The first Desert Roses compilation got its name from a 1999 duet between Cheb Mami and Sting. The duet was popular, unexpectedly, and the compilation took this grain of sand and rolled it in songs from Khaled and Rachid Taha and Hakim and formed a nice little pearl. This new album doesn’t have Sting or Khaled or Cheb Mami or Rachid Taha, but it does have the strong voice of the Tunisian singer Latifa on “Khalleouni, Khalleouni” and Cheb Nasro on “C’est Pas La Peire”, a piece of raï with a catchy ‘80s pop vibe. Transglobal Underground remixes Dania’s “Leily”. Tres Mundos inserts pieces of raï rap into the essentially reggaeton “Zana”. Zohar, a London outfit co-founded by Erran Baron Cohen, Sacha’s brother, plays a klezmer clarinet against skipping backbeats on “Let There Be Light”. Issam Houshan’s “Pharoah of Barcelona” brings in a Spanish guitar. Los Angeles’ Naked Rhythm starts off with a sparkly raï keyboard sound, moves on to an Arab flute, and raps thoughtfully over it in American English on “Babylon”. Desert Roses 4 is divided between tunes that have Middle Eastern themes (such as “Babylon”), and songs that are genuinely North African or Middle Eastern (“Khalleouni, Khalleouni”, “C’est Pas La Peire”). It’s a compilation from the World Music Middle East rather than the wholly Middle Eastern Middle East. That’s understandable. The World Music Middle East is a softer, more familiar place than its brash cousin. Is Desert Roses 4 is a pleasant and interesting way to get there? Yes it is.
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