Ya Nass (Extended Version)
Singer Yasmine Hamdan first became a popular figure in the Beirut scene and then the Arabic world thanks to her work in the duo Soapkills. From there she worked with the band CocoRosie, Mirwais (who worked on Madonna’s Music), and now with Marc Collin of Nouvelle Vague. Not surprisingly, the music here has Collin’s fingerprints all over it, blending dark electronic beats, acoustic guitar, and downtempo keyboard textures. Yet Hamdan herself is what separates this from the pack, drawing on the work of such 20th-century Arabic singers as Aisha El Marta, Nagat El Saghira, and others. Like the music, her sensual vocals tend toward subtlety even if she’s singing about various Arabic societal issues in different Arabic dialects. Highlights here include the stately synth ballad “Aleb,” the simmering “Deny,” and “Samar,” with vocals that switch between Middle East melodies and poppy Western ones. After all of Hamdan's work as a collaborator, her debut as a solo artist was a long time in coming, and it's a welcome one.