Entertainment Weekly (No. 809, p.73) - "The Senegalese star forgoes his bubbly Afro-pop for this set of sacred songs..." - Grade: A-
Q (p.121) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[With] a softly textured, melodic infusion of Oriental strings and mysticism, reminiscent of the spiritual concept albums of disenchanted '70s rockers."
Uncut (p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 - "N'Dour's soulful voice takes on the wailing sound of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer..."
Down Beat (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[O]ne of his best recordings....His different groups working together on EGYPT create different fascinating contrasts..."
Dirty Linen (p.55) - "This is a masterwork from N'Dour, with his passionate and at times soothing vocals backed by semi-classical arrangements fused with African and Egyptian colorings."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.115) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[H]ugely rewarding..."
International pop star Youssou N'Dour explores of the themes and sounds of Senegal's Sufi culture on this striking 2004 release. Markedly different than the artist's other albums, on which African elements combine with Caribbean influence and various American styles (including soul, jazz, and rock), EGYPT moves away from N'Dour's trademark pop and deep into the territory of traditional religious music. Though characterized by an undercurrent of West African rhythms and inflections, the sound here--as the title indicates--draws on North African and Middle Eastern Arab music, and features such regional instruments as the oud, the arghul (a double-reed bamboo flute), tablas, and various Arab Gulf percussion.
There is a distinct classical aura here (the personnel list includes an arranger, a conductor, and a score manager). The Fathy Salama Orchestra, which backs N'Dour throughout, features--in addition to Egyptian flutes and drums--first and bass violins, and the group's complex, elegant interplay gives these recordings a stately, stirring feel. N'Dour's voice, in contrast to its usual role as a high, soaring lead, blends subtly into the musical fabric here. A recording notable for its focus, passion, and beauty, EGYPT is possibly N'Dour's riskiest and most artistically rewarding album.
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