Rough Guide to Arabesque
Since its experimental beginnings in the early 1990's, Arabesque's blend of traditional musical roots and modern electronically generated rhythms has taken the World by storm .From the groundbreaking beats of those early days, to the cutting edge Dar sounds of today, the artists featured on this album hail from Marrakech, London, Montpellier, Beirut, New York, Paris and Berlin, neatly illustrating the global scope of the Arabesque phenomenon. This Rough Guide offers a wide ranging introduction to the infectious appeal of modern Arabic electronica
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Modern north African music isn't all about rai, chaabi, and Transglobal Underground, although these are certainly important aspects. In this compilation, the major Western influences are hiphop and breakbeats. It's interesting to hear how the traditional eastern sounds blend with western pop. At times, you can hear what sounds like an Egyptian raqs sharqi orchestra, and then all of a sudden you're slammed with hard-hitting breakbeats and aggressive male rapping.
Oojami, with the dancey track "Fantasy" from the album "Bellydancing Breakbeats", is obviously part of the breakbeat sector, whereas Clotaire K's "Beyrouth Ecoeuree" features classic Arabic female vocals punctuated by male rapping.
Nicodemus, featuring Andrea Montiero, is next with "Desert Dancer," which samples the hell out of traditional percussive rhythms and overlays it all with Egyptian orchestral strings, keyboards, and a sweet-voiced woman. It's laid-back and slow, and definitely a prime example of Middle Eastern chillout music.
MoMo brings the tempo back up with the fun "Dourbiha" which mixes hiphop with folkish sounds. Ali Slimani's "S'Habi" has a house feel to it.
Mafia Maghrebine's "Frere Faut Que Tu Saches" is primarily hiphop, with only a bit of the mid-eastern sound. Although traditional darbouka and wind instruments can be heard in the background, the foreground is aggressively western.
Soap Kills' "Tango" takes a tango rhythm and plays with it, turning it into something wholly different from the usual. I'll betcha there have been some fascinating dance routines done to this number, and if there haven't been, there soon will be.
Gnawa Impulse finishes the CD with "Lahillah Express," which is a good example of mid-eastern drum and bass.
All total, the Rough Guide to Arabesque is an excellent cross-selection of modern, north African and middle eastern electronica. If you're a fan of electronica, and are curious about the traditional sounds from these areas, this just might be your gateway CD.
I don't like some of the tracks, and I didn't like it at all when I first heard it, but if you listen to it a few times you'll find that the songs are mostly very creatively produced, with traditional roots. Perhaps this is just a collection of the most high quality Arabic electronica, but there isn't (mercifully) TOO much of the slick techno beats that have little depth. Most of the artists reside in London, Paris, New York or other western cities, but are foreign born, and so they incorporate western studio techniques and styles while making them unique (mostly), and a few songs have lyrics in French or English.
The first track is Moroccan, with strong roots, and even a tolerable modern, "bass-driven" beat. There's some Arabic rap here as well, all of it excellent. Beyrouth Ecoeuree stands out, and Aalash Kwawna, by U-Cef, seems to adress the issue of censorship and free speech. Sidi Mansour is actually quite beautiful, with a beat that never becomes too monotonous, and Arabic orchestra, voice and chorus. Gnawa Impulse's Lahillah Express is very compelling, blending a soulful voice of a sufi gnawa singer with electronics (though it could have done without the electronics, really.)
All in all, if you like Arabic music you should check it out, though there are definitely a few disappointing tracks. You'll probably find it interesting if you like electronic music, as this is full of many different kinds.
1. A MUEY A MUEY: an infectious driving bass beat, with powerful male vocals and a violin vying for attention.
3. BEYROUTH ECOEUREE: male French rap paired with female Arabic singing, catchy and bold.
4. DESERT DANCER: a slow, hypnotic beat and tune, with a complimentary vocal descant. As a previous reviewer said, it's very good "chill-out" music.
9. SIDI MANSOUR: a fantastic fusion of a Western beat with Arabic instruments, percussion, and vocals; rai singer Larbi Dida can be heard at the beginning and end of the song.
12. LAHILLAH EXPRESS: drum and bass combined with traditional Sufi Muslim chanting, giving the whole song a sort of trancey feel.
Those are just a few of the tracks; the others are great listening, as well. Rough Guide's usual pitfall is that the quality of the music generally decreases as the cd progresses, but that is not the case with this particular compilation. For those who like electronica or Arab/North African music or both, the Rough Guide to Arabesque will remain in your cd player for a long time to come.
Definitely above average as far as the World Music collections that I've heard.