Various Artists, 'Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa' (2S & Fews/Drag City)

Critical Mass
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by SPIN Staff

Gnawi musician Brahim Belkane has performed alongside rock icons Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, but his acoustic, trance-inducing music -- derived from Morocco's one-time slave-underclass sect of Sufi mystics -- remains an enigma. This CD/DVD is a long-overdue documentof the ritual art, with nuanced performances from Belkane and others, mostly recorded in private homes. Fueled by percussive rattles, handclaps, and the three-stringed guimbri, propulsive yet low-key pieces like "Turku Lila" and the title track entrance from half a world away.

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