Various Artists album review

Oriental Rocking Beats

Oriental Rocking Beats

Dubai-based record labels don’t have huge resources to plough into local acts. But the local branches of big internationals do have access to huge stockpiles of recordings – something EMI Arabia has exploited well with this big summer release. The mission statement is encapsulated by the second track, The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Galvanize’, which pits a Moroccan string sample against the duo’s pounding beats. From Mumbai to Muscat, and Islamabad to Isfahan, Oriental Rocking Beats (a nod to The Chemicals, no?) collects 29 more danceable tracks injected with the flair of Arabia or the Indian subcontinent.

It’s a mixed bag. Subtitled ‘Exotic Club & Chillout Grooves’, the two discs are split neatly in half according to those two themes. Despite some standouts – Amr Diab’s ‘Albey’, Prem Joshua’s ‘Shiva Moon’ – the clubby disc isn’t consistent enough to put on at a party. The lounge grooves side is a grower, though. Tellingly, it’s Western remixes of Arabic tunes – the very concept of the set – that hold the flow together: Massive Attack offer a respectful reworking of Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Mustt Mustt’, while Iraqi guitarist Ilham al-Madfai’s wistful improvisations on ‘Chal Chal Alayea El Rumman’ are tastefully transported on this Chill Chill remix. Two odd tracks stand out – PJ Harvey’s Mercury-winning, acoustic lament ‘England’, and David Bowie’s ambient instrumental ‘Abdulmajid’, an outtake from the late-’70s Berlin Trilogy, which makes up for the bafflingly ugly Club Bolly Extended Mix of his ‘Let’s Dance’ on the first disc.

It’s a far from seamless set, but there are interesting fusions to be found, which can’t fail to teach both an Eastern and Western audience plenty about the other. We rather think that’s the point.

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