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Posted Monday, September 17, 2007
This album has an exotic mix of vocal and instrumental tracks from North Africa including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. As one might expect there’s some cross-fertilisation with French culture here, and many of the items are in the popular vein, but most are based on traditional Arabic, Berber, Gypsy, Moslem and Jewish foundations. The Algerian rai, the Egyptian shaabi and the evocative Kabyle folk songs are all typical of this region, but in recent times they’ve been crossed with everything from flamenco and reggae to hip-hop.
The standout track for me is by dynamic French-Tunisian oud player Smadj, a driving traditionally based instrumental with a modern beat and string, clarinet and percussion accompaniment from his new album SOS, somewhat reminiscent of Tunisian oud player Dhafer Youssef (unfortunately not represented here).
The other tracks, including those by Maurice El Medioni, Barrio Chino, Sahabat Akkirazm (well-known Turkish singer of the turku folk style), Cheb Balowski and Tarik, are mostly contemporary songs accompanied on traditional instruments, and one or two grassroots traditional artists like Mahmoud Fahl, from his album “The Drummers of the Nile”.
A mixed bag, and yes, overall there is a genuine café atmosphere about this collection - one can almost smell the coffee and tobacco.