Various Artists

Pop-Rai & Rachid Style

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Cheb Zahouani's opening "Ma-nsal" immediately hints that the sound developed by producer/one-man band Rachid Baba is more fully matured compared to the companion volume, Rai Rebels. The arrangement leaves more space but at the same time sounds fuller -- the instruments are playing full, melodic parts and/or phrases rather than just hauling off and letting 'er rip. The more overtly reggae offbeat feel in Chaba Zahouania's "Bar Adjani" really shows how much Baba reined in his playing here, but he didn't sacrifice impact for simplicity -- just listen to how a single rimshot ticking like a metronome gives a propulsive push to Cheb Hamid's "Hai Wedi." "Magboun" features a much more traditional sound than normal for Khaled (even in the Algerian market) and his singing blends with harmonium and oud to create music with a haunting, mysterious dimension. Cheb Anouar's "Laroussa" (The Wedding) features an androgynous Arabic melisma by Baba's 13-year-old nephew on a big summer of 1988 hit with traditional Arab string and percussion instruments supplemented by synths. But Cheb Sahraoui again fails to impress on "Lila Sekri Andi" -- maybe his conservatory training ruined him for rai -- while Houari Benchenet's precisely sung "Dellali" drags en route to becoming a pretty weak closer. This would be the last collection of Rachid Baba's productions to surface because he unfortunately was soon chosen to star in the Algerian fundamentalist production of "They Shoot Rai Producers, Don't They?" Whether his death had a major effect on rai's future direction is hard to say since the bloody civil war in Algeria sent singers fleeing to France (except for Cheb Hasni, who shared Baba's fate) and the more cosmopolitan, international mix that would emerge from Parisian studios in the '90s.