Local Wire

Cheb i Sabbah

On his previous disc, La Kahena, San Francisco-based, Algerian-born DJ Cheb i Sabbah explored the sounds of his native North Africa, adding tracks and loops to the material he had recorded there upon his return to the U.S. This time around, the focus is the music of the Indian subcontinent, where he brought together singers and musicians of various backgrounds and influences to make music that is both rich and soothing. One of the first tracks to call the listener's attention is "Kinna Sohna," which features Punjabi folksinger Master Saleem, who delivers a poignant vocal that is enhanced both by Gurav Raina's keyboard and Karsh Kale's guitar, which both seamlessly weave through the tune. Pakistani sufi singer Riffat Sultana lends a hand on "Qalanderi," an upbeat tune that fits any dance party thanks to its bass and drums backbeat. On "Aaye Bhairav Bholanath," singer Anup Jalota (one of the biggest-selling artists in India) sings lead on what is possibly the most organic track on the disc. There are very few beats, and the focus remains on the tablas and the fine sitar work performed by Said Jafar, who delivers an accomplished solo halfway through the tune. Devotion is a disc that proves that there is a place for traditional music within the dance realm (it takes only an open mind to appreciate this music), and Cheb i Sabbah effectively makes this music palatable to Western audiences by carefully inserting electronic sounds and beats, but he does so without sacrificing the general feel of the music itself.
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Ernest Barteldes