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From the Inside Out

New Singing Things

By Published: May 26, 2008

Cheb i Sabbah
Devotion
Six Degrees
2007

Devotion uses the human voice for more 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.



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