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El Mosameh Sherine Jon Buckland , September 1st, 2023 07:33

An album of cut-up samples of one of Egypt's most popular pop singers reveals a wealth of hidden pathos for Jon Buckland

El Mosameh Sherine, from Prague-based Qow, is a record entirely composed of samples and re-arrangements of musical phrases lifted from singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab that are not so much chopped and screwed as pulped, tasered, and thrown on the rack.

In Egypt, Sherine is a huge pop star and cultural figure – she was previously a judge on The Voice – and, for those less familiar with recent Egyptian chanteuses, musically she sits somewhere between Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, belting out heady pop numbers adorned with modern beats and a hefty dollop of balladry. Sherine, much like Mariah, has collaborated with Nelly and, whilst Dion hasn’t shared a stage with the ‘Ride Wit Me’ rapper, she did surprise Ellen Degeneres’ audience with her own take on ‘Hot In Herre’ back in 2016.

Of the two, Celine Dion is the more fitting comparison. This is, in part, due to a brace of 2022 releases from the mysterious musical outfit known as Romance. Bookending the year with Once Upon A Time and In My Hour Of Weakness, I Found A Sweetness, Romance crafted two heartbreaking albums featuring Celine Dion’s mangled and reappropriated voice.

El Mosameh Sherine is an undeniably gorgeous and compelling wend of drones, desperate vocals, and heart-rending arrangements. Much like Romance, it repositions and reimagines highly emotive vocals into a new context, devoid of the trappings of celebrity and populist cliché. It’s as if Qow is repaying a debt of inspiration by highlighting these tender and poignant aspects of an artist otherwise overlooked.

What he achieves from these samples is exquisite. Coherent swells elbow their way through jittery and juddering staccato vocal jolts, smoothing over the jagged peaks and troughs as if smeared with sonic poly-filler. On ‘Kol Maghanni’, Mariana Jouzova’s seemingly absent-minded harp cuts through burst loops which sound like footsteps and raindrops echoing around a palatial tomb. It’s a deconstructed Dean Blunt cut gone feral, thrown off-centre into an erratic loop. Silvery sounds glance against expanding drone clouds in a way that recalls Roly Porter or Constantine Skourlis and opulent organ notes emerge, rousing and devastating in equal measure. We hear glistening synth chords gliding from right to left, panning like slid doors as Sherine’s voice appears in gasps and gulps. Chopped, stretched, and spread, it’s as if she’s learning how to use her vocal chords for the first time. With her voice disembodied, dislocated, and distanced from its original context, bountiful and melancholy layers are revealed lurking within. Sometimes you just need an old romantic to help uncover it.