Although Moroccan Gnawa music is the foundation of this CD, it would be a mistake to think of Sabil a Salaam as a conventional Gnawa recording. The members of Nass Marrakech all belong to Morocco's Gnawa community, but they are interested in the music of other cultures -- and that interest proves to be a major asset on Sabil a Salaam. On this intriguing effort, the group brings elements of Central and West African music to its Moroccan Gnawa foundation. Instruments that are traditionally heard in North African music, including castanets and the oud (Arabic lute), are employed along with drums of Nigeria and Senegal; so the music of Arabic Northern Africa merges with the rhythms and harmonies of black Africa. But Nass Marrakech also looks to other continents for inspiration, employing everything from Indian tabla drums to Latin American percussion. Guest Hiroshi Kobayashi, who is Japanese, is heard on the shakuhachi -- a bamboo flute that is Japan's top wind instrument and is considered sacred by Buddhist monks. As many chances as Nass Marrakech takes, this acoustic CD (which was recorded in Barcelona, Spain) is devoid of slickness and has a definite rawness -- no one would mistake this album for the more high-tech, Western-influenced pop coming out of Morocco. Although Gnawa purists might not care for Nass' use of non-Moroccan, non-Arabic instruments, Sabil 'a' Salaam is easily recommended to adventurous world music enthusiasts.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson