Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara
World Music Network

Nomads from Libya to Mauritania while away the starry nights

Think of the fun you could have--jack this sucker up at a stoplight and you'll soon be accosted by Homeland Security goons who think there are terrorists in your trunk. But these aren't even Arabs--just Muslims who want to be left alone. Since they live in a desert vaster than Europe with a population smaller than Chicago's, they generally get their wish. And though their music incorporates cosmopolitan ideas from Dakar to Cairo, it always retains its own aura. Deep, thrumming rhythms underpin eerie chants and intent wails both male and female, the effect hypnotic, seductive and otherworldly no matter its nominal nation of origin. And somehow its exoticism isn't forbidding, generating the intensely pleasurable illusion that before all the other musics you know, there was this.

Blender, Aug. 2005