Toraia Orchestra of Algiers

Ya Bay

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Most likely recorded several decades before its 1997 reissue on CD, this fine album by the Algerian ensemble Toraia Orchestra of Algiers deserves a wide hearing by listeners interested in combinations of some of the best attributes of traditional African music and 20th century popular influences. Hearing this for the first time long after its original issue, one is struck by its close resemblance in some respect to the taarab music of Zanzibar, a region geographically and culturally distant from North Africa. Nonetheless, the parallel is inescapable, with the similarly captivating sweet-sour melodies, frequent call-and-response vocals, and haunting textures of the zither- and lute-related instruments. The female vocals are exuberant and passionate; the liner notes don't say which of the two singers (Anissa Toraira and Zouina) are responsible for the lead on "Ahsin," but it's as sensuous as any performance to be heard in African music.

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