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From the Inside Out

Music from India, Spain, Italy, Tunisia and Other International Beats

By Published: April 27, 2006

Bebel Gilberto strikes the set's most compelling figure with her haunting voice. Remix producer Tom Middleton's new electronic sounds in "Simplesmente truly complement her exquisite vocal, electric keyboards tempering her warm voice with cool chill. The remix of "Cada Beijo by production wizards Thievery Corporation works the same, as new electronics and rhythms luxuriate underneath the cover of her voice. (Jazzheads might recognize Thievery Corporation from their production on the first installment of the Verve Remixed jazz / hip-hop series.) So strongly has Gilberto established her own star presence that one feels almost apologetic for wishing to mention her lineage; she is daughter of bossa nova founding father João Gilberto and stepdaughter to Astrud Gilberto, who breathed that timeless voice into "The Girl From Ipanema.

In the deceptively casual "Por acaso pela tarde, balladeer Celso Fonseca strums his acoustic guitar in a manner so relaxed - so Brazilian - in its ringing rhythm and tones.

From the clubs, Bossacucanova team up with Zuco 103 for "Samba da minha terra, and with samba preservationist / reconstructionist Simoninha for "Essa moca tá diferente, two irresistible rhythms that simply couldn't groove more tight and funky, the "Samba bass line in particular resembling one long flirtatious wink tossed from a beautiful young woman in passing.

Reports from the popular "other precinct include Apollo Nove's ballad "Inexplicata, which opens with African percussion, slides down Hawaiian and Spanish guitars, even whistles the hook to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, all at a quite leisurely pace; and Zuco 103's "Love is Queen Omega, where dub forefather Lee "Scratch Perry blends into Brazilia the sound of the Caribbean isles and throaty exhortations to "Shake, shake shake!

MC Rai
Raivolution
Embarka
2005

Born in southern Tunisia in 1977, MC Rai proved so adept in the native folk music tradition of Chaabi that he was performing on local radio stations before his eighth birthday. Like most teenagers, his musical horizons expanded as he grew and his ears soon embraced the sounds of Rai music, folk music native to neighboring Algeria, and hip-hop and other modern electronic music.

Now shouting out from San Francisco, MC Rai presents his fusion of Chaabi, Rai and modern music with Raivolution, a melting pot in which ancient and modern instruments - electric bass, guitar and keyboards, modern hip-hop and rap production techniques, accordion, African harp, North African lute, oud, African percussion, Arabian percussion, and Gumbri - simmer into exotic, genuinely cross-cultural music.

At its best, Raivolution locks into its rhythms like a pirate radio station bubbling over in Middle Eastern tongues, exotic Arabian and African sounds slashing through frequencies like scythes. Perhaps anticipating musical or generational culture shock, Rai annotates each song title with its background or purpose.

The opening "Oudies Jam ("An introduction to the album via the sounds of the medina streets ) unleashes hot melodic strings that knot, untie and knot again, like mating serpents intertwining under the relentless dessert sun. Strings and vocal chants flail the rhythm of "Hen' Alina ("Traditional Tunisian political song comparing the love of a mother to love of country ) like an Arabian knight whipping his mount.

(When, you might ask, is Raivolution NOT at its best? When rappers jump in ("Toulli Lila features rapper N4SA, with rapper CB from the collective Alphabet Soup on the title track) and clog up the flow of its rhythms.)

"Ya Siadi, "A Sufi style song asking holy men to give me guidance with my life , illuminates the religious foundation that supports so much of this region's traditional music, a dervish communion of percussion and vocals overlaid with a very modern rock sound. Rai follows this with "Sahran, churning rhythms scalded by emphatically modern electric guitar.

In contrast, "Maktoubi glides softly like a ballerina's slippered feet, its vocal adorned by the chiming sound of its stringed instruments like jewels in the dancer's headpiece. And, quite wonderfully, it's not at all difficult to imagine the accordion and "kick-up-yer-feet tempo of "Bisselama as an Irish jig, a motif extracted from and highlighted even more strongly by the strings in the set-ending "Essaif ("A recollection of childhood summers in Tunisia )!

It's all enough to make one wonder why we're given so many different worlds of music, yet only two ears through which to hear them...



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