Cheb i Sabbah
La Ghriba: La Kahena Remixed
Six Degrees Records
While modern East-West fusion artists like Talvin Singh, Karsh Kale and Midival Punditz have staked their claim by grafting the classical flourishes of their respective cultures onto electronic melodies and beats, a veteran like Cheb i Sabbah has tried to avoid the trappings of the digital age in his own work, instead relying on pure manual instrumentation (through tablas, oud and sitar) to create his trance-inducing grooves.
But even with his antiquated, time-honored strategy towards music-making, Algerian native/current San Franciscan Cheb isn’t oblivious to the club-friendly sounds of today, which is why he’s been so open to the remix treatment since signing on with Six Degrees in the late ’90s. La Ghriba, the remix accompaniment to La Kahena, Sabbah’s third proper record for the label, is another solid testament to this. Enlisting the services of established producers (Bill Laswell) and under-the-radar talent (LA-based DJ Sandeep Kumar), Sabbah’s objective with this release was to seemingly not only revisit his North African roots, but add some fresh young ears to the project for that “current” touch.
Sabbah seems to have achieved both goals. Kumar’s bubbling, bhangra-laden take on “Toura Toura” kicks off the proceedings in energetic fashion, segueing into a tribal/hip-hop redo of “Sadats” courtesy of Moroccan troupe Fnaire, which dips down into Bassnectar’s sub-rattling, crunk-flavored rework of “Alkher Illa Doffor.”
With the dance floor set appeased, La Ghriba then makes room for more experimental, involving fare, from Yossi “Ex-Centric” Fine’s carnival-esque, belly dance sway on “Jarat Fil Hub” to MoMo’s techno overhaul of “Sadats” and Laswell’s inimitable dub installations on “Esh ‘Dani, Alash Mshit.”
Since compilation series like Putumayo and Buddha Bar have made world beat –let alone any musical styling east of Europe– safe for consumption in day spas and Barnes and Nobles, perhaps it’s easier for some of the patrons to overlook the deep, enriching sonic webs threading ancient Arabic, Indian and African rhythms with the Pro Tools-devoted culture of today.
With one ear towards the street, and the rest of his focus on the rarefied sounds of his past, Cheb i Sabbah can hopefully ensure they won’t miss this intoxicating meld again.
Six Degrees Records: www.sixdegrees.com