Khaled Ya-Rayi Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

'It is as finished and perfect a piece of work as he has ever recorded in more than...

John Armstrong 2004

The long-awaited opus major from Algeria's King of Rai, Khaled, finally hits the runway. It is as finished and perfect a piece of work as he has ever recorded in more than twenty years in the professional music business. But more importantly, it revises, re-edits and restocks on the many phases and genres-within-genres that have always characterized his work. So we get the dancefloor-friendly title track; two mixes of the club-aimed tune "El-HMam"; the pan-Arabic Parisian sound of "Zine Zina"; and the lush, chanson-flavoured romanticism of the opening composition,"Mani Hani", replete with veteran North African pianist Maurice Mediouni'swistful opening coda,suggestingChopin and Satie as well as pre-war Port Said hubble-bubble café society.

Orchestration and arrangements are meticulous, each song further defined by painstaking session-contracting: "El HMam" receives the full treatment of Radio Algeria's Orchestre Chaabi (it was also recorded in Algeria); in Cairo, Farid Aouameur's noted string arrangements adorn "Yema Yema" as well as "El HMam", resulting in the latter's classical Egyptian giant orchestra flavour, which then had to be grafted onto Orchestre Chaabi's contribution, before mixing down in the Paris studio... and so forth.

In the last couple of years many major African artists have recorded acoustic/unplugged/retrospective sets, and to the list of Salif Keita, Youssou N'Dour and Sam Mangwana must now be added Oran's Voix d'Or. The work maintains a rare wholeness, guaranteed by the consistently excellent contributions of longtime associates Sam Debbie (who has a hand in more than half of the compositions) and artistic director Nicolas Gautier. Meanwhile, production is delegated to a raft of the best soundmakers currently on offer in Paris and Algeria - Don Was, ex-Kassav's guitarist/arranger Jacob Desvarieux and Philippe Edel, to name just a handful.

All twelve cuts rock, but "Zine Zina" and "El HMam", in particular, constitute thrilling music for the feet, heart and soul, and will inevitably become one of immigre Paris' big Autumn radio soundtracks on 107.6 FM Africa No 1.

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