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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

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Various Artists
Baila Habibi Vol. 4
Time Zone

By Phil Freeman

Published June 27, 2007

This compilation gathers Mediterranean artists who are combining traditional sounds with cutting-edge electronic beats and production methods. This isn’t exactly an earth-shatteringly unprecedented approach to music-making, so bringing something serious to the table is key. And some of the folks here do. Gipsy Kaly’s disc-opening take on “La Vie En Rose” is a kick, balancing out Pedram and Margaritta’s “Ba To Mimoonam,” which is a cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” every bit as dire as that prospect sounds. That’s about where the naïve/foolish appropriations of Western pop end, though, which is a good thing. When the other performers here stick to dancefloor-izing their own culture rather than Arab-ifying someone else’s, they’re at their best, and Baila Habibi Vol. 4 becomes an ass-shaking joy to hear/feel pumping through the speakers. The red-hot horns of Masse’s “Contigo Quiero Vivir” and the staticky Spanish rapping of Barrio Del Rio’s “Onda Buena” would be highlights of any compilation, and the gentle seductions of Feminnem’s “Volim Te, Mrzim Te” and Emrah’s “Yallah” offer welcome respite for the easily exhausted. Highly recommended indeed.

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