Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-05-29


Balkan Beat Box: Give (Nat Geo Music, 2012) An add-on at first, rapper Tomer Yosef has moved to the center of what initially presented itself as an Israeli-American Gypsy brass band making nice to a Stateside shaabi shaabi market that existed only in its dreams. Now Ori Kaplan's horns surface regularly, but doing hook duty, with the drummed and synthesized beats Tamir Muskat throws up around Yosef's militant raps providing core musical identity. Something has been lost, but what's left beats most "world" hip-hop a kilometer, and the hooks help--as do the likes of "Money," "Enemy in Economy," and "Urge to Be Violent" keeping the wordplay simple but not simpleminded. A-

The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco (World Music Network, 2012) The 2012 release, not to be confused with 2004's The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco, especially if you know the new one is 1266CD and the old one is 1128CD. Without a single artist repetition, they cover pretty much the same range. On both you get cafe trad and hip-hop derivatives and devotional gravity; on both you get a Jewish expatriate, in 2004 a refugee Israeli cantor born 1954, in 2012 a Canadian emigre practitioner of his own impure Andalusian classicism born 1922. Yet eight years later the overall mood seems more aggressive. The added hip-hop is a major musical improvement because Arabic gutturals rock when rapped, even over beats played on traditional instruments, with the glitched-up syllabics of Amira Saqati's "El Aloua" providing a hint of pomo lurch. The bonus disc is by the "chaabi-groove" generalists Mazagan, who encompass most of these tendencies with pleasant-to-pleasing success. A-

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