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Krishna Lila

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Album Review

"Krishna" and "Cheb" are two names that one seldom sees on the same album. Krishna is a Hindu name for God, while the Cheb moniker is used by male artists in Algerian rai (such as Cheb Mami, Cheb Hassan, and Cheb Sahraoui). In Algeria, Islam is the dominant religion, not Hinduism — and rai artists usually come from Muslim backgrounds. However, it is important to stress that rai is secular music and does not promote a radical fundamentalist view of Islam — quite the contrary. In fact, some rai artists have faced death threats and outright violence at the hands of Algeria's Islamic fundamentalists because they have a modern, Western-minded outlook. Although San Francisco resident DJ Cheb I Sabbah is from Algeria and knows a lot about contemporary Arabic pop, Krishna Lila: The Essential Bhajan Mixes is not rai. Rather, this intriguing CD finds the Algerian mixer/producer exploring the traditional Hindu devotional music of India (which is something that a hardcore Islamic fundamentalist would never do). It isn't every day that someone from Algeria embraces Indian classical music — that fact alone makes this release quite unusual. And another thing that makes Krishna Lila unorthodox is the fact that I Sabbah draws on two different schools of traditional Indian classical music: the Hindustