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Hamza El Din - A Wish - Nubia


Hamza El Din (July 10, 1929 - May 22, 2006) was a Nubian composer, player of Oud, Arabic and Tar lute, Nile tambourine, and vocalist.

He was born in the village of Toshka, near Wadi Halfa in southern Egypt, and was originally trained to be an electrical engineer. After working in Cairo for the Egyptian national railway, El Din changed direction and began studying music at the University of Cairo, continuing his studies at the National Academy of Saint Cecilia in Rome; he also studied at the Ibrahim Shafiq Institute of Music and the King Fouad Institute for Middle Eastern Music, and traveled in Egypt on a government collection of popular songs. His performances attracted the attention of the Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan in the 1960s, which led to a recording contract and his eventual emigration to the United States. Like much in his Egyptian Nubia, his hometown of Toshka was flooded due to the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s.

After his appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, he recorded two albums for Vanguard Records released between 1964–65; His 1971 recording Escalay: The Water Wheel is recognized as one of the first world music recordings to gain wide recognition in the West, and was recognized as an influence by some American minimalist composers such as as Steve Reich and Terry Riley as well as Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart. He also performed with the Grateful Dead, most notably during their 1978 Egypt concerts. During this period, he also mentored some musicians, including Sandy Bull. Later, he released albums for Lotus Records and Sounds True. His album Eclipse was produced by Mickey Hart. He had a performance with the Kronos Quartet in an arrangement by Escalay in 1992. His pieces were occasionally used in ballet performances and plays.



El Din held some ethnomusicology teaching positions in the United States during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s at the University of Ohio, University of Washington, and the University of Texas at Austin, eventually settling in Oakland, California, after studying biwa in Tokyo, Japan, during the 1980s. In 1999 he released his last album, "A Wish".

Brilliantly playing the Oud (the forerunner of the lute, pipa and biwa) and the Tar (the ancient drum of the Upper Nile), along with haunting voice and fascinating compositions, Hamza El Din combines the pleasures and subtleties of the Arabic language with his indigenous music from his native Nubia.

In his masterful hands, the oud became a virtuous instrument and an accompaniment to his soft and hypnotic singing. He just created new music, essentially an Arab-Nubian fusion, but in line with the traditions. His music has captured the interest of millions of listeners in Europe, Japan, and North America.

Hamza El Din is a legend of music around the world, A Wish is the last of the 14 albums published during his life, again he has produced seven masterpieces Dedicated to Toshka, the town of his birth flooded more than three decades ago For the Aswan Dam project, the wish is Hamza's prayer remembering his home.

Along with cellist Joan Jeanrenaud (formerly Kronos Quartet), composer and pianist WA Mathieu, Jordanian percussionist Hani Naser, and Japanese Shizuru Ohtaka, among others, Hamza's mastery of the oud is as undeniable as ever. In his longing for home, he has kept the voice of his people alive and calm with the virtuosity of his performance, and has created a fine addition to humanity's musical heritage. 

1. Greetings (7:38) - comp. Hamza El Din, lyrics Ismail Hasan

2. Sunset (10:29) - Variations on a Theme of Riad El Sumbati by Hamza El Din

3. Anesigu (4:04) - comp. Hamza El Din, lyrics Mohammed N. Toshka

4. Griffin 2 (11:10) - comp. Hamza El Din, lyrics Ilia Abu Madi

5. Nagrishad (7:04) - comp. Hamza El Din

6. Samai Husaini (6:41) - comp. Kemani Tatyos Efendi, realized by Hamza El Din

7. A Wish (9:03) - comp. Hamza El Din, lyrics Mohi El Din Sherif


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