Bass Makes the World Go Round

25 01 2008

 

By Derek Beres

Hamsa Lila has certainly matured over the years. Since borrowing elements of Moroccan ritual music for their 2003 debut, Gathering One, the San Francisco-based sextet has created a new modality for trance, once again proving that while forms rearrange, essence remains the same. For this four-man, two-woman outfit, the forms include traditional Gnawa instrumentation—the bass lute, sinter, the hypnotic metal clappers, krakebs, and stringed instruments such as the saz and oud—with the foundational guitars, bass and drums. The essence is a mesmerizing gaze into the future of world music.

Lila’s breakthrough was a case of stating the obvious. Oddly enough, the obvious is not always realized. By taking the low-end sinter and boosting intensity during production, allowing this instrument and not the percussion to lead each song, they essentially updated a Middle Eastern ceremonial music form with dance club aesthetics. While the sinter was always the driving force of Gnawa trance music, in the studio it has been, time and again, consumed by the rapturous chatter of metal clappers or various percussion instruments, not to mention gorgeous Arabic vocals. Enter Yossi Fine.

Few musicians have amassed a resume as impressive as Fine. Not only does he perform with world-class artists, but he often helps to define their sound. Since the ‘80s he has been pivotal in the evolution of bass, creating some of hip-hop’s most memorable bass lines (Hip-Hop Hoorah, ho, hay…) and touring with jazz legends such as Ruben Blades, Gil Evans, Stanley Jordan and John Scofield. Since creating Ex-Centric Sound System in 2000, he has released progressive albums surveying the state of modern African and Jamaican music. Since then he has recorded with and produced the likes of electro-tabla virtuoso Karsh Kale, Algerian DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Afrobeat innovators Antibalas and Moroccan trance master Hassan Hakmoun—not to mention, of course, Lila.

He took the band’s youthful and raw energy and gave it form and shape through the process of bass. The deep prowess of “Eh Musthapha” and “Turka Lila” was the result of his studio alchemy, and as shards of reggae and African music seeped in, you realized this was more than a Gnawa-inspired jamband. With the release of the rich and unforgettable Live in Santa Cruz (In the Pocket), Lila takes this lush tapestry of sound into the arena in which they excel: the stage.

To read the full article on PopMatters click here.

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