Northern Africa's vast desert has inspired many varieties of parched musical passion. On first listen, the anguished vocal Melismas and tricky rhythmic cycles in modern Moorish tunes are apt to evoke Pakistan and India rather than Africa. Contemporary, but steeped in venerable tradition, this music contains the roots of the Malian Kora as well as of Spanish Flamenco. The products of old musical families play traditional lutes (the tidinit, and the ardin), and also, electric guitar. Backed by tambourine, hand claps, and one deep, dry-sounding hand drum (t'bal), the players pluck and jangle their lutes and exchange vocal leads. Surprisingly catchy melodies serve as the basis for extended vocal improvisations. On repeated listenings, you develop a feel for the jazz in this music, at once severe and beguiling. Themes are bracing and visionary, for instance tunes can use melody oddly reminiscent of English folk. There is one that proclaims, "Art's plume is a balsam, a weapon, and a guide enlightening the spirit of men." This is also a pep song for Mauritanian independence, and a unique Islamic prayer: "Oh Lord, Bring Apartheid Crashing Down!" In this context, that sentiment actually seems original.