Various Artists

Indestructible Arabian Beats

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Dates aren't given for all of the tracks on this 14-song compilation, but it can be reasonably assumed that they were recorded within the five years or so prior to its 2003 release. Subtitled "Future Sounds from the Souks," the emphasis is on Middle Eastern performers, or at least performers of Middle Eastern ancestry, combining Middle Eastern music with modern technology and pop. The Middle East is, of course, a huge and diverse region, which is reflected in the countries represented here, including Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco. Note that the tracks aren't necessarily recorded by present inhabitants of those lands, but also by descendants of immigrants who are now based in non-Middle Eastern locations like London, Paris, or Switzerland. Boundary crossing often makes for interesting music, but at the same time, this anthology isn't immune from criticism that applies to many recordings of this sort, such as the ones by the long-established Barraka Productions (which produced three of the tracks here). For rather than fusing the best of both worlds, often this sounds like folk and ethnic sounds of the Middle East put to dull, slick European dance beats and modern electronic instruments. Still, these artists -- Aisha Kandisha's Jarring Effects is the only act with a reasonably high Western profile -- are trying something different by fusing Middle Eastern sounds with hip-hop, dub, and dance. Sometimes they come up with something that stands out as less generic, like Amina's mix of French chanson singing and Tunisia on "Un Ange en Paix," Souad Massi's "Nekreh el Keld," which actually sounds rather close to Spanish flamenco music, and "Kim Dedi" by Aziza A, described in the liner notes as "the first female Turkish hip-hopper."

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