[sic] Magazine

Yasmine Hamdan – Ya Nass

This CD has been a slow-burner in my collection over the past month or so. I’ve continued to return to it, even in the face of new CD & vinyl arrivals and when given the choice of playing the new delivery, several times I’ve opted to play this album instead.

I know very little about Yasmine Hamdan except to say that I saw her on an episode of Later With Jools Holland and that’s where I fell in love with her beautifully woven and haunting melodies. I know that she is Lebanese and is currently based in Paris, but really none of this matters in the context of this brilliant album. The part-acoustic and part-electronic instrumentation makes a perfect backdrop. It’s as if you could almost imagine her voice appearing on a future Massive Attack album in the same way that you probably never expected Liz Fraser or Sinéad O’Connor to appear.

Let’s start by saying this – most listeners across Europe won’t have a clue what she’s singing about. Really – does it matter? Simply immerse yourself in the gorgeous music and you almost totally forget that what she’s singing isn’t English. The album’s packed with emotion and that’s all the convincing you should need.

The album kicks off with a couple of acoustic gems. ‘Enta Fen, Again’ suddenly plunges the album into a certain level of darkness. It’s brilliant and immediately changes the feel of the album. ‘La Mouch’ further develops this theme before morphing almost into a song for a lost love. ‘Nediya’ is a standout track. If William Orbit remixed it, it would likely become a massive hit. The chorus makes me want to stop what I’m doing and dance. No, really. And I don’t dance (often!).

‘Beirut’ brings with it a level of sadness I’ve not experienced in music for at least a decade. Its haunting, almost-ghostly instrumentation and simply gorgeous vocal delivery is astonishing. I have to confess to being one of those casual viewers of Later With Jools Holland who generally fast-forwards over ‘world music’ inclusions, but this track had me at ‘Hello’; it’s absolutely spellbinding. I recall being completely static for the entire three minutes of her performance and then finding myself pressing rewind to watch it again. And again. I recall watching it some four times before pressing rewind once more because I’d forgotten to note her name just so that I could order her album!

Even towards the end of the album, during ‘Hal’, there’s more atmosphere contained within this track than during a film-noir movie. Even when the beat picks up, I find myself constantly watching the vocal, like being on a fabulous ride. It’s delicious, it leaves me wanting more. ‘Khayyam’ is the only track on the album which flags up a similarity in my mind, with its reverb-laden guitar, but once again the mood changes after just a short while and we’re immediately introduced to the title track ‘Ya Nass’ which takes a much darker turn, sounding like a vocal placed against an old grandfather clock stood ticking at the end of a long, dark hall.

It’s safe to say that Ya Nass is literally crammed full of gorgeous tunes. If there’s blood flowing through your veins and you can face the onslaught of emotion, it certainly contains enough beauty to satisfy most listeners. A warning – certain tracks may reduce you to tears, but that’s never a bad thing is it?