Sting, Cheb Mami duet on longing in the desert
WorldBeat goes behind the scenes to the making of Sting's new music video
October 29, 1999
Web posted at: 4:46 p.m. EDT (2046 GMT)
A CNN WorldBeat Report
LAS VEGAS (CNN) -- Las Vegas, rising like a neon phoenix from the sands of Nevada, proved an irresistible lure for Sting as he sought a filming location for "Desert Rose." It's a track from his latest, critically acclaimed album "Brand New Day."
Las Vegas also happens to be the first city in Sting's tour itinerary for that CD, which has topped the world-album sales charts since its release three weeks ago.
"I suppose the influence (for 'Desert Rose') is the Sahara," Sting says. "But I figured, as I was beginning my tour in Las Vegas, it has a desert.
"There's a wonderful book by Larry McMurtry called 'The Desert Rose' which has nothing to do with my song," he continues, "but has this wonderful idea of the desert juxtaposed with Las Vegas and all the madness there, ending up in a club in Las Vegas" -- much as the artist will for his performance.
"Desert Rose" itself represents a mix of cultures: In pursuit of an authentic Arabic theme, Sting asked French-Algerian vocalist Cheb Mami if he would join the former Police frontman in a duet, composing a counter-melody and Arabic lyrics to Sting's half of the song.
"Sting composed it," Mami says, "and when he decided to do the duet, he sent me the song. I started to work at my home. I tried to find the parts where we had to sing. I worked two weeks on it, until 3 and 4 in the morning. I didn't want to disappoint him, because it was already an honor for me, and I really wanted to do a good job."
Sting, on the other hand, says he didn't tell Mami what the song was about as he shared the melody with him, waiting to see what would come from the collaboration.
"I'm singing about longing -- romantic, philosophical longing," he says. "He came back a week later with some lyrics and started to sing them, and they sounded great to me.
"I said, 'What are you singing about?' and he said, 'Well, I'm singing about longing.'
"So that proved to me that the music was telling the story, not the other way around."