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Album Review

If Khaled and N'ssi N'ssi introduced Khaled and incorporated rai into the hip, global dancefloor mix, the gleaming production and lush arrangements on Sahra leave no doubt that French pop mainstream is the target here. It worked — "Aïcha" was a breakthrough pan-European pop hit, and even though the disc jumps around from song to song and style to style, it still basically hangs together. The lack of flow is understandable because it's a total patchwork effort — three tracks produced by Clive Hunte in Jamaica with reggae session heavyweights, three songs produced by Don Was in L.A. with high-priced session heavyweights, one with Marseilles rappers Iam, and the rest by Frenchmen Jean-Jacques Goldman and Philippe Eidel. The credits make it seem likely that the overseas tracks were recorded there and then shipped to Paris for final touches. Real strings add an Arabic touch to the convincing title track, while "Oran Marseille (Oran Mix)" starts with kazoo, of all things, and winds up as kind of a high-tech, tweaked roots rai with a pronounced Jamaican organ. Written by Goldman/Khaled and sung in French, "Aïcha" sports a magnetic hook carried by Khaled's vocal charisma over a nice mid-tempo trot and atmospheric keyboards. After that reasonably cohesive start, Sahra goes all over the map. The strings on "Hey Ouedi" are more light Euro-classical than Arabic pop majestic (not surprising since the players are French), while "Detni Essekra" is almost old-style Europop lounge music with tinkling piano, rich accordion, and Bernard Paganotti's acoustic bass. The synths alternating between Arab strings and galloping prog rock sounds make the chic, upscale Euro-disco set the likely target for "Le Jour Viendra." Mexican rocker Saul Hernandez sings Spanish verses on "Ki Kounti," a nondescript Saharan sirocco-meets-SoCal-Santa-Ana-desert reggae tune. The tentative "Haya Haya" shows the pitfall of attempting Khaled's style blend — you hear the L.A. musicians haven't gotten the feel down, and the song suffers. But the flip side is just as apparent on "Mektoubi," where the Jamaicans nail down the groove, Dean Fraser lets loose with an unusually rowdy sax solo, and Khaled fits his vocals in perfectly. Sahra is slick international pop Khaled, with his Algerian roots used mostly as flavoring. He's pretty much taken his Western pop influence right to the limit of where the watered-down crossover criticisms he receives become valid. It's calculated and slick and not the place to start if you want to hear where he came from, but the music stays on the right side of overdone...just barely.

Customer Reviews

Love this music!!!!!

I LOOOOOOOVE KHALED!! his music is great and to the point. It's also great to dance to. if you enjoy arab/North African music this is for you.

Very well done

Khaled turned me on to a form of music i've never heard before. Beautiful, honest and heartfelt. Aicha's lyrics are about a man's lament that his love Aïcha does not notice him, even though he offers her everything, even his life. In the end, Aïcha answers he should keep his treasure, that she's worth more and does not want to live in a cage, even a solid gold one, but equal rights and respect which form true love, sung beautifully in French and Arabic. And that's just one song! He goes from reggae to trip-hop to rap to chill-out before the half point of the album. In short, imagine Jeff Buckley and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan combined in a sea of sonic excellence. Don't turn away from true talent, check this one out.


I haven't downloaded the whole album yet but it is awesome. I heard Aicha at french camp and i love that song. it's a great song full of emotion as is all of Khaled's music!!!! Great for the rai lover or the globe trekking guru (or pretty much anyone who appreciates good music)!


Born: February 29, 1960 in Sidi-El-Houari, Oran, Algeria

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Born in Algeria but now based in France, Khaled is known as the king of rai. He was born Khaled Hadj Brahim in 1960 in Sidi-El-Houri. Along with Egyptian, Spanish and French music influences, Khaled also listened to the Beatles and James Brown as a child. After learning to sing and play accordion, he left school at age 16 to record his first single. With a blend of funk, reggae and Arabic music, Khaled soon pioneered the transformation of rai from a local style to worldwide popularity by adding a...
Full Bio
Sahra, Khaled
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Customer Ratings