Morocco's Master Musicians of Jajouka have long been open to Western collaborators, from the Rolling Stones and Ornette Coleman to Lee Ranaldo, of Sonic Youth. But ambient/world/techno producer Talvin Singh takes an extraordinarily sympathetic approach to Jajouka's ancient trance music.
A classically trained Indian percussionist, Singh starts by not fiddling around with the Master Musicians' ensemble spell. Over several nights in Jajouka, he recorded just the group, clear of gimmickry, for three tracks of this 66-minute CD. Then he brought group leader Bachir Attar to London for more cross-pollination excursions.
The opening tracks mark the contrast. The hypnotic warbling of Attar's ghaita (an Arabic oboe) drifts over Singh's tabla punctuations in the opener, "Up to the Sky, Down to the Earth," only to segue into the cyclical race of the group's geese-toned horns and galloping percussion in "The Truth Forever" (RealAudio excerpt).
Jajouka's repetitive strains could turn off some listeners, and techno touches will offend some purists, especially when the group's women infuse one track with droning chants.
But Singh finds a symbiotic union in "Searching for Passion," an electronically treated duet with Attar (RealAudio excerpt), and "Jamming in London," which pulses with bass, keyboards, vocoder, conch shell and turntables. This fusion is both exotic and earthy.