label: Time Zone
our score: 3.5 out of 5.0
En Español, And All the Better For It
by: matt cibula
This CD collects
tracks that show the very close connection between Arabic music
and music from Spanish-speaking countries. To anyone who has studied
any world history at all, this shouldn't be a huge surprise: the
"Moorish" (African) influence on Spain has always been
huge, and Spanish and Cuban and South American music have all
been hugely important in Northern and Western African music too.
But it's nice to have twelve tracks that make the confluences
explicit, and to have them all together on one 47-minute CD, and
to make sure that they are all fun and non-sucky.
track is the title track, performed by Mar Castro and Maurice
Raad, and it's the whole Arabic/Spanish thing right in a nutshell:
Peruvian pipes and Cuban son music together with the same
beats and keyboard flourishes that so dominate Algerian rai music.
Lyrics alternate between Spanish and Arabic, which is key, and
the flamenco guitar solo melts right into a whirling rai synth
flourish. Couldn't be a better thesis statement, really.
But it's certainly
not as exciting as "Sozum Dinle" by Burak Aziz, which
is more like straightforward Middle Eastern dance music, all ululated
vocals and throbbing bass pulses and insistent drum shuffle-until
things shift ever so slightly halfway through and incorporate
more of a Latin vibe. By the end of the song, it's hard to tell
just exactly what kind of music this is
but it's really nice,
funky and soothing at the same time.
A group called
Los Locos nails it too in a song called, hilariously, "Ai
Ai Ai." This incorporates just about everything you can think
of: mariachi horns, Moroccan shuffle, a touch of hip-hop in the
sampled drum fills, Euro-pop (are they saying "Buon giorno"
at the beginning?), the whole nine meters. They can't quite pull
off the same trick in "Salta," which is more explicitly
Cuban/Yoruban beat-wise, and if there are any Arabic touches then
they're too subtle for my ears.
is hot here, though. We hit a slow patch in the middle of the
album, starting with Addis' "Odi Mesmeganis" (pretty
but boring) and Las Nenas' cover version of "Asereje"-commonly
known as "The Ketchup Song" because the original was
done by Las Ketchup-lays back just when it should kick in. But
the stuttery electronics and housatronic beat of Hana El Sakran's
"Alf Lila Wa Lila" gets us back on track nicely enough,
even though there is nothing remotely Spanish about it.
is a very nice disc to have around, despite a lapse or two. It's
made for some ass-shaking in my home, and it's the least boring
history lesson I've heard in a long time.
13-Oct-2003 6:14 PM