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African Jazz

North Africa: Rocking el Casbah

By Published: April 26, 2005

Various Artists
North African Groove

This danceworthy mix collects a dozen songs with suitably expansive influences from Arabic music, flamenco, Afro-Cuban styles, Euro-club pop, and beyond. Universally upbeat and propulsive, this is music for the heart as much as the feet; you'd have to be dead set against the backbeat not to find it moving one way or another. This can be considered a companion recording to Putumayo's similar and equally solid 2001 Arabic Groove compilation, though the two overlap only with the common inclusion of a track each from Khaled.

The French-Algerian star is in fine form here with the title track from his new Ya-Rayi album, where guitars, strings, horns, and keyboards thicken up the sound but a regular, insistent beat reinforces the groove. Raï's young French prince and heir apparent, Faudel, also shows up with a very poppy "Si Tu le Veux," more Paris electro than Oran insouciant, but mixed up enough between the two to stay interesting.

Afro-Cuban piano and percussion meet up with riffing minor-key melodies on Morocco-born raï singer Rhany's successful multi-cultural fusion, "Un Mot de Toi." Libya's Cheb Jilani, who's done pretty well in the Arab world, mixes up instruments and pulls a few classic riffs out of the bag on his thickly-produced and lightly funky "Bahebbak"; Egypt's Mohamed Mounir bounces out like a back-to-the-future '70s disco acid flashback on "Hanina," and you have to have some respect for the retro thing to really sink in deep.

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Track listings

Tékitoi: Tékitoi; Rock El Casbah; Lli Fat Mat!; H'Asbu-Hum; Safi; Meftuh'; Winta; Nah'Seb; Dima; Mamachi; Shuf; Stenna; Ya Rayah; Voila Voila. DVD: ¿Kienes?, a 45-minute film directed by Pascal Forneri and Chrisophe Acker (4/3 screen format; NTSC all zones; English and Spanish subtitles).

Ya-Rayi: Mani Hani; Ya-Rayi; Zine Zina; El-H'Mam; Lemen; Yema Yema; Ya Galbi; H'Mama; Ensa El Hem; Hagda; El Ghira; El-H'Mam (Imhotep remix).

North African Groove: Jomed - Montuno Noreño; Samira Saeid - Aal Eah; Amr Diab - Nour El Ain; Faudel - Si Tu le Veux; Rhany - Un Mot de Toi; Amina - Dis-Moi Pourquoi; Cheb Jilani - Bahebbak; Hamid Baroudi - Sidi; Khaled - Ya-Rayi; Cheb Mami - Viens Habibi; Mohamed Mounir - Hanina; Eastenders feat. Shady Sheha - On the Ride.

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