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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


Published January 25, 2006


For more than five centuries the Ottoman Empire held sway from the Balkans to Algiers and was not dismantled until 1918. On this disc, however, the Empire never ended, and Ottomanic compiles music from an imaginary modern Ottoman Empire. This reviewer ran into the compilers one night in a bar in Cairo as they scoured the region for interesting fusions of Middle Eastern music, resulting no doubt in the inclusion of Egyptian bandleader Fathy Salama (producer of Youssou N’Dour’s latest album, Egypt). Inevitably, and rightly, the album is mainly Turkish: Burhan Öçal opens the compilation while Mercan Dede closes the disc. But Israel, Iraq and Iran are also featured. A bus trip lit by the flickering lights of a dream, the disc dabbles in electronica—particularly insistent beats from on Gold Sutra by Muslimgauze—but it is for the most part acoustic. It’s a dark, cool selection, musically fascinating and using a different set of artists from most compilations.