Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Arabesque Tlata 3 [React, 2003]
The third and reputedly best of Algerian-born London restaurateur Momo's world comps, this Maghreb survey has its quirks. Up-to-date though it must be, it leads with "N'Sel Fik," the definitive rai classic since Chaba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui released it 20 years ago. It also leans on Cheb Khaled's arty 1988 crossover Kutché, and in general starts roots and goes soundtrack as if that's progress. Which for Momo it is. On London DJ Hamid Zagzoule's terrific 2001 Tea in Marrakech (with which this CD shares a great hit by a Spanish nanny from Sudan), North African authenticity redounds to preservationists with an ear for the hooks every old culture recycles. Momo is drawn to diffusion. Natacha Atlas is fine with him, ditto the arranged marriage of Cheb Mami and Nitin Sawhney. And since in London up-to-date means dance music, dance music it will be--Moroccans jarring Egyptian shabi toward electronica, theories of trance merging like record labels, an ethnotechno excursion named "Ford Transit." A-