This is one album that was just waiting to happen, what with the influx of West Asian music, fusion mixes and imitations. This album is a decent congregation of various types within this particular music genre.
The album takes songs which fit the bill (though the connection is remote in some cases) and puts them together. Some are genuine pieces, and these are the ones which really stand out; others are cuts which have done well internationally, either as dance numbers or pop music; and some just don’t fit...
The album will be guaranteed its fair share of success by the presence of stalwarts: the Sting (and Cheb Mami) hit "Desert Rose" pops in, as does a forgotten but thankfully resuscitated "Didi" (Khaled). "Habibe" (Amr Diab) and "Alabina" (Alabina) add to this list as songs whih have been done to the death on the pub scene. But there are some lovely new pieces here, very Arabian Nights and Bedouin-ish; the best of these is the slow (for this genre, that is) and evocative "Ya Raha" (Rachid Taha). Then there’s "Mama" (Sawt el Atlas) which manages to sound playful yet yearning at the same time, and "Babalao" (Angelique Kidjo) which is the surprise package of the whole album, with a hip-hop rhythm that strangely enough, feels much better that it does in normal R&B.
Of course, one cannot justify the inclusion of numbers such as Deep Forest’s "Sunrise At Alcatraz" and "Afro Left" which have nothing to do with this genre and are just remixes.
The album is a decent mix of music, but I wish they had left all those remixes out, as they only mar a perfectly decent compilation attempt. Worth a try for the different sound!This article was first published on 02 Dec 2001.