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Putumayo Presents: Arabic Groove ()

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It took Cheb Mami's collaboration with Sting on the latter's mega-hit "Desert Rose" to bring Arabic music into the collective consciousness of the Western world. Never ones to pass up a trend, the folks at Putumayo have scoured North Africa and the Middle East in search of more Arabic pop music. What they turned up is a collection of dance tracks that show the heavy influence of hip-hop, urban pop, funk, and other Western styles, while maintaining the cultural integrity of the region. There are even nods to the influence of American boy bands and sex symbols such as Ricky Martin and Janet Jackson on a few tracks. The swirling strings and ornate, sinuous melody lines characteristic of the Middle East are laid over funky, chugging rhythm tracks, creating a tapestry that is crossover-ready. The disc is heavy on Algerian rai and Egyptian al-jil, with more than half the artists represented from either Egypt or Algeria. The most recognizable name here is Natacha Atlas, whose orgasmic singing on "Kidda," remixed by Transglobal Underground, stands out over the others. Libyan artist Hamid El Shaeri's track "Hely Meli" combines the cooing female vocals of urban pop with samples of women ululating. The effect is startling. On a technical note, there is virtually no space between most of the tracks. While this usually serves to keep the dance groove going, sometimes it is a little abrupt, as the ends of some tracks get chopped off. Arabic Groove is an intense, high-energy release, sure to appeal to fans of cosmopolitan dance music worldwide. ~ Peggy Latkovich, Rovi Hide synopsis

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