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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Various Artists

By Bruce Miller
Published October 21, 2008

1970'S Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
Sublime Frequencies

For those of us who would be more infatuated with Rai's swaggering undercurrents were it not for the typically dreadful synths and programmed beats that admittedly make the music cheap to produce, the prodigious Sublime Frequencies label has the perfect solution. In what seems to be Algeria's forgotten musical decade of the '70s, the hypnotic Rosewood flute and vocal incantations made infamous by such radical pioneers as Cheikha Rimitti and others got updated with electric organs, trumpets and, in the case of Cheb Zergui, wah-wah infected guitar. This vinyl-only compilation features unknown performers Boutaiba Sghir, Messaoud Bellemou and Group El Azhar, plus the aforementioned Zergui for what is no doubt the most infectious stomp to ever come out of the Maghreb. The collection shows Algerian music locking into the grooves that still underpin modern Rai, but instead of the contemporary era's stingy synthesized trappings, these rhythms pound with the fury of the Gaspa of old. Bluntly, this stuff cranks. Here's hoping Cheb Zergui gets his own compilation!