Cheb i Sabbah
Inspired by both his practice of Vedic spirituality and his pilgrimages to South Asian holy lands, Cheb i Sabbah’s latest release, Devotion, finds the producer/DJ further embracing religious music, chants, and classical Indian instrumentation.
While the Algerian-born artist’s patented electronic fusion sound remains, the modern touches take a back seat to a record that’s steeped in traditional prayers and rhythms. On the opener “Jai Bhavani,” Cheb enlists the lilting, powerful voice of Anup Jalota to recite bhajans, or harmonic chants, over a bed of subdued synth patterns, sitar, flute, and tablas. As Jalota leads a loyal chorus of chanters, Cheb i Sabbah gradually picks up the tempo towards the end, giving the listener a sense of the growing spiritual fervor that can occur in a real-life bhajan. Along with Jalota, other renowned classical singers turn up, like Shubha Mudgal, whose uplifting delivery meshes well with the slow-burning, yet sunny exotica of “Morey Pya Bassey.”
But while his predilection for classical sounds might make Devotion his most acquired listening yet, Cheb can still indulge his contemporary side, as proven on cuts like “Qalanderi.” Similar to the programmed sounds of popular acts like Delerium, the track is an artful tapestry of Arabic and Asian squall, trip-hop beats and otherworldly vocals, resulting in quite an effective blend.
Ultimately, Devotion isn’t stunning, but an ideal next step in Cheb i Sabbah’s career. It might be far removed from his club-friendly past, but it’s perfectly suitable for meditative headphone listening.
Six Degrees: www.sixdegreesrecords.com