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Cheb i Sabbah: Devotion (2008)

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Cheb i Sabbah: Devotion How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Devotion uses the human voice for spiritual purposes, looping devotional chants from the Hindu, Sufi Islam and Sikh traditions, sung by leading practitioners of each liturgy, into Sabbah's uniquely synthetic, trippy music. "Trippy" is the keyword because Sabbah's sound collages travel backward and forward through both historical time and geographical space.

The opening "Jai Bhavani," one of two features for Anup Jalota, one of India's premier singers, footprints the template for every ensuing track, an electronic trance landscape that creeps forward in a hypnotic tempo, punctuated by percussion, with flute and chorus underlining then echoing Jalota's evocative lead vocal. When Sabbah cranks up the tempo, here and then later in Jalota's dervish turn through "Aaye Bhairav Bholanath," every sound and word twirls together faster, and the feeling that he's connecting you to a profoundly spiritual place correspondingly grows more intense.

"Kinna Sohna," written by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and sung by Master Saleem, sounds like the most heartfelt of prayers and feels especially timeless when its closing echo repeatedly twinkles then fades.

The languid reggae beat of the dub-style "Haun Vaari Haun Varaney" makes this ten-minute centerpiece of Sabbah's expansively spread table feel like the surrender of ecstasy, especially when Harnam Singh's incantation lifts and carries you heavenward. "Morey Pya Bassey" features Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal and also bubbles along a metronomic reggae-style beat, one that pulses through this set's most evocative instrumentation, as Sabbah constantly melts musical and religious traditions from so many different cultures into this softly liquid pool.

There's a rhythm track to the closing, title song, but it provides no actual rhythm or tempo. Instead, it floats a prayerful atmosphere in free "real" time behind the blissful sound of adults and children chanting their devotions, and returns Devotion to where it began—a heart of worship.

Track Listing: Jai Bhavani; Koi Bole Ram Ram; Kinna Sohna; Qalanderi; Haun Vaari Haun Varaney; Morey Pya Bassey; Aaye Bhairav Bholanath; Devotion.

Personnel: Cheb i Sabbah: DJ, production; Rakesh Bhardwaj: dholak, madal, dhol, ektara; Yossi Fine: bass; Saeed Jafar: sitar; Karsh Kale: guitar; Chirtan Kalra: bass; Rupjeet Kaur: choir, chorus; Ustad Asif Ali Khan: sarangui; Murad Ali Khan: sarangui; Nazir Khan: banjo; Richard Michos: bass, guitar, keyboards; Salar Nader: tabla; Mohinder Pal: choir, chorus; Ajay Prasanna: bansuri; Guarav Raina: keyboards, programming; Piyas Raj: choir, chorus; Sapna Roy: choir, chorus; Balkrishan Shama: keyboards; Bupinder Sharma: choir, chorus; Sukhjeet Singh: choir, chorus; Prshant Tirvedi: tabla, dholak, pakhawaj drum; Priyambda Vashishtha: choir, chorus; Anup Jalota: vocals; Rana Singh: vocals; Master Saleem: vocals; Riffat Sultana: vocals; Harnam Singh: vocals; Shubha Mudgal: vocals.

Record Label: Six Degrees Records

Style: Electronica


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