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World Music CD Reviews Electronica

CHEB I SABBAH

By Derek Beres
Published September 27, 2005

La Kehana
Six Degrees

Algerian-born DJ Cheb I Sabbah moves from the mercurial sonic liquid of India to the low-end heaviness of North Africa with La Kehana. While his South Asian trilogy honed in on the sound of sitars, sarangis and tablas, here Morocco is summoned up with heady twists of the bass-heavy gimbri, oud and metal krakeb cymbals. Sabbah’s work is trademarked by a balance of tight rhythmic structures set to heart-thumping (and often-breaking) beats. He accomplishes this not so much by digital tampering as by allowing the artists to perform untouched and brushing it with subtle nuances. “Im Ninalou” is a killer dancefloor cut backed by rolling percussion, while the devotional “Sadats” is sung by B’net Marrakech and backed by a steady rhythm of handclaps and krakebs. The gimbri (a North African lute) never sounded as good as on “Sandya,” La Kehana’s catchiest number, featuring a head-bobbing melody by Gnawa musician Brahim Elbelkani. Background help by Bill Laswell, Karsh Kale, Gaurav Raina and Mercan Dede fill out what is destined to alter the way we sonically perceive North Africa.