Talvin Singh doesn't dwell on his talents as a tabla player, though he's up at the master range on that particular instrument (and he also plays the electric tabla). He doesn't dwell much on his role as a producer either, though he did just invest in an Indian studio for his personal use. Take his work alone, and it's good. But when he collaborates (with Bjork, for example), things get very interesting.
Consider his partners on this disc, from the hills of Morocco. The position of "Master Musician" is something you inherit paternally in Jajouka, along with a lot of practice and schooling. There may be plenty of Attars in this band, but Bachir Attar is the sole and undisputed leader. Jajouka is a place nestled far enough away from the mainstream that these master musicians have managed to properly keep up their tradition. The musicians of Jajouka have had meetings with the Rolling Stones, Ornette Coleman, and others; by now they're something like stars in world music. (By the way, I advise that you steer clear of that Ornette disc: it's Prime Time at the wrong time.) But the master musicians of Jajouka always retain their signature style, which consists of droning notes on wooden flutes and a drum-rich, fixed rhythmic pace. It's relentless and spiritually piercing.
And now the bottom line: Talvin Singh has been working with Bachir Attar for a decade.
(One caution: you need to be careful to avoid confusing this Master Musicians with the disc produced by Bill Laswell with the same moniker but (sub)titled Apocalypse Across the Sky. They are quite different.) On this disc, Singh steps in and out of this profound musical tradition, pulling samples of vastly different lengths for his own purposes, performing alongside, and offering just about all other permuations imaginable. Sometimes it's mostly Singh, mostly it's Jajouka, but it's never one without the other: a wonderful meeting of partners. (Even if those partners remain clearly unequal in the end.) And check out track 6, where the Attar women, most unexpectedly, have something to say as well.
Don't buy this disc if you want to hear the undiluted tradition of Jajouka. But if you're curious to hear what someone with a futuristic outlook can do with this traditional music, this disc is required listening. It's may be a year old, but it's one of the most profound discs I've heard in a while. The world needs more Talvin Singh. Soon. Ha.
Personnel: Master Musicians of Jajouka: Bachir Attar, Mustapha Attar, Hadj Mohammed Attar; Mohamed Attar Larbi; Amin Attar; Tahir Boukzar; Abdullah Boukzar; Abdullah Attar; Abdullah Attar Sandoui; Ali Rtoubi; Moktar Gajhdal; Ahmed Elhamdi. Produced by Talvin Singh.