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North African Groove

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Audio CD, June 20, 2005
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Product Description

With the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Sahara Desert to the south, North Africa serves as a crossroad between many cultures. The Atlantic coast of Morocco forms the Western boundary of North Africa and the Suez Canal in Egypt its eastern end. Most of North Africa is known as the Maghreb and includes the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Egypt, which is generally considered part of the Middle East, is geographically part of North Africa.

Echoes of ancient history can still be heard in the rhythms and melodies of North Africa’s popular music. While electronic drum beats, disco and funk-inspired grooves, hip-hop and other Western influences are clearly apparent in the modern music of the region, traditional instrumentation, singing techniques and melodies play an important role in defining the local sound.

The two best known types of popular music from North Africa are raï and al-jil. Raï means "opinion" in Arabic, and it developed in the Algerian port city of Oran in the 1950s and 60s. Raï is the North African equivalent of rock and roll and is now popular throughout the Maghreb and in Arabic communities around the world. Al-jil is Egyptian party music. While raï and al-jil still form the core of popular North African music, Moroccan Gnawa trance, Touareg blues, Berber folk and Afro-Nubian rhythms are some of the exotic local flavors that have influenced the region’s music.

In recent years, the French cities of Paris and Marseilles have become important production centers for North African music, and many popular artists are beginning to create songs that target their own communities as well as a wider French market. Meanwhile, European DJs and producers have collaborated with artists from the region, and the influences of electronica and European club music are ever more evident.

You'd be forgiven if, after listening to North African Groove, the seventh release in Putumayo's dance floor-ready "Groove" series, you imagined that the world was getting smaller. In highlighting the diversity in contemporary Arabic music, the 12 eclectic tracks here gather influences from far beyond North Africa--from the Gypsy Kings-style flamenco touches of Egyptian Amr Diab's "Nour Al Ain" to the old-style Cuban salsa of Jomed's "Montuno Noreno" to the French-style accordion that enlivens the funky Rai of Cheb Mami's "Viens Habibi." Of course, this being a compilation with "Groove" in the title, most everything has club beats that could come from anywhere, although everything is filtered through a North African lens. A case in point is Rai--the backbeat-heavy style from Algeria that mixes American funk with Arabic instruments and melodies and which is ably represented here by Algerian superstar Khaled's "Aicha" and "Ya-Rayi," as well as the less familiar (to Western ears, anyway) Rhany and Faudel. Perhaps most surprising though is the link bared between North Africa and Latin America--which might seem unexpected until one considers the Moorish influence on Spanish music and the Spanish influence on Latin music, proving that no, the world isn't getting smaller: it's always been that way. --Ezra Gale

1. Montuno Noreno - Jomed
2. Aal Eah - Samira Saeid
3. Nour El Ain - Amr Diab
4. Si Tu Le Veux - Faudel
5. Un Mot De Toi - Rhany
6. Dis-Moi Pourquoi - Amina
7. Bahebbak - Cheb Jilani
8. Sidi - Hamid Baroudi
9. Ya-Rayi - Khaled
10. Viens Habibi - Cheb Mami
11. Hanina - Mohamed Mounir
12. On The Ride - Eastenders

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 20, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Putumayo World Music
  • ASIN: B00080Z75U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,948 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amaranth on September 26, 2006
I enjoyed "Arabic Groove";after 5 years,it is still marvelous."Sahara Lounge" is the best of Putumayo's Arabic compilations."Cairo to Casablanca" is the worst of Putumayo's Arabic compilations;it has too many repetitive songs.

Where does that put "North African Groove"?Somewhere in the middle.It's neither an absolute bore,but it's better combined with other Arabic albums and put on random shuffle.

