ARK 21

After Khaled's last album, Sahra, I was afraid that he was losing his edge. Worry no more. Kenza delivers some of the most innovative muscular rai/funk of Khaled's career, courtesy of producer Lati Kronlund, who as part of Brooklyn Funk Essentials once did a ska/funk album with a Turkish Gypsy band. The experience pays off in songs like "E'Dir E'sseba" which manages to combine oud, tar & derbouka with a blistering horn section and a rock solid groove, even working in a sly quotation of Parliament's "Flash Light." Producer duties are split with Steve Hillage, who delivers the groove on "Melha," a tasty fusion of powerful vocals, Egyptian strings and down and dirty funk guitar. As in the last album, there is the obligatory duet, this time with British-Pakistani singer Amar. While it is energetic, it only made me nostalgic for his past work with Chaba Zahouania, but that was a long time ago and a lot of rough edges have been polished since. But the energy remains, making this a solid addition to Khaled's already impressive discography. - Eric Iverson

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