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World Music CD Reviews Europe

KETAMA

By Marty Lipp
Published September 27, 2005

20 Pa’ Ketama
Universal

Ketama, like flamenco itself, has experimented with a variety of sounds over the past two decades. This greatest hits collection shows how the trio steered among Catalan rumba, mambo, nueva flamenco, among other ports, on its way to pop stardom, which came after years of cult status in Spain. This collection, which comes in one- or two-CD packages, is being called the coda to their career. While flamenco is known for its heart- and time-stopping paroxysms of emotion called duende, Ketama uses flamenco building blocks in a radio-friendly, rhythmic formula. Though the group named itself for a North African village, it linked up with rock, jazz and Latin music, creating what they called “flamenco cool.” While Catalan rumba hints at the sounds of mambo that echo across the Atlantic, Ketama, on several songs here, plays arrangements that would fit neatly in a Marc Anthony album. Elsewhere, the group hints at the North African roots of flamenco with guest star Khaled. The group was critically acclaimed for teaming with kora player Toumani Diabate on the two Songhai albums, represented by one song on the single CD, “Pozo del Deseo.” The collection, with few exceptions, moves along briskly, proving to be a rootsy, but modern counterpart to some of the lighter-weight spin-offs of flamenco.