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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Cheb I Sabbah

By Tom Orr
Published April 16, 2008

Six Degrees

After reconnecting with his North African roots for the sumptuous excursions of his La Kahena album, producer and sonic creator supreme Cheb I Sabbah returns to India territory with Devotion, and the spiritual angle suggested by the title comes to fruition almost immediately in the music. Hindu, Sikh and Sufi songs exploring humankind’s relationship to his Creator are enhanced by Sabbah’s throbbing, airy techno soundscapes. As one of the chosen few who knows where to split the difference between traditional and contemporary, Sabbah never lets the soul of the music suffocate under too much gloss, so the strains of tabla, bansuri flute, harmonium and other live instruments all maintain their earthiness within his plugged-in embellishments. And the eight lengthy tracks, which include the achingly beautiful Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan composition “Kinna Sohna” (sung here by Master Saleem) and the beatless atmospherics of the title piece, are a marvelous mix of trance, dance, dub, and pure joy.