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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


By Tom Jackson
Published June 27, 2006

Destination Halal

After last year’s magisterial Azzdine album, expectations for the eccentric Swiss/Moroccan Barbarity label have never been higher. Among their shifting line-ups (Aisha Kandisha’s Jarring Effects, Sapho, etc.), the latest is Amira Saqati, an amorphous group led by label boss Pat Jabbar and Youssef El Mejjad. Recorded in Marrakech during the Ramadan month of 2004, once again there is a healthy dose of dubby, echo-chambered oriental violin, enough for this release to be labeled as North African trip-hop. In fact, it’s an album with many colors to it, from the acoustic Moroccan chanson of “Oumayma” to Sana and Fatima Ezzora’s dark powerpop vocals on “Marrakesh X-Press.” Political rap “Felestin” starts out with a gentle keyboard phrase, the raw voices of French rappers Illicite & Opium building gently until an oud and a wash of electro beats pile onto one another, creating a mountain of delirious electro bashing. “Sans Tes Mots,” meanwhile, comes on like a shuffling flamenco reggae recorded under the still water of the pools in the Menara Gardens. These Barbarity people make fabulously demented music, worth close attention.