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Near East Music Meets Dance and Electronica - 2004-09-15

Over the past few years, contemporary music from the Near East has undergone a transformation. Traditional sounds are being blended with dance, hip-hop, trance and electronica. This new form is being heard in popular films as well as in international night clubs.

The Indian movie industry, known as Bollywood, has helped introduce Western audiences to the new synthesis of traditional melodies and modern beats. Soundtracks from Indian films, such as Bend It Like Beckham and Monsoon Wedding, are colorful musical tapestries of electronica, hip-hop, trance and reggae, along with Bhangra music, which has its roots in the folk dance tradition from Northern India and Pakistan.

The new compilation album, Tantra Lounge, Volume 2, presents Indian and Middle Eastern music that is being played in clubs and lounges around the world.

Sahara Lounge is another collection of Middle Eastern melodies with cutting-edge electronics and remixes. The CD takes the listener on a musical caravan, with sounds flowing from desert sands, bazaars, streets and nightclubs. The album is a hypnotic blend of traditional melodies and instrumentation with dance, funk, techno beats, Algerian Rai, North African desert blues, bellydance, Berber music, Egyptian song poems, and Sufi chants.

While the past two decades have seen the rise of world music, now even more artists and musical forms are accessible to Western audiences. Shakira has cracked the pop charts with her blend of Arabic and South American music, while other artists have relied on duets and compilation albums. North African star Cheb Mami was featured on Sting's hit song "Desert Rose," and Peter Gabriel has introduced artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on his Real World Records label.

Western artists are now synthesizing Indian and Middle Eastern sounds into pop, as heard in recent hit songs by Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake.

Sampling and new recording technology is allowing for even more crossover between the East and the West. And listeners don't seem to care about the language differences, as long as the melodies and beats are pumping out. The new compilation CD, Bombay Beats: Dance Grooves from India, is a fusion of North Indian Bhangra and hip-hop, with traditional instruments like the sitar blended with electronica.