Various Artists

Rai Rebels, Vol. 2: Pop Rai & Rachid Style

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This engaging CD spotlights the hybrid form known as pop-rai, an adventurous combination of Algerian rai and high-tech Western pop. The artists heard here -- Cheb Khaled, Cheb Hamid, and Chaba Zahouania, among others -- are not traditionalists or purists by any means. And yet, the haunting qualities one associates with Middle Eastern music are very much intact. In contrast to the Islamic spiritual music of Algeria and Morocco, the lyrics on this CD are secular. Indeed, it doesn't get much more secular than Cheb Sahraoui's "Lila Sekri Andi," which parallels so many American blues and country songs by expressing a desire to forget about a woman by getting drunk. (Alcohol is strictly forbidden among many Islamic traditionalists.) For novices, this disc can be an excellent introduction to pop-rai.