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Saharan music is obscure on the world stage, but it deserves to be famous. There's some beautiful and fascinating music here. This rough guide focuses on the music of western north Africa, (rather than Egypt and Sudan) and usually on music just below the north Afrian coast - right in the heart of the deaert. The liner notes are quite excellent and informative, and place the music in geographical context, describing the exact location of the artists (musicians from this oasis in southern Libya, or this place around Timbuktu) showing that it truly is Saharan music (not, for example, some Tunisian born, Paris based DJ who creates "Saharan" techno or something). The music is from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya.
You might expect alot of Arabic music, as I did, but don't. It's really more complicated than that, with the dozens of tribal, liguistic and ethnic groups, and the nomadic nature and history of Saharan peoples. That seems to have affected the music. There's Berber, African, and Arabic music (with, or course, many varieties of each) often crossing over and influencing eachother. I might have preferred more Arabic music, like the first track, a rousing and awesome Moroccan song. But the compilation ranges from such Arabic music to sub-Saharan African music, and Berber music in a haunting, almost spoken word song of poetry (the last track) with just voice and flute (and which sounds like the style of Cheika Remitti, the precursor style to rai music.) There's also the interesting music of Western Sahara in three tracks: a soft melodic song, an electric guitar song with traditional percussion and handclaps, and a track that sounds like the blues with the words "la illaha ilallah." Hasna el Becharia sings a joyful gnawa song, preceded by a melancholy, very compelling and mesmerising song from the well-known group Tinariwen.
There are a number of what sounds like field recordings, which are not always easy to appreciate or understand (some would say they were harsh on "western" ears) but they are interesting, and very real, and an important part of a compilation of all the facets of Saharan music.
It's supposed to be compiled by a Saharan music expert, and that's not suprising. If you like Arabic or African music, this is especially recomended. It's only about 63 minutes long, which is too bad, they could have fit more music on here, but it's still very good.