Track by Track :
Aâlach Tloumouni: This album is bound to obliterate certain prejudices, and more specifically the idea that raï music cannot be played without an orchestra. This title penned by the composer of Wahrane Wahrane, Ahmed Whabi, is accompanied by an Egyptian string section and recorded with Mahmoud Sourour conducting. This inventive encounter between near-East modernism and machrek classicism is a perfect musical shortcut between two hyphenated regions belonging to the same world. It certainly recalls Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, and this might be due to the coordinating intervention of Hossan Ramzy, who had helped with the logistics of No Quarter, an Arab-rock album signed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
El Harba Wine: Ten years ago, Khaled had already sung this piece, which he had translated from Kabyle into Arabic. This Idir song was very popular in Algeria and became a hymn of the street demonstrations in October 1988. Khaled performs the new version with Amar, a 19-year old British-Pakistani muse whom he had heard on the first compilation issued by Anokha, a label belonging to Talvin Singh. In this innovating fusion of raï and Indian music, the darbuka is replaced by tablas and violins (arranged by the new Bombay-born prodigy, Jolly Mulkerjee, from Palm Pictures, Chris Blackwell's new label. He has signed the string arrangements of Björk's latest album). This title is evidence of the unremitting lure exercized by Indian on Arabic music. Khaled perpetuates the tradition of duetting, in a Marvin Gaye-Diana Ross fashion. Its festive lightness sharply contrasts with the very somber lyrics.
C'est la nuit: After the success of Aïcha, we were expecting another collaboration between Goldman and Khaled. "C'est la nuit", the first single from the new album "Kenza", has enabled Jean-Jacques Goldman to create for Khaled a fascinating and sensitive ballad, who in turn sings this song with a gentleness that suits the intimist dimension of the lyrics, where choruses lightly rise like wreathes of smoke into the night.
Trigue Lycee: As a teenager, Khaled has already walked along this "high school road" when he was living in Haï Mahieddine, close to Oran, and had to combine his studies with his love for music. In fact, this title was the first to be recorded by this future king of raï. Steve Hillage has preserved the youthful dimension of the song, while giving it a modern feeling due in part to the rhythm section comprising Gail-Ann Dorsey (bass) and Zachary Alford (drums). This team had already participated in the concert "1, 2, 3 Soleils", along with the guitarist Randy Jacobs, a Don Was accomplice who can be heard on the preceding Khaled albums.
E'Dir E'Sseba: New York appears to be nothing more than a big, crazy village, a huge Kasbah born out of the marriage of rhythm and dance. The idea of a world sound system has never seemed more real and accomplished. Khaled succeeds in materializing what other artists like James Brown, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder have only dreamed of: uniting the American and African continents. Unlike similar projects which sometimes seem artificial, especially in the realm of jazz, Lati Kronlund manages to obtain a natural fusion. This is probably because, for the first time in the history of music, we are not witnessing a visit from the American continent to the African continent. This time, Africa is taking America by storm.
Ya Aâchkou: In this song, the instruments are traditional, but the vision is definitely modern. The bendir or the gazba (a reed flute) are used in a new context, circled with funky brass instruments or soul voices. Lati Kronlund has been keen to extract these instruments from their natural environment in order to create a strange slide, an acoustic disorientation which culminates in the superb solo offered by Nabil Khalidi, a master of Moroccan ud, who plays it in a resolutely jazzy fashion.
Melha: The encounter between raï and funk had already occurred in previous albums. It now achieves full expression. The collusion between the sinuous Oriental synthetizer which sounds like an accordion and the sensual belly-dancing movement of the bass and drums seems to pertain to a deeply rooted tradition, to an articulate language. Wrapped in these marvelous foamy waves of violins, this assortment offers a pure sensation of freedom.
Raba-Raba: The artist has combined two traditional raï songs in this title, which represents the synthetic dimension of this album. The accordion and the flights of violins surrounded by neys and trumpets create a sensual and hypnotic atmosphere.
El Bab: Since he knows how much raï owes to Black Berber music, Khaled could not be unaware of the renewal of the gnaoua culture. Bill Laswell has already explored this environment, which is magnified by the gumbri, a sacred instrument used during religious ceremonies. An ancestor of the bass, the gumbri gives to urban funk a majestic depth and a touch of spirituality.
El Aâdyene: Very close to the style of Chic, of which Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards are very fond, this title contains a rather new element, with scratches from old raï vinyl records, made by a deejay from the New York hip-hop scene. This procedure is not just anecdotal but symbolizes Lati Kronlund's approach, which takes traditional elements to reach a very modern result.
Gouloulha-Dji: This new encounter between raï and salsa does not come from a purely artificial choice but is based on a tangible element. In the instrumentation of the "son", a rural Cuban music, we find a cordophone called "laùd", which is close, in its name and conception, to the Arabic ud. We knew that the santiags, worn by the Mexican gauchos, came from the babouches. Now, here is a surprising contribution from Arabic civilization to Creole Cuban culture. Beyond this little anecdote for musicologists, we are witnessing here a return from the Cuban music to African culture, with the meeting of closely related percussions and the rich dialogue of the piano and the accordion.
Mele Hbibti: This piece, which was previously recorded under the title Hana Hana, shows the degree of refinement obtained by Steve Hillage, a cross-over producer of Western and Eastern music, who creates a tasty and multicoloured acoustic canvas by mixing the melodic lines of the classic Egyptian instruments and the drum'n' bass programs of Sam Zaman, of the Asian underground band State of Bengal. Confronted with this coincidence, we have a feeling of familiarity yet we fall prey to this discreetly enchanting and unsettling experience.
Derwiche tourneur: This song was also penned by Jean-Jacques Goldman, and pays a tribute to the trance music of dervishes, who try to entrench themselves in the divine by their elegant whirls. The composer calls up the whole range of instruments used in the brotherhoods : The T'bal, a wide drum, the karkabus, large tin castanets, the gumbri, the mezoued (a goat-skin bag-pipe), the bendir and the darbouka.