Chaba Zahouania ("The Joyous One"; her real name is Halima Mazzi, an Algerian of Moroccan descent) is basically the Nana Mouskouri of northern Africa, right down to her haircut and glasses. Her music is quite similar in its intent as well; where Mouskouri's early music was Greek folk tunes given a Eurovision Song Contest-style pop gloss, Chaba Zahouania takes the basic forms of North African rai, simplifies them, adds western-sounding synthesizers and drum machines, and buffs the whole thing to a high gloss. Take away the hand percussion accents, the occasionally serpentine vocal melodies, and the rare bit of Moroccan pan flute or other native instruments and these songs could be sung by Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. Chaba Zahouania does have a really great voice, a dusky alto with a sexy, guttural growl, but based on these 12 forgettable songs, it could be put to much better use. The Best of Chaba Zahouania is for people who want to dip a toe into world music waters without being unduly challenged.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason