About the album
Trance, ritual, mysticism, psychedelia, magic...however one chooses to describe the way that gnawa music affects people, there can be no denying the fascination for it which reaches right across the world. And Majid Bekkas, one of the most dazzling exponents of modern gnawa is also probably the musician who has managed to find the most varied and interesting ways to make this music interact with other genres. Now, with the Magic Spirit Quartet he has had taken the boldly imaginative step of building a bridge to connect North Africa and Scandinavia, to align the ancestral with the ambient. It is an inspired move which seems to catch the very spirit of 21st century jazz.
What does the meeting or collision of these two worlds, the Maghreb and the Nordic, actually sound like? The story of “Aicha” unfolds during a remarkable twelve minutes, starting with an introduction which twists and turns, evolving into a captivating dialogue between voice and trumpet, and then introducing a majestically circulating theme. The listener is then caught up as the pace gradually quickens towards a heart-poundingly fast conclusion, followed by a final moment of exhausted repose. “Hassania”, with its otherworldly guitar riffs over an insistent beat, immediately lands the listener in the desert, with Bekkas thoroughly and authentically inhabiting the vocal style of the people of the Moroccan Sahara, Mauritania and Northern Mali; the collective improvisation in the finale seems like an acoustic mirage. With a crisp, funky groove, “Bania” reflects the danceable side of the gnawa ceremonies, the call-and-response songs hover over the band going at full tilt, enriched by shimmering shafts of light from the keyboards. Bekkas brings his artistry on the oud to “Chahia Taiba” establishing a friendly conversation with Goran Kajfeš against the SciFi backdrop of a cool Moog. The freely played introduction to “Mrhaba” is like a salute to the rising sun, and leads into a powerful gnawa melody interspersed with trumpet phrases over an Afrobeat groove. “Annabi” remains consistently in a meditative mood, with a tender melody. And in the finale “MSQ”, the sheer quality of this quartet’s players as instrumental improvisers is fully unleashed once again. Glorious improvisation, crisp polyrhythms, an extraordinary yet natural-seeming collision of electronic flair and spirituality – all this and more is to be found in this exciting rapprochement of the continents and the centuries.