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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Cheb Nacim

By Bruce Miller
Published April 27, 2007

Algerian Rai

Much of this disc exemplifies what’s gone wrong with many musical hybrids across the globe. Whether done in a well-meaning effort to stay current, reach beyond a country's borders or merely to sanitize folk strains for radio play, folk/pop concoctions have had a tough time over the last 20-plus years. The kind of slickness that all but snuffs rai’s potency on this disc is unfortunately found in everything from more recent Indonesian dangdut or Thai molam, to Serbian quasi-funk. While this disc still contains accordion, darbuka and ganun—a must for Algerian popular music—it loses the fire of earlier practitioners such as Chaba Fadela or Cheb Hamid and all but severs ties to rai’s precursor, guesba. Nacim’s voice is hypnosis itself, and he draws from the songbooks of Cheb Hasni and other legends, but there’s no reason to cover perfectly good organic roots with the pesticide of computer programming.