North Africa meets Europe: Coastal Sounds

The Rough Guide to Mediterranean Café Music
The Rough Guide to Mediterranean Café Music
San Francisco, California, USA – The Rough Guide to Mediterranean Café Music explores an intricate web of musical links that has formed across the Mediterranean, despite various political borders, linguistic differences and religions. The ancient links forged by the traveling sailors and merchants that plied the Mediterranean, the conquests of the Romans, Moors and colonialists, and the influences of the modern media, have created musical connections that resonate throughout the region.

Traversing the diverse European sounds of Greece, Italy, France and Spain, the compelling North African music of Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, this album presents some of the Mediterranean’s most exhilarating coastal sounds.The opening track of The Rough Guide to Mediterranean Café Music starts the musical journey in Algeria. This song from Maurice El Médioni’s album Café Oran, mixes
Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Arabic, raï, Cuban rumba, boogie-woogie and Andalusian elements.

With one member hailing from Algeria, and the others from France, Spain and Cuba, Barrio Chino epitomizes the pan-Mediterranean sound. Their influences include Arabic-Andalusian percussion, Greek bouzouki and Sephardic mandolin music.

The Spanish guitarist and composer, Javier Ruibal, is also heavily influenced by Arabic traditions and by the sounds of the North African Sahara.

Dedicated to the Jewish Sephardic music revival, the Israeli artist Yasmin Levy mixes Spanish and Jewish influences.

Moving from Israel into Lebanon, ‘Habibi Dialy’ is sung by Nawal El Zoghby, one of Lebanon’s hottest young stars. Her voice, combined with meticulously produced recordings has made her songs hugely popular across and beyond the Arabic word.

Eleftheria Arvanitaki’s vocals transports the listener to Greece. One of the country’s brightest stars, she began singing with a group of rebetika revivalists in the early 1980s and launched her solo career in 1985.

Moving to Turkey, Grup Yorum have been using music for two decades as a vehicle to focus attention on a variety of human rights abuses.

Eda Zari is from Albania. Born in Tirana and dubbed as a cultural ambassador for Albania, Zari fuses ancient Albanian folk traditions with modern sounds to create some of the most captivating music in the region.

Traveling from Albania, the album stops briefly on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Andrea Parodi’s music focuses on Sardinia’s acoustic folk music, and he has performed with musicians from Spain, Israel and North Africa.

On the Italian mainland,  Lucilla Galeazzi was originally part of the innovative Giovanna Marini vocal quartet. She has one of the most magnificent voices in Italy and she has been fascinated by the country’s folk music since she was a child.

The French guitarist Romane, is one of the leading performers of Gypsy Swing and he has performed with many of the giants of the genre, including Stochelo Rosenberg and the New Quintette Du Hot Club De France.

‘Canti Suminati’, by I Campagnoli, moves the listener to Corsica and its lyrics examine the link between the Corsican language, the island and the importance of Corsican cultural identity.

From Corsica the album journeys to Palestine to hear music from one of the most significant musicians in the Arabic music world today, SSimon Shaheen. An extraordinary virtuoso on the ud and violin, with Qantara, Shaheen fuses Arabic, jazz, Western classical and Latin music.

Across into North Africa, the music of the Moroccan group Jil Jilala combines melhoun (a poetic form of Arabic popular song with Andalusian roots), gnawa (an Afro-Moroccan trance tradition), rural Berber traditions and the music of the Jilali (a religious brotherhood).

The Egyptian artist, Amr Diab, is probably the most popular musician in the Arab world today. He began singing publicly at the age of 6, and later developed a reputation for his new style of pan-Mediterranean Arabic music, which fuses touches of flamenco, raï, Western pop and traditional Arabic rhythm.

A cross-dressing raï sensation, Abdou (also dubbed ‘The Boy George of Raï’) brings this journey and album full-circle back to Algeria. Raï is rooted in Berber, Kabyl and Arabic folk music, and today it is blended with reggae, funk and salsa, and instruments such as the electric guitar and bass, to create mega-hits.


MAURICE EL MÉDIONI: Bienvenue – Abiadi 5:40 (Algeria)

BARRIO CHINO: Guadalquivir 4:51 (Spain/France/Algeria)

JAVIER RUIBAL: Perla De La Medina 3:49 (Spain)

YASMIN LEVY: Yo En La Prizion (Me In Prison) 6:15 (Israel)

EL ZOGHBY: Habibi Dialy 4:05 (Lebanon)

ELEFTHERIA ARVANITAKI: Miazis Ke Si Sa Thalassa 4:55 (Greece)

YORUM: Ozgurluk Tutkusu 2:54 (Turkey)

ZARI: Ra Faja 4:54 (Albania)

ANDREA PARODI: Astrolicamus 5:25 (Sardinia)

LUCILLA GALEAZZI: Terras De Canto 5:01 (Italy)

ROMANE: Swing 98 2:49 (France)

12 I
CAMPAGNOLI: Canti Suminati 4:10 (Corsica)

SIMON SHAHEEN & QANTARA: Dance Mediterranea 6:27 (Palestine)

14 JIL
JILALA: Nour El Anouar 6:42 (Morocco)

15 AMR
DIAB: Anta Ma Qoltsh Leih 3:38 (Egypt)

ABDOU: Kima Bekkani N’Bekkih 4:20 (Algeria)

Playing Time: 76:37

Buy The Rough Guide to Mediterranean Café Music

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.