Kasbah Rockers :: Kasbah Rockers with Bill Laswell
Bill Laswell's name on an album cover always interests me, especially so when it's on a release from any projects from the Pat Jabbar stable. Jabbar's Barbarity label, based in Switzerland, has consistently turned out high quality collections of tunes rooted in the Moroccan tradition but with modern dance and dub inflections. World renowned producer Bill Laswell has appeared on several albums by various artists, sometimes, as here, namechecked along with the artist and sometimes as a guest contributor. Pat Jabbar's music has appeared in a few Hollywood movies and a recent Kasbah Rockers tune Oudistic, is in the soundtrack to The Men Who Stare At Goats, although it is listed as being by Pat Jabbar and Kasbah Rockers. There's no harm in getting your name noticed!
The Kasbah Rockers CD has the kind of garish collage-based cover that the Barbarity label seems to love and is a generous sixteen tracks long. The opener, Hikayati, sets the scene with a slow pulsing dubby groove with some Moroccan instrumentation and a vocal rooted more in Arabic tradition than in Moroccan Berber culture. The follow up Bred Atay starts with a darbuka rhythm and stays in funky bellydance territory apart from some well placed rapping.
Falludjah Car is a highlight of the disc. It's built on a traditional Arabic rhythm and builds until it suddenly cuts to some beautiful Middle-Eastern sounding strings before the beat kicks back in. Shta follows, with another Arabian goblet-drum rhythm leading the way and some nice vocal interplay over Laswell's solid bass support, with some understated overdriven guitar adding to the mix. Al Rafel is more of the same and by the time Bledstyle starts I'm thinking that a lot of the album sounds quite similar. Having said that, I think that about everything Pat Jabbar does but I love it all anyway! I suspect he recycles some melodic ideas, though, as some sections of this album sound strangely familiar.
Track seven, Mafi Tika, slows things down a little, with some kind of sinuous snake-charmer reed instrument weaving its way around the laid-back vocal; very evocative. Fikou brings back the oriental strings and darbuka and Hellou Al Biban brings the dub bass to the fore behind a subtle reggae groove, more overdriven guitar and an expressive vocal.
Track ten, Hashouma, is the first clearly Moroccan rhythm with the bendir frame-drum playing a distinctive 12/8 groove during a slow build until the strings kick in hard before the tune develops into an Arabian dub workout. This is followed by Shems, a subdued reggae skank on pizzicato strings behind an accordion and driving vocal line. Rassoul Al Houda features a funky breakbeat and a vocal by Algerian Abdelkader Belkacem. A short tune, Jebel, follows, featuring a slightly out of place electric guitar solo. It doesn't outstay its welcome, though, and we're soon into Kasbah Rockers (vocal mix), with its opening strings leading into another tune that takes its time to build up to a strong dance groove punctuated by the ubiquitous strings. Definitely a high spot on the album — the title implies there's a non-vocal mix somewhere but it's not on this album.
Almost at the end and we get to Ayna, another dancefloor filler, sounding much like the previous track with an analogue synth stab bouncing off the string riffs. The final track is Kafaka Mina Raks (vocal mix), a four-on-the-floor dance tune with a trance feel, lots of percussion and a dubbed out vocal and it brings the album to a satisfying close. This album is a constant presence in my iPod and it stays fresh with repeated listenings, something Pat Jabbar and the Barbarity label manage to achieve with many of their releases. Recommended!