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World Music CD Reviews Europe

ZEBDA

By PAUL-ÉMILE COMEAU
Published April 7, 2006

Utopie D’Occase
Universal

Zebda arose out of a working class neighborhood in Toulouse, France in the late ’80s. The group’s music immediately reflected the local immigrant melting pot by being a mish-mash of ska, reggae, hip-hop, raï, rock, funk and French song. The group later produced one huge hit in “Tomber la chemise” and Utopie D’Occase (Second-Hand Utopia), Zebda’s fourth album, can only enhance the group’s already reputable image.  Although the group is already large at seven members, some tracks feature guest musicians, making the music intensely rhythmic, even playful. A swirling accordion inserts itself into arrangements, adding another degree of French flavor. Magyd Cherfi’s lyrics, which often have a dark and socially committed bent, are sometimes difficult and often acerbic. Few songs are as immediately gripping as the opening “L’erreur est humaine” or closing “Le répertoire” (or, for that matter, the hidden track four minutes after it), but there are beautiful, passionate moments sprinkled throughout.