Various Artists

A Night in Marrakech

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Although it is titled A Night in Marrakech, this double-disc collection is, in a sense, more about night and day in urban Morocco. The concept is, on paper at least, simple: on the first disc, update the traditional sounds common to Morocco -- from gnawa to chaabi to raï -- with all of its trance-inducing, hypnotic rhythms, squealing chants and lute-like ouds and guembris. Then, on the second disc, kiss the future hello with a non-stop barrage of contemporary Moroccan-based music that owes as much, if not more, to trends in Western dance clubs than to anything from ancient Arabia. The set launches with "Mahmouna," a track from the perennially popular, groundbreaking -- and controversial -- band Nass El Ghiwane, who clashed traditional Moroccan music and rock beginning in the late '60s. The track is not the most stimulating opener, featuring as it does lengthy spoken word sections, but it gives way to an increasingly stirring retooling of the more familiar Moroccan sounds, none of it quite as ethereal as what's been produced by the well-known Master Musicians of Joujouka, but much of it fascinating. The second disc is where most of the action lies, however. Owing considerably less to the past than the material collected on disc one, this is all about the moment, as artists such as Momo, DJ Cheb i Sabbah (with the great female group B'Net Marrakch in tow) and Azzddine (with Bill Laswell) create dancefloor-ready jams -- drawing on electronica, dub, hip-hop, etc. -- that would sound as current in lower Manhattan as they undoubtedly do in Marrakech.

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