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Café Arabia [Metro]

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Metro's world music compilations vary widely in quality. Some of them feature few or no original versions of the songs they collect, substituting cookie-cutter re-recordings that only give a feeling of what the music is like, instead of presenting the authentic music of the place the album supposedly celebrates. Café Arabia is one of the label's better collections, featuring original versions of songs by rai and Arabian pop artists including Cheikh Meftah, Cheb Khaled, and Cheikha Remitti. Not surprisingly, these acts provide some of the album's highlights, including Meftah's "Ainik," Khaled's "Chabrassi," and Remitti's "Guendouzi Mama," all of which have a traditional rai sound. Malik's "N'Touma" and Haïm's "Wahlaich," meanwhile, define the contemporary sound of rai pop. This musical generation gap may be a drawback for some listeners, though one could argue that it traces the history of rai's evolution. Either way, Café Arabia is a thoroughly enjoyable collection, and one of Metro's better offerings. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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