saher had successfully slipped the establishment’s grip on his very own terms. However, he then returned to the classical roots and embraced the classic Arabian idiom to release a recording that revisited traditional Iraqi maqams (Arabian music modes) not explored in public in a long time. By 1998, his repute had grown beyond pop star status and he was recognized as a bona-fide artist, even recording a tribute to the Pope with the Italian Symphony Orchestra.

Kazem is fond of the grand and epic sweep of a classical orchestra’s massive string section to support his long-arcing ballads. As the title gives away, The Impossible Love album revolves around the perennial theme of love in all of its myriad forms - from unrequited to blissfully merging, from a son’s devotion to his aging father to the longing for reunion after prolonged separation. Quite unlike Western pop sound bytes that rely on repetition, catchy hooks and short durations, Al Saher’s ballads are complexly developed symphonic events with full back-up chorus in the traditional question-and-answer style which, like title track, can span up to eight minutes. With a firm footing in the classical tradition, his sentimental and passionate lyrics don’t degenerate into the common syrupy effect of popular love songs. Granted, the rhythmic accompaniment and occasional appearance of synthesizers are clearly poised for mass appeal. However, his commanding voice in the melismatic style of the Orient and the sheer sophistication of the compositions point beyond far beyond Pop triteness. He clearly takes his place alongside fellow Mondo Melodia artists George Dalaras, Cheb Mami, Najma, Noa and Faudel, all of whom are top performers in their respective hard-to-pigeon-hole categories. Sometimes the Pop moniker really does epitomize popularity for all the right reasons. It certainly does here. Mondo Melodia is to be highly complimented for issuing Al Saher’s first US release.





















































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