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When Smoke Rises (2021), 6.5/10

Toronto's poet, singer-songwriter and filmmaker Mustafa the Poet (real name Mustafa Ahmed) debuted with the grief-filled autobiographical 24-minute mini-album When Smoke Rises (2021), virtually a memorial to friends who were murdered. Mustafa's storytelling art and anguished singing, coupled with producer Frank Dukes' tasty bits of archival Arab music, create songs that stylistically are all over the map: neosoul piano ballads (Come Back and especially Capo), folkish chants (Ali, Separate), neoclassical elegies (Stay Alive) and Afro-dance-pop (The Hearse and especially Air Forces). The album, which is one long requiem, is lugubriously peppered with audio recordings of the deceased friends.
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