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Various Artists
The Rough Guide To Latin Arabia
World Music Network

By Doug Merlino

Published April 27, 2007

The music on this album documents a process of cross-fertilization that started in the 9th Century, when Arabs first conquered the Iberian Peninsula. Here, cumbia, salsa, rumba, rai and flamenco mix with a bit of bellydance drumming to form a sound perched between Spain, North Africa and Latin America: Remaking the Cuban classic “Chan Chan,” Moroccan Rhany sings verses in Arabic while the chorus remains in Spanish; Cuban violinist Alfredo de la Fé borrows North African scales and drumming and grafts them to cumbia on “Macondo”; On “Oran Oran,” Algerian born Maurice El Medioni seamlessly blends piano-based Cuban rumba with rai, while singing in French, to form a totally original sound. Other artists on the album include Omar Faruk, Radio Tarifa’s Benjamin Escoriza, and Salamat, a group of Nubians who take on the mambo. This is a fun and eye-opening overview of this stylistic nexus, packed front-to-back with great songs.

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