Jomed's opening "Montuno Noreno" spicily combines Cuban&North African music,as well as electric effects.Samira Saeid's "Aal Eah" is a great dance song;she's the Moroccan equivalent of Britney Spears,but MUCH better.Amina's "Dis-Moi Pourquoi" has a great beat.Cheb Jilani's "Bahebbak"is a danceable love song.Hamid Baroudi's "Sidi" is disappointing;it's repetitive&dull,unlike his "Caravan II Baghdad" on Putumayo's out-of-print "New World Party" as well as his mesmerizing "Trance Dance" on Putumayo's still in print "World Lounge."Khaled's "Ya-Rayi" shows the "King of Rai" in top form.It's infectious.Cheb Mami's "Viens Habibi" is alright,but the "Prince of Rai" has done much,much better on his albums "Meli Meli"&"Saida." In this song,his sound is too Westernized;it fit in Sting's "Desert Rose" (his ululations made that song exotic),but this time his music is rendered dull.Mohamed Mounir's "Hanina" is excellent,bringing in Nubian rhyth,s.If you're curious,a remix of it by Jasmon is on Putumayo's "Sahara Lounge." It was interesting on my 5-CD player to first hear the Jasmon remix of "Hanina",then the original,thinking,"I've heard this before!"

"North African Groove" is a good introduction to Arabic music.If you want to hear some GREAT Arabic music,listen to Natacha Atlas and Cheb Mami.It's a musical world worth exploring.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Savka on October 1, 2005
Finally, the long-awaited Putumayo follow-up to the infectious Arabic Groove!

If you thought Arabic Groove was as scintillating, inspiring and downright funky as I did, then you're in for a treat with Putumayo's latest Middle Eastern release: North African Groove. Since many of the best artists represented on Arabic Groove were of North African both in origin and in musical inclination (Khaled, Cheb Tarik, Amr Diab, Natacha Atlas, Hamid al-Shaeri, Abdel Ali al-Slimani..) we can see why another whole CD was necesary to do justice the wonderful and infectious music of this diverse region.

Even on the best Putumayo releases there's at least one filler track - but not a dud in sight on this album. Every track is well performed, written and produced, hitting just the right balance between exotic local colour and universal funkiness and danceability.

Past masters like Khaled and Cheb Mami (respectively, the king and prince of rai, Algeria's rebel pop music)and relative newcomers like Faudel and Hamid Baroudi contribute to the Algerian component (Faudel with a catchy, irresistible ode to living righteously,punctuated by accordion riffs and driven by a lively beat), while Egyptian superstar Amr Diab entrances us with a swinging, Gypsy king-like version of an arabic love song, pop queens Samira Saeid (of Morocco) and Amina (Tunisia)give forceul and musically exciting performances of their crossover hits (Amina challenges our apathy and complacency with regards to the tragedies of the world, and urges us to be aware and collectively work towards peace).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SgtMaj Howell on November 28, 2005
Absolutely one of the best CDs I have purchased and I have over 500 in my collection. I picked this CD up in a store in Japan. I was sort of taken back by the price (US 23.00), but once I put North African Groove (NAG) into my player, I smiled during the first to last track. Samira Saeid's Aal Eah (What Did He Say) is a breath of fresh air. I don't understand a word of the lyrics on the CD, but that did not stop me from at least trying to sing along. Get NAG and you will love it.

Just a little about Putumayo. This company really has it going on. From the music to the cover art of their releases, Putumayo will put a smile on your face. Another thing I want to point out. I went to [...] and they are giving all the money they make on their New Orleans and Mississippi Blues CD to the relief efforts until the end of the year.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zart zurt on December 6, 2005
I think the most controversial fact was that i picked up this

cd in a tea shop. The album starts off with Montuna Noreno, somewhat Cuban with a West African twist.. A traditional Turkish instrument "ud" is very prominent in the background and stretches the song all the way to the Middle East..

The 2nd song is from Morocco sang by Samira Said. I belive she lived in the US for a while and the song is a blend of Moroccan and Western style pop.

As we move on, more and more Tunisian/Leabanese songs, a lot of

percussions, pulses and French come in to to the picture.

Dis moi pourqui (Tell me why) is the 6th song in the album performed by Amina (she had performed in the Eurovision song contest in the early 90's). Followed by Jilani from Libya your heart is now beating faster, the camel on a pack

of Camel cigarettes came to my mind, gallopping in the desert... The lyrics are powerful "I love my eyes for showing me that life without you is not worth living"

'On the ride' wraps up this album with whatever was not present that you had been listening for the past 40 minutes, darbouka, tambur, kanun.. Heavy Ottoman influence and a touch of clubish beats. Overall an excellent finish.

You can dance, daydream even have sex with this music; highly recommended..
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