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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Khaled is Algeria's best-known singer and a pioneer of the music known as rai, which means opinion in Arabic. His upbeat opinions on partying, pleasure and romance rankled religious conservatives in 1980s Algeria. That's why he spent most of the past 20 years in exile in Europe. His first new recording in five years is called "Liberte," and it looks back on his history as a merry rabble-rouser.

Reviewer Banning Eyre thinks it's Khaled at his best.

BANNING EYRE: Before everything else, there is the voice: reedy, robust, elemental, at once agonizing and ecstatic - in short, one of the iconic sounds of world music.

(Soundbite of music)

KHALED (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Since moving to France in the '80s, Khaled has traveled many roads. He's collaborated with reggae legends in Jamaica and with Grammy-winning producer Don Was in L.A. He's made songs with a Bollywood star, with rock legend Carlos Santana and, controversially for some, with Algerian Jewish artists. After all this adventuring, Khaled returns to form with a rocking rai session, essentially a live concert in the studio.

(Soundbite of music)

KHALED: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: The CD "Liberte" was produced by Martin Meissonnier, who first encountered Khaled as a popular wedding singer in Algeria and produced his international debut in 1987. Now, the two reunite on an album free of guest artists and crossover gimmicks, a session that showcases Khaled's versatile band and essential rhythms. In amongst the anxious rai beats, two songs channel Gnawa trance music from Morocco, one of Khaled's earliest musical loves.

(Soundbite of music)

KHALED: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Most of these tracks were recorded in single takes, rare in this age of fussy production. But if the no-nonsense method is a throwback, the band's sound, rich with flavors of jazz, funk, reggae and Arabic classical, reflects Khaled's remarkable journey through life and music.

The song "Liberte," or "Freedom," was written back when Khaled was a young man yearning to escape what he saw as an oppressive society. The remake is an exuberant celebration of the freedom he's enjoyed ever since.

(Soundbite of song, "Liberte")

KHALED: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: These days, Khaled once again performs in Algeria, where he's received as a returning hero and an ambassador to the world. "Liberte" is the best work of his career and perhaps the most accessible Arabic music CD to reach the U.S. market in years.

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. The new CD from Khaled is called "Liberte."

(Soundbite of song, "Liberte")

KHALED: (Singing in foreign language)

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