Various Artists

Yallah Amigos

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Yallah Amigos might be an anonymous compilation in many ways, with cheap artwork and no artist information to speak of, but it works. The mix of Latin and Arab music is fresh, and with a basic dance beat, it propels the tracks well -- even if the Arab element is sometimes highly colored with flamenco, as on "Odi Desmeganasis." It certainly starts off strongly with the title cut from Mar Castro and Maurice Raad, a perfect mix of the sha'bi sound and the Latin beat. "Alf Lalila Wa Lila" takes it even further with a full Egyptian string sound (albeit reproduced on strings) over bleeping beats, before heading into house territory -- although the drum patters seem more keyboard presets than anything programmed for the track. And, of course, it's impossible to ignore "Asereje," the global hit (aka "The Ketchup Song") by las Nenas, which sits smack in the middle of this set. But it's far from being the high point when there's stuff like "Kieh Kieh," with its Arabic-English rap, or "Tala Lil," which mixes its desert swirls with flamenco guitar to full effect (although the English spoken word section could easily be lost). The high-energy "Salta," with Cuban piano, vibrant horns, and annoying whistles, closes it all out. Surprisingly good and refreshingly pleasant.

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