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World Music CD Reviews Africa

ARABESQUE

By MARIE ELSIE ST. LÉGER
Published March 3, 2006

Restless
Ryko

Culling from techno, hip-hop, classical and their own centuries-old traditions, the artists on the thrilling Arabesque—from Britain, France and Germany by way of North Africa—forge a musical route that crisscrosses continents unapologetically. The Anglo-Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas found international stardom with songs such as the electronic-beat-heavy “Kidda,” on which she shows off soaring vocals and a deep connection to ’70s Egyptian pop; Rachid Taha embraces the Algerian sounds his parents moved to while advancing the Euro-African musical marriage on the rock-tinged “Valencia.” And the musical conversation is hardly one-sided: Raï megastar Cheb Mami collaborated with French rapper Imhotep on the blistering “Parisien du Nord” (“Twenty-five years old...I have no diploma, no money either/Nobody wants me, not my wife, not my job, not my family...Is it impatience that really gets in my way?”); Tranquility Bass, a.k.a. Seattle’s Mike Kandel, gave clubland “Cantamilla,” a drum- ’n’ bass cut with subtle North African textures; and English remixer Hefner turns Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s Turkish-traditional “Shashkin” (also heard in its original incarnation later on the compilation) into an irresistible dance-floor mover.