Various Artists

Baila Habibi, Vol. 1

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The Moors once ruled Spain, and Hispanic culture owes a lot to Arabic influences, so why not a fusion of Hispanic and Arabic music? Baila Habibi, whose name combines the Spanish word for dance with an Arabic term of endearment, delivers a new style of dance music created by DJ/mixer Boris Granich and programmer/composer Shad Rabbani. Flamenco-esque Spanish guitar licks by Yussi weave around drum'n'bass beats and Rabbani's pop-sensibility keyboard work, while vocals in Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, and French are provided by Spanish and Middle Eastern singers like Katarina, Mera, Lui Zelaya, Los Fernandos, Debra Fortunato, and the Sahara Girls. The album begins and ends with two versions of "Baila," a lively number that invokes visions of belly dancers and smoky cafes. Other highlights include the Euro-disco-flavored "Habibi" and "C'est Toi" (the latter, with French whispers, recalls the notorious '60s hit "Je T'Aime"), and "Talalil," in which the Sahara Girls add some variety with a bit of rapping in English. Some of the songs seem a bit long, with much repetition of choruses, but this is a trait common to both dance music and Middle Eastern music. Whether one chooses to dance or just to escape into the ambience of a far-off world, Baila Habibi is fun -- a multicultural adventure.

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