I'm sure you've noticed this, the seemingly unstoppable tendency of anyone writing about World Music to compare artists who are relatively unknown in the West to Western artists, with the aim of helping Western readers make sense of said artists. The results are frequently ridiculous, but that doesn't stop anyone.
The Supine View From the ARChive's Chesterfield, the blog of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, has provided an invaluable list of whoppers. Here are the relevant ones that deal with Middle Eastern artists.
“She became known as Cheikha Remitti, the Piaf of rai.” - …about early rai vocalist Cheikha Remitti el Ghilzania. Rough Guide p. 127
“Amina: The Cleopatra of Paris-Tunisian disco” - Straight No Chaser, Winter 1989, p. 41
“She has been called the Bessie Smith of Egypt, and for stark passion she was all of that.” - …about Umm Kulthum. All Music Guide, John Storm Roberts, p. 855
“And Cheb (or ‘young’) Khaled, the charismatic architect of modern rai, is their Elvis, their Beatles, and their Sex Pistols rolled into one.” – “Cheb Khaled & the Politics of Pleasure”, Antaeus, “On Music”, No. 71 / 72, Autumn, 1993. p. 262. Brian Cullman.
“Hameed Sharay,…His band, El Misdawier, was the Beatles of Egypt.” - Fresh Beats From Cairo, David Lodge, Take Cover, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 26 – 28, 1990.
“Ali Hassan Kuban – The Egyptian James Brown” - World Music Institute ad copy, VV 2/3/98 p. 85
“The two-stringed rabbabah assaults the senses with ear-fluttering twills as the djallabiyah-dressed, handlebar-moustachioed trio – “Hendrix of the East” : Metqal Qenawi Metqal, Shamandi Tewfiq Metqal and Yussef ‘ali Bakash – sing of nomadic exploits and tales seemingly straight from the pages of ‘A Thousand and One Nights’”. - …about the pricipal performers in Les Musiciens Du Nil (Musician of the Nile) in the Realworld press kit for Charcoal Gypsies.
“Rachid el Baba…- he likens himself to an Algerian Jean Michel Jarre – built a studio in Tlemcen and began recording many of Rai’s top stars.” - about top rai producer Rachid by Martin Johnson, Pulse! “Do the Rai Thing” Nov, 1989, p. 50
“…Cheb Khaled (Algeria’s Jerry Lee Lewis analogue).” - CD review of Rai Rebels by Richard Gher. Village Voice, n.d., 19??
“… the famous Tunisian singer, Saliha (and if you are not yet familiar with this “Umm Kulthum of Tunisia,” find a recording of her soon) …” - Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, July 1995 by Dwight Reynolds
“If Khaled is the Ali Rotten of Rai, his rival for number one spot, Cheb Mami, shows signs of a potential to be Cliff Richard.” - “Rai Smile,” Africa Beat, Winter 86/87, p. 24. by Phil Sweeney.
“A kind of Arab Jim Morrison, he irritates and unsettles the authorities, at the same time seducing the masses and the intellectuals.” - …about Cheb Khaled, Intuition Records press kit, 8/89
“An American Salute to ‘Egypt’s Verdi’” - Headline referencing Egyptian composer, Sayyed Darweesh, NYTimes, 2/16/2006, by Ben Sisario.
“Kazem al Sahir is The Iraqi Elvis . Here he is singing ‘We Want Peace’ with Lenny Kravitz” - http://growabrain.typepad.com/growabrain/music_from_the_middle_east/, 7/24/2004
“For devotees of North African music, Hakim needs no introductions, but he received several anyway, with fanfare befitting a star nicknamed the Lion of Egypt, at Central Park SummerStage on Saturday. He was called the “king of shaabi music,” referring to his rhythmic street pop.” - “Enter Egyptian Pop Star, Blowing Kisses and Swiveling Hips: Hakim in Central Park” by Sia Michel, NYTimes – July 10, 2006