by: Cheb Mami

For most in the Western Hemisphere, Cheb Mami will always be that guy who sang with Sting on "Desert Rose," a song that became a surprise hit in 2000, thanks in large part to Mami's mesmerizing vocal performance. In Northern Africa, however, Mami is a star in his own right. The native of Algeria is arguably the most popular performer of rai, a percussive music built around the djembe and derbouka, as well as mixing in modern dance, reggae rhythms, and often politically charged lyrics. Fresh off the success of "Desert Rose," Mami has released Dellali, and he brings Sting along with him for the ride. This time, it's Sting who backs up Mami on the track "Ana Oualache," which also incorporates a gospel choir. "Le Rai C'est Chic" mixes his trademark falsetto voice with some synthesized vocals à la Roger Troutman. He also pays homage to French singer Charles Aznavour with "Viens Habibi." Amid the swirl of styles and influences, Mami's mesmerizing falsetto voice stands above everything else. Whether it's singing behind Sting or in front of a gospel choir, Mami's talent is too strong to be ignored. ~ Jon Azpiri

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