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Women's Voices in Arabic

Fadela, Chaba and Cheb Sahraoui
Hana Hana
Though it was frowned upon by the government and religious fundamentalists for decades, rai is Algeria's most popular music form. Modern rai is highly danceable with synthesizers and drum machines and Chaba Fadela is one of its most well known stars. She sings on this 1989 album with her now ex-husband Cheb Sahraoui.
 
Fairuz
Legend: The Best Of Fairuz
It would be more accurate to title this "The Best of Her Later Years" since most of the songs were written by her son who was born in 1956. Fairuz (also often spelled Fayruz)was born in 1935 in Beirut, Lebanon and her career has stretched from the late 1940s until today. This compilation showcases Arabic and Western instrumentation with more modern production and, above all, Fairuz's voice. She is one of the most beloved singers throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
 
Hoda
Sha'bi Chic
There's little in the way of notes and translations or biographical information on Hoda, but the back of the album states that "Egyptian Sha'bi is very much music of the people with lyrics and rhythms of everyday life." A brief listen, though, will tell you that this electronic music is very well suited to the dance floor.
 
Kelani, Reem
Sprinting Gazelle: Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora
One tradition that American and Western European music seems to lack is a singer keening over a drone accompaniment. That's how this powerful album begins. After track one, it adds other instruments, both familiar (e.g., piano, violin, double bass) and not-so-familiar (drums and tambourines such as the bandir, daf, daireh, and riqq). The CD booklet has extensive notes with lyrics in English and Arabic, histories of the songs, and a glossary of instruments and musical styles.
 
Kolsoum, Omme (Umm Kulth»um)
The Classics
With a career that began in the 1920s, Umm Kulthumm (also spelled Omme Kolsoum and Oum Kalsoum and Oum Kalthoum and so on) was both the voice and face of Egypt for much of the 20th century until her death in 1975. This collection of her early recordings shows off her flexible voice with ensembles of mostly strings and some percussion.
 
Massi, Souad
Deb (Heart Broken)
Born and raised in Algeria, but now living in Paris, the talented Souad Massi writes and performs heartbreakingly beautiful songs on her album Deb (Heart Broken). Mostly sung in Arabic, the album is a largely pensive affair but with enough percussion, flamenco flair, upbeat African highlife, French pop, and other influences thrown into the mix to make it really flavorful.