Ziad Hisham stuns with a profound debut that’s eloquent on almost all perceivable levels. From weighty features that contribute captivating parts to ambiences that drip with arresting fusions of middle eastern vibes, acidic electronica, and jazz, ‘On A Personal Level’ is an effort that’s admirably calculated and meticulously crafted.
From Ziad Hisham, a London-based musician and producer with roots deep, deep in the Egyptian folk soundscapes comes ‘On A Personal Level’, a 6-track EP with 5 amazing features from well established names in the Egyptian and North African musical scenes, including Egyptian indie darlings Doaa El-Sebaii and Luka Salam, and the Moroccan phenomenon Sara Moullablad, to name some. The musical directions taken by the EP’s songs changes considerably from one cut to the next, while remaining consistently infused with witty, balanced production and detailed mixes filled with as many granular synth pads, as heart-rending oud leads, as unpredictable rhythmic chops, and as intriguing harmonic choices.
The entirely compelling titular track, sitting strategically to kickstart the EP’s second half after the laid-back fusion ballad ‘Mesh Hekaya Awi’, featuring Mohamed Abozekry’s voice, is a sublime collection of solo performances divided between the gentle, buttery, and melodic guitar leads, a mezmar (traditional Egyptian flute), and a rhythmic pattern that shape shifts as smoothly as the harmonic center does. An all-too-gentle triumph of an arrangement featuring Wiwii. And from the usual powerful delivery of Doaa El-Sebaii on the EP’s sophomore cut, the Sa’idi- inspired ‘Waraq El Fol’, to the delicate and arresting leads of Luka Salam on the penultimate ‘Eza’, we are faced with a beautiful duality that effortlessly displays the wide range of dynamics Ziad Hisham is capable of working with, producing music that oozes with character and color. Featuring Sara Moullablad’s haunting, twisting voice on the album’s final cut ‘El Ghayeb’, we have on our hands another shapeshifter that quirkily moves between acid disco funk and indie arab jazz with what seems like a snap from Hisham’s fingers -a snap that takes the shape of a rhythmic shift at times, and a wonderfully written guitar lead at others-.
From the moment the EP starts, with the only featureless piece, titled ‘Flying Solo’, and the introduction of Ziad Hisham’s buttery smooth, clean guitar leads, that are way too cozy, balanced, and delightful, it was clear that Hisham was a musician with delicate sensibilities who’s easily capable of weaving an atmosphere that would ensnare you if you just let it. And I did let it, and I emerged from the other end a changed person.