Album Review | Bongo Joe Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Subtitled Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985-1997, this compilation is made up of tracks from the Maghreb region of North Africa, originally released on cassette only and produced between 1985 and 1997 in Lyon, France. The influences are widespread and cross regional, bringing to each of the selections a rich variety of diverse sounds. There’s much fusing together of traditional styles with more localised contemporary grooves, notably on Salah El Annabi’s “Hata Fi Annaba” with its nod to Jean-Michel Jarre’s familiar “Oxygene” theme.
Opening with determined footsteps across the stereo plain, followed by some frantic French dialogue underpinned by space age synth effects, Zaïdi El Batni’s “Malik ya Malik” strives to give us a sense of place and time, with some confident call and response vocals and almost tribal beats. This music was performed in the cafes of Lyon towards the end of the last century, which must have been a delight to curious visitors, yet none of it appears to have dated much at all. Interestingly, some of the selections have been modified from their original versions, at times without the artist’s permission, all of which adds something to the mystique of these recordings.
Choice Track: Hata Fi Annaba (NSV 499)