Hamza El Din
حمزة الدين

 
Biography

Hamza el-Din was born in 1929 in the village of Toshka, near Wadi Halfa in southern Egypt, amongst the people of the Upper Nile. Despite being surrounded by music from an early age, he trained as an electrical engineer. It was while working in Cairo for the Egyptian National Railways that he decided to change direction and study music at Cairo University. He continued his studies at Ibrahim Shafiq's Institute of Music and the King Fouad Institute for Oriental Music, and also obtained a grant to study Western music and classical guitar at the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Despite this, he chose the oud as his main instrument, and began to develop a repertoire of Nubian folk music that he had collected while travelling through the countryside. In the 1960s El Din emigrated to the United States, where he lectured on ethnomusicology at the universities and also performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. In the same year he recorded the first of many albums featuring his unique blend of Nubian traditional and Arab clasical music. As well as collaborating with many leading musicians and touring worldwide, El Din also received a grant from the Japan Foundation in the 1980s allowing him to travel to Tokyo to make a comparative study between the oud and Japanese biwa. On his return to the US he settled in Oakland, California, where he remained until his death in 2006.

 
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Selected Recordings

Music of Nubia
(Vanguard VMD 79164)

Hamza El Din's debut album was released in 1964 and on this recording he gives his interpretation of a number of traditional Nubian songs and religious melodies, as well as presenting several original pieces.

1. Fegir Nedan (Call to Worship) 5:26
2. Desse Barama (Peace) 4:30
3. Aiga Denos Ailanga (Give Back My Heart) 4:18
4. Hoi To Irkil Fagiu (The Message Bearer) 6:48
5. Kuto Fa Pattaroni (Children's Songs) 4:28
6. Shahadag Og (Believe!) 5:33
7. Nabra (Raw Gold) 6:35
8. Nubala (Nubiana) 4:24



Al Oud
(Vanguard 79194-2)

This is Hamza el-Din's second album and dates from 1965. It is a mixture of purely instrumental and vocal/oud tracks with all compositions by El Din himself.

1. Childhood (Assaramessuga) 4:32
2. The Spirits (Shortunga) 4:51
3. Grandfathers' Stories (Annun Sira') 11:35
4. Did Nura Remember (Gillina Nura) 2:47
5. The Message Bearer (Hoi To Irkil Fa Giu) 4:17
6. The Gondola 4:32
7. Call for Unity (Nuban Uto) 4:00
8. The Fortune Teller (Kogosh) 4:13
9. Greeting Card (Abdin) 3:00



Escalay (The Water Wheel)
(Nonesuch 7559 72041 2)

The title of this album reflects the importance of water to the people of Nubia. The first extended piece represents the experiences of a boy who is responsible for the village water wheel. The second track features a melody composed by Mohammed Abdul Wahab for Um Kalthoum, whereas the final piece is drawn from the traditional folk music of Nubia.

1. The Water Wheel 21:30
2. I Remember 11:55
3. Song with Tar 4:45



Songs of the Nile
(JVC VICG 5007)

This CD was produced while Hamza El Din was living in Japan, and features a mixture of reinterpreted earlier compositions and new pieces.

Disc 1
1. Oud Duo 8:55
2. Arafa 4:07
3. Samai 3:54
4. Amen 5:21
5. Hamayala 6:28
6. Anesigu 3:00
7. Hela Lisa 3:39
8. El Hilwatu 8:43



Eclipse
(Rykodisc RCD 10103)

This is album again features a mixture of traditional Nubian melodies and classical Arab compositions. A particular highlight is the final track, which is El Din's version of the traditional song 'Lamma Bada Yatathanna'.

1. Helalisa (Nubian Song) 3:36
2. The Visitors 9:47
3. Ollin Arageed 8:00
4. Your Love is Ever Young 18:30
5. Mwashah 3:54



Lily of the Nile
(Water Lily Acoustics WLA AS11CD)

An intimate recording of oud, vocals and tar with no overdubs of the high quality that you would expect from a Water Lily Acoustics production.

1. Bint Baladna 6:25
2. Annun Sira 12:45
3. Shortunga 4:10
4. Allahu Akbar 25:25
5. Hamayala 7:35



A Wish
(Sounds True STA M110D)

Hamza El Din's final album, a collaborative effort recorded in 1999, sees him joined by Japanese singer Shizuru Ohtaka, as well as cello, piano and nay.

1. Greetings 7:38
2. Sunset 10:29
3. Anesigu 4:04
4. Griffin 2 11:10
5. Nagrishad 7:04
6. Samai Husaini (Kemani Tatyos Efendi) 6:41
7. A Wish 9:03

 


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