Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Nov. 2, 2001
Dellali (Mondo Melodia)"Rai" is Algerian blues, from-the-heart musical expression that irks so-called authorities while providing much needed catharsis to everyday people. In the decades since its birth, rai (pronounced "rye," and meaning "opinion") has topped European charts, now making headway in America thanks to singers like Khaled, Rachid Tana, and Cheb Mami. A small man with a big voice, Mami has gone from hometown entertainer to international star living in Paris. His third and latest international release, Dellali, demonstrates Mami's global influences by blending elements of reggae, gospel, and techno. Mami assembles an impressive list of co-conspirators here, from Chet Atkins, Omar Hakim, and Sting (who enlisted Mami's aid on his "Desert Rose") to co-producers Nile Rodgers and Nitin Sawheny. Results? Boosted by a bass/accordion combo that's probably riveting onstage, funky "Rim Lachoua" is plenty Le Chic thanks to prime mover Rodgers. Tabla drums, accordion, and an Indian violin transform "Tzazae" from simple love song to an aching waterfall of emotion. Ethereal "Ana Oualache" deals with the weight of faith, and succeeds thanks to Indio-Anglo mixmaster Sawheny's blend of Mami's elevated voice with a gospel chorus, string section, and digital beats. Dellali's remaining rai-fusion isn't quite as strong, but there's no doubt these 13 danceable tracks will help put Cheb Mami's name on the international map.