Putumayo has put together a collection of polished North African pop music here that will appeal to fans of worldbeat with an ear for exotic African and Middle Eastern fusions and an eye on the dancefloor. Algeria has one of the most active and accessible music scenes in the region and it's no surprise that the small nation is well represented here. Jomed is an Alegrian/Cuban duo that blends elements of both traditions on "Montuno Noreno," which is musically closer to a Cuban son but is sung in Arabic. Another Latin-North African fusion can be heard on "Un Mot de Toi" from Tunisia's Rhany, who traveled to Cuba to create his own brand of Arabic salsa music. Faudel is a French-Algerian whose take on rai is far removed from its simple drums and vocals beginnings with apparent European pop influences. Cheb Mami is one of the best-known rai artists and he too has incorporated a some Western touches on "Viens Habibi," although his delivery still retains the classic rai swagger, as does Libyan Cheb Jilani on the more traditional but funky "Bahebbak," proving that rai is much more than a strictly Algerian phenomenon and has become now part of the greater fabric of Middle Eastern pop. From Morocco comes Samira Saeid (also spelled Said) with a slick club-friendly Middle Eastern groove that, if in English, wouldn't be out of place among the ruling pop divas of the airwaves. With an approach that favors polished dance beats and blurred cultural boundaries, North African Groove is a good disc for anyone looking to make the world at large a little more approachable.
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AllMusic Review by Wade Kergan