(Soundbite of song, "O Houria")

Ms. SOUAD MASSI (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

GUY RAZ, host:

The track you're hearing is called "O Houria." It's by an Arabic language artist called Souad Massi, and its title means liberty.

(Soundbite of song, "O Houria")

Ms. MASSI: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: It's one of a handful of Mediterranean love songs collected for us in honor, of course, of Valentine's Day by Betto Arcos. He hosts a music program called "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. He's with us every few months to talk about new music he's playing. And Betto joins us from our studios at NPR West.

Betto, it's great to have you back.

Mr. BETTO ARCOS (Host, "Global Village"): Hey, Guy. Great to talk to you.

RAZ: So this track that we're hearing, I love this track. It's a kind of love song, you told me earlier, to the idea of liberty by an Arab artist. Pretty timely, I would say.

Mr. ARCOS: You know, it's so inspirational to hear someone like Souad Massi during this period, you know, the whole revolution in Egypt. You know, this is an artist that lives in France. She comes from Algeria. Of course, there are a lot of Algerians in France...

RAZ: Right.

Mr. ARCOS: ...all over the big cities, Paris, Marseilles, et cetera. She has a lot of fans.

This album, though, called "O Houria," it's the same - the title of the album, it's sort of a departure for her because she's really doing not just songs in Arabic, but she's also singing in French and in collaboration with French artists.

RAZ: She reminds me - I hate to make these comparisons, but she does remind me a little bit of kind of a French-sounding Joni Mitchell, you know, that kind of really distinctive, beautiful voice. But I guess she doesn't sing in French normally, is that right?

Mr. ARCOS: That's right. She mostly sings in Arabic. But she's really concerned about her fans, you know, who follow her, and a lot of them are French. So she wanted to kind of address that and include more songs in French in this record.

It's just a phenomenal album. And every song has - it's a story. And she has a tremendous sense of melody, which is not unlike people like Tracy Chapman, like you said, Joni Mitchell.

(Soundbite of song, "O Houria")

Ms. MASSI: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: I have a sneaking feeling that this song may start hitting the airwaves in Egypt, if it hasn't already. What a beautiful track.

Betto, the next song you brought for us is actually a collaboration between several different artists. Let's take a listen first before you tell us about it.

(Soundbite of song, "Da Te A Me")

Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah, this is three different artists: Paolo Fresu, who's a trumpeter from Sardinia in the Mediterranean; A Filetta, amazing septet, a vocal ensemble of all male singers from Corsica; and a bandoneon player, Daniele Di Bonaventura. This is a song called "Da Te A Me" from the album "Mistico Mediterraneo."

(Soundbite of song, "Da Te A Me")

Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: It's sung in Corsican. And I can't tell you what a soulful feeling when I hear these voices.

RAZ: What are they singing here?

Mr. ARCOS: It's a poem by a poet from Corsica named Pedro Santucci(ph). It's sort of a love song about the homeland, about where he's from. And I'd like to just briefly tell you a little bit of what the lyrics say: From me to you, this horizon, always gray, blue, blend of sky and sea, wouldn't be a link uniting my destiny and yours.

These guys are responsible for really keeping the tradition of this music alive because this is centuries and centuries old. But they don't want to make it like a museum-sounding music that's - it's music informed by other influences. What you hear, really, is the soul not just of Corsica, which by the way is a colony of France, it's a voice of the region. It's amazing, just so touching.

(Soundbite of song, "Da Te A Me")

Unidentified People: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: Next up, you brought something from Portugal. It's a song called "Reader's Digest."

(Soundbite of song, "Reader's Digest")

Mr. ANTONIO ZAMBUJO (Singing): (Singing in foreign language)

ARCOS: The singer is Antonio Zambujo. He's a young guy. He's probably in his early, mid-30s. This is the kind of song that I would sing a woman in a serenade. It's just perfect, Guy.

RAZ: Yeah.

Mr. ARCOS: I mean, listen to this.

(Soundbite of song, "Reader's Digest")

Mr. ZAMBUJO: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: It's one of these songs that is kind of a wish list for a mate, you know, a fun kind of love song. I just have to say a little bit - I'll tell you a little bit about what the lyrics say.

RAZ: Yeah.

Mr. ARCOS: I'm the kind of guy that more or less subscribe to Reader's Digest. You know, I have this dream, which since childhood has been in my mind, to have a faithful wife, children, (unintelligible), a ring and a honeymoon in France, you know, slowing down to dance, relaxing to the end.

RAZ: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: You know, Reader's Digest is actually a great way to attract the ladies, I hear.

(Soundbite of song, "Reader's Digest")

Mr. ZAMBUJO: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: Well, this is the song.

RAZ: Especially the big print version.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Reader's Digest")

Mr. ZAMBUJO: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: That track is "Reader's Digest." It's by the Portuguese artist Antonio Zambujo.

Betto, we have time for just one more. What do you have?

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Korason")

Mr. ARCOS: This next song is by a great singer from Israel. She sings in Ladino.

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Korason")

Ms. YASMIN LEVY (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: This is such a beautiful song. It's Yasmin Levy, and she's singing "Mi Korason" from her album "Sentir." And, Betto, it sounds like Spanish, but it's not, right?

Mr. ARCOS: It's definitely related to Spanish, but it is Ladino.

RAZ: That, of course, is the language of Sephardic Jews.

Mr. ARCOS: Yes. And it's a language that thrives especially in songs.

RAZ: So this song, "Mi Korason," my heart, this is - out of all the songs I think you brought today, Betto, this is the most kind of traditional love song, don't you think?

Mr. ARCOS: Oh, yeah. I mean, listen to the lyrics: My heart under your window, full of pain, engulfed in flames.

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Korason")

Ms. LEVY: (Singing in foreign language)

Ms. ARCOS: She's really interested in this particular style of music, these songs that were initially the language spoken by Sephardic Jews in Southern France up until 1492.

Then, you know, the songs continued to thrive in different places, wherever Sephardic Jews went, wherever they migrated, wherever they ended up. In particular, this is - these are songs closer to her because her father was a scholar, and he was also a singer. So it's kind of, you know, bringing all these old songs and kind of imbuing them with a new sensibility.

In this case, this is a song that has a little bit of a Cuban flavor, if you can catch that.

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Korason")

Ms. LEVY: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: Betto, I just want to say you saved my butt around Christmastime because I didn't have any good gift for my wife. I did give her a compilation of some Brazilian music you suggested. I don't have anything for Valentine's Day.

So after the program, I'm going to download these songs from iTunes and make a love song compilation, not a bad gift.

Mr. ARCOS: Oh, Guy. You know what? That's what I do. I'm - we're on the same page. These are the best gifts you could give someone, wonderful love songs.

RAZ: That's Betto Arcos. He stops by now and again to talk about the music he is spinning on his show "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. You can find the titles of the songs we've been talking about at our website, npr.org.

Betto, thanks so much, and until next time.

ARCOS: Thanks so much, Guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Korason")

Ms. LEVY: (Singing in foreign language)

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