I really don’t know much about this better than what’s written at allmusic, so I quote it below.
I’ve been working on a “Roots of John Fahey” compilation for a while now. It’s not done yet, but this album is a big part of the roots of Sandy Bull. Enjoy its hypnotic beauty.
One of the first African musicians to gain widespread international recognition, Hamza El Din is a Nubian master of the oud, or the fretless lute. Western listeners are as likely as not to have been exposed to his work via the Grateful Dead, who played with him on-stage occasionally. (El Din also helped arrange the Dead’s tour of Egypt.) He played an integral role in modernizing Nubian music, using his work to both evoke and tell stories of Nubian life.
El Din was originally trained to be an engineer, but changed direction and enrolled in the Middle Eastern School of Music, where he began to compose his own songs. On a fellowship to study Western classical music in Rome, he met American Gino Foreman, who exposed Hamza’s work to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. This resulted in a contract with Vanguard. His mid-’60s debut, Al Oud — Instrumental and Vocal Music From Nubia, was one of the first “world music” recordings to achieve wide exposure in the West.
In the second half of the 1960s, El Din spent much of his time in America, living in guitarist Sandy Bull’s apartment for a while. Taking a series of teaching positions in various American locations, he also found time to record a Nonesuch album in 1968, Escalay, that is considered one of the best documents of Nubian music. Eclipse is his most notable post-Escalay record, raising his profile in the U.S. when it was reissued on CD by Rykodisc.
Allmusic Review by Stewart Mason
An album of Northern African music played on the oud (a fretless, long-necked string instrument that’s the predecessor of the European lute, common in North African and Middle Eastern music), 1971’s Escalay: The Water Wheel is not only the most popular album by the Nubian-born soloist Hamza El Din, it’s arguably the best-known album of traditional Egyptian folk music in the west, thanks to its position as one of the early releases in the hugely popular Nonesuch Explorer series. Side one, a remarkable 21-and-a-half-minute composition, is a tone poem built on one subtly pulsing drone that rises and falls continually, creating hypnotic layers of harmonics occasionally broken by El Din’s wordless calls. Some American minimalist composers, particularly Steve Reich, have claimed a strong influence in their own music from traditional North African styles; for a listener familiar with the minimalists’ work, “The Water Wheel” makes the connection plain. Side two consists of two shorter pieces, the enchantingly melodic “I Remember,” originally written by Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdul Wahab for electric guitar but here played on the traditional oud, and the self-explanatory “Song With Tar,” an original in the Nubian folk tradition on which El Din accompanies his vocals with clapping hands and the beating of a tar, a traditional tambourine-like drum native to Nubia. This is not “folk music” in the purist sense, as all three tracks are composed music, but Escalay: The Water Wheel is a fascinating document of the musical traditions of Egypt.
Hamza El Din – Escaly (The Water Wheel)
AMG Rating: 5 stars (pick)
get it here.
not my rip | mp3 192kbps | w/cover | 50mb
oh, and if anyone has anything else by Hamza El Din, I’d love to hear it.