Cheb I Sabbah – La Kahena (CD)

Before 2005, I had never reviewed much in the way of non-punk world music. This year seems to be the year of world music, as both Raza and Cheb i Sabbah cutting albums. This time, we have a more restrained sound, allowing for more traditional song structures even as more-Eastern styles dominate. “La Kahena” is a light album, with the majority of instruments found on the disc creating a tinny (at the expense of booming drums) sound. What really strikes me is the fact that tracks like “Sadats” is virtually indistinguishable from the fare I could hear going to a Native American celebration. “La Kahena” is the ultimate piece of evidence about the unity that the world shares amongst its constituent ethnicities. The rapidly snowballing tempo of “Sadats” will bring everyone into an appreciation for the disc as the dormant soul of any listener will intertwine itself with the soul of the track.

The youthful vocals that mesh alongside the main voice on “Sandya” really complete a track, allowing the “yin” of the slightly smokey tenor of the lead voice to tie itself together with the “yang” of the youthful, flawless and hopeful second set of vocals. What is exciting about “La Kahena” is the fact that the tracks go well beyond the traditional 4 and 5 minutes allocated to modern music and reside themselves into longer “epic” tracks, never getting old in the process. Tracks like “All Al ‘Hbab” are a little slow in starting, but the lively vocals on the track really allow for listeners’ interests to be peaked. The division of the fourth and sixth track into two movements really allow for what are four distinct tracks to share the broadest of categories.

The recording of “La Kahena” is spot-un, while having the professional sound that would allow it to be played on a number of different radio station, the production is smooth enough to really draw out both inorganic and organic elements of the disc. While the disc may seem daunting to those that have not immersed themselves in the style of music that Cheb i Sabbah creates, the subtle nods to electronic and pop music are present enough that even the uninitiated can find some common ground. The disc is not a quick listen, either – topping the scale at 67 minutes, perhaps the best way to properly enjoy the music on the disc is to listen to one track at a time, with a proper period of reflection after that.

Top Track: Sadats

Cheb I Sabbah – La Kahena / 2005 Six Degrees / 8 Tracks / http://www.chebisabbah.com / http://www.sixdegreesrecords.com / Reviewed 24 April 2005

Rating: 5.5/10

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