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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

CHEB NASRO

By Jason Ferguson
Published March 17, 2006

Departure
ARK 21/Mondo Melodia

Although this incredibly popular Algerian singer has quite a backlog of excellent material to his name, Departure isn’t the album likely to generate many converts to raï music. The production, by Lilo Fadiddas, is glisteningly sterile, perhaps influenced by Nasro’s current residence in Miami. The not-so-subtle blending of blanched pop and quasi-everything (from reggae to Latin—Fadiddas and Nasro take the most obvious aspects of previously exciting genres and make them lifeless) ends up making Departure both an unacceptable raï album (it’s not ecstatic enough) and an inconsequential pop album (it’s too clichéd). To be sure, the overwrought lyricism and emotional vocal delivery is nothing to scoff at, and some may certainly cotton to this contemporary sound, but in reality, Departure represents all that is wrong with labels trying to break international artists in America by utterly changing the music they make. Some things just don’t translate, and sometimes it’s not a good idea to force a square peg into a round hole. It might work for Enrique Iglesias, but it won’t work for everybody.