Cheb i Sabbah :: La Ghriba - La Kahena Remixed
After his groundbreaking South Asian classical tradition-meets-DJ technology trilogy of Shri Durga, Maha Maya and Krishna Lila, Cheb i Sabbah looked North Africa-ward to Morocco and Algeria to came up with the mesmerizing La Kahena, firmly re-cementing his position as the reigning Guru of World Electronica. The LP was full of groove-rich Gnawa and Berber sounds, ripe for remix plundering.
Anyone who has witnessed the dance-fest that is Sabbah on the decks will know how much Bhangra is a part of his set - he often jokes of being Punjabi in a former life. While in Vienna at the tail end of 2005, he told me about one of his current favorite DJs, Sandeep Kumar out of the US West Coast, whose remix of "Toura Toura" is a full-fledged Morocco-meets-Punjab club banger. Moroccan rap group Fnaire takes the swinging "Sadats" and gives it a proper hip-hop groove. An intense exchange of verses underlined by glossy and sharp synth patterns clearly "borrowed" from Pharrell and Chad updates the already excellent original from La Kahena. Moroccan-born London transplants MoMo deliver a sonically different but equally stunning remix of "Sadats" which strips the original to its bare elements, turns up the hypnotic string plucking and then three quarters of the way through sends the track spiraling into a clubby, psy-trance outro.
Bassnectar's remix of "Alkher Illa Doffor" offers up more of the dub and acid-heavy basslines that made his Mesmerizing The Ultra such a favorite 'round these parts. Clearly his affinity for twisted and innovative soundscapes hasn't changed one bit since MTU and that's something we're quite thankful for. While the original had some serious basslines of its own, Bassnectar manages to send a clear message - this is Cheb I Sabbah like you've never heard him before or ever will again.
Yossi Fine (Ex-centric Soundsystem) lends his production skills to the spacey "Chalice Remix" which subtly intertwines "Toura Toura" and vocals from "Jarat Fil Hub" by Nadia. A heavily accented chanting of "Algérie, San Francisco" (a reference to both Sabbah's birthplace and current home) marks the start of the techno-infused "Esh 'Dani, Alash Mshit: The Rai of Light Club Remix" by Transglobal Underground alumni, Temple of Sound. On the flip side of the same coin is Bill Laswell's dub-centric reworking titled "The Constantine Remix," which only adds light textures to the original.
Makyo tweaks "Madh Assalhin" using his now instantly recognizable Dakini Zen-Dub effects. Ambient electronic bleeps and clicks recast the original spiritual paean into a futuristic ode to the trance gods. Groovio, better known as Gaurav Raina of the MIDIval PunditZ, concludes La Ghriba with his take on "Im Ninalou." The percussion friendly remix takes some of the frantic-ness off the original, slowing the groove down just enough to make you realize just how at ease the PunditZ are with Middle Eastern arrangements as they are with hard South Asian breakbeats that they've come to be known for.
Listening to La Kahena and now its successor, La Ghriba, it is evident that Cheb i Sabbah and his cohorts have taken the true trance qualities of Gnawa and Berber music and redesigned them into electronically enhanced gems that still have the same intended effect on the listener.