06/05/2021Arab Palestinian Vocal Artist Samah Mustafa Releases Kaleidoscopic Nine-Track Album To Therapeutic Effect

Every now and then we chance upon an album that commands our full attention and speaks to us with a voice that is entirely its own. Such is the case with Arab Palestinian singer, musician and vocal/music therapist Samah Mustafa, who late last year released her nine-track album "Balloor" to the world. "Balloor" (or 'Crystals') sees Samah exploring new levels and layers in her own voice, using it both as an instrument and a means to express different emotions.

Unlike the more traditional concept of the lead singer in Arabic or oriental music, Samah's experimental approach doesn't solely rely on the use of lyrics to convey meaning. Instead, she combines ambient, tribal and folk influences with vocal loops to therapeutic effect. "Balloor" was created at the intersection of her work as a therapist and her aspirations as a musician. As such, listeners are given the opportunity to project their own thoughts and emotions onto Samah's looping canvas and find meaning beyond words. 

"I tried to express feelings that are personal, but can also be related to in a more general way, including social difficulties that I have faced as a female in the Middle East, who grew up in a conservative community," she says. All tracks on "Balloor" were written and composed by Samah herself with a few exceptions: "Traditional" is Samah's version of an old Palestinian folk song often heard at weddings that reminded her of her childhood and certain traditions she was raised with, while the more empowering "Banat Alarab" ('Arab Daughters') and the hopeful lullaby "Tahlil" both feature lyrics written by Palestinian poet and preserver of folklore Fathiyya Khatib.

"Balloor" as an album is a magical, dreamlike experience, baring influences of classical oriental singing and Arabic folk music, yet existing in a parallel realm of its own devise. Continuously unfolding along bright and ever-changing flourishes of vocal expression, Samah's delivery remains razor sharp and on point. Her looping motifs are anything but redundant and never cease to inspire, while her polyphonic vocals create instantaneous surges of energy on all levels.

Like a crystal, Samah's work gives birth to a multitude of perspectives, providing a sonic vessel for thoughts and emotions that may not otherwise be revealed or too often remain hidden from outside view. For instance, her song "Taboo" reflects the reality of growing up in a society, where women are generally not allowed to express their true feelings or personal ideas. Samah's work, however, is not concerned with pointing fingers. It is rather a way for her to voice the unvoiced, express what is better felt and build connection.

You can stream/buy "Balloor" via the Bandcamp player below.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom