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North African Groove

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Putumayo World Music brings together sounds from Morocco to Egypt with North African Groove

NORTH AFRICAN GROOVE With the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Sahara Desert to the south, North Africa serves as a crossroad between many cultures. The Atlantic coast of Morocco forms the Western boundary of North Africa and the Suez Canal in Egypt its eastern end. Most of North Africa is known as the Maghreb and includes the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Egypt, which is generally considered part of the Middle East, is geographically part of North Africa.

Echoes of ancient history can still be heard in the rhythms and melodies of North Africa’s popular music. While electronic drum beats, disco and funk-inspired grooves, hip-hop and other Western influences are clearly apparent in the modern music of the region, traditional instrumentation, singing techniques and melodies play an important role in defining the local sound.

The two best known types of popular music from North Africa are raï and al-jil. Raï means “opinion” in Arabic, and it developed in the Algerian port city of Oran in the 1950s and 60s. Filled with youthful rebellion, sensuous, occasionally suggestive lyrics and plenty of party attitude, raï is the North African equivalent of rock and roll and is now popular throughout the Maghreb and in Arabic communities around the world.

Al-jil is Egyptian party music, and Cairo’s role as one of the media epicenters of the Arab world has helped spread its popularity far and wide. While raï and al-jil still form the core of popular North African music, Moroccan Gnawa trance, Touareg blues, Berber folk and Afro-Nubian rhythms are some of the exotic local flavors that have influenced the region’s music.

In recent years, the French cities of Paris and Marseilles have become important production centers for North African music, and many popular artists are beginning to create songs that target their own communities as well as a wider French market. Meanwhile, European DJs and producers have collaborated with artists from the region, and the influences of electronica and European club music are ever more evident.

The contemporary music of North Africa and the Middle East has become popular across the globe and we’re pleased to present this follow-up to Arabic Groove.

A celebration of North African music

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