Boomkat Product Review:
Mecca, Saudi Arabia’s Msylma follows his standout vocal on Zuli’s acclaimed ‘Terminal’ album - The Wire magazine’s #2 AOTY, 2018 - with a compelling coming-of-age tale, sung in beautiful classical Arabic and meshed with a stark palette of electronics and percussion by himself, Zuli, 1127 and Karim El Ghazoly for Rabit’s Halcyon Veil. RIYL Fatima Al Qadiri, Scott Walker, Omar Souleyman...
Profoundly original, but steeped in millennia of both Pre-Islamic (pagan) and Islamic theology and Arabic tradition, Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum is a unique album no matter which way it’s approached. With a dramatic sense of purpose at the album’s core, its 11 songs propose a work of literary fiction that draws upon a rich knowledge of pre-Islamic and Quranic poetry.
Myslma spells out a subversive take on existential angst, charting a transition from a romanticised childhood, thru the rising self-awareness of adolescence, to problems with parents and the sardonic cynicism of adulthood, before looping back to childhood, and resolving with a burned-out, sore conclusion. Naturally, anyone who doesn’t speak Arabic (or even classical Arabic) will have trouble comprehending the lyrics literally, but with thanks to the impassioned intonation of his vocals, and the connotations of his starkly evocative backdrops, non-Arabic speakers should have no problem grasping the album’s emotional pull.
Whether channelling a sort of R&B/soul spirit in the aching delivery and floating chords of opener ‘Inqirad (Rihab-U Dhakir)’, singing from the middle of a weightless grime skirmish in ‘Min Bab AlKamal-i w AlDawam’, then floating on organ tones in ‘Hazat-u-L-Waraq’, or scaling the lofty heights of ‘Astaqi AlGhamam’, it's a unique and startling despatch.