Stunningly beautiful, poignant music from BilÃ„Âd al-ShÃ„Âm -- "the countries of Damascus," known nowadays as Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine -- including performances from the very first recording sessions in the region. The legendary, moody Beirut singer BÃ…Â«lus Ã¡Â¹Â¢ulbÃ„Ân is here -- some historians have him singing before Egypt's Pasha IbrÃ„ÂhÃ„Â«m BÃ„ÂshÃ„Â during his military campaign in Syria, in 1841 -- and Ã¡Â¸Â¤asÃ„Â«ba MoshÃ„Â“h, Jewish "nightingale of the Damascene gardens." ThurayyÃ„Â QaddÃ…Â«ra from Jerusalem; YÃ…Â«suf TÃ„Âj, a folk singer from Mount Lebanon; FarjallÃ„Âh BayÃ¡Â¸ÂÃ„Â, cousin to the founders of Baidaphon Records... Musical directors like the lutist QÃ„Âsim AbÃ…Â« JamÃ„Â«l al-DurzÃ„Â« and the violinist AnÃ¡Â¹ÂÃ…Â«n al-ShawwÃ„Â (followed by his son SÃ„ÂmÃ„Â«); such virtuosi as the qanun-players Nakhleh IlyÃ„Âs al-MaÃ¡Â¹ÂarjÃ„Â« and Ya'qÃ…Â«b GhazÃ„Âla, and lutist SalÃ„Â«m 'AwaÃ¡Â¸Â. Even at the time, notwithstanding such brilliance, public music-making was frowned upon as morally demeaning, especially for women. Musical venues were generally dodgy. Ã¡Â¹Â¢ulbÃ„Ân once cut short a wedding performance for the Beiruti posh, after just one song, he was so disgusted with the attitude of his audience. "If I had to tell you about the catcalls," one commentator wrote about musical theater in Beirut, "the stomping of feet, the sound of sticks hitting the ground, the noise of the water-pipes, the teeth cracking watermelon seeds and pistachio nuts, the screams of the waiters, and the clinking of arak glasses on the tables, I would need to go on and on and on..." Also includes tracks by AÃ¡Â¸Â¥mad al-Shaykh, Na'Ã„Â«m Sem'Ã„Ân, Ã¡Â¸Â¤ikmat Ã¡Â¸Â¤ajjÃ„Âr, BÃ„ÂsÃ„Â«l Ã¡Â¸Â¤ajjÃ„Âr, MuÃ¡Â¸Â¥yiddÃ„Â«n Ba'yÃ…Â«n, MuÃ¡Â¸Â¥ammad al-'Ã„Â€shiq, AÃ¡Â¸Â¥mad al-MÃ„Â«r, IliÃ„Âs ShahwÃ„Ân, and YÃ…Â«suf al-NaÃ¡Â¸Â¥Ã¡Â¸Â¥Ã„Âl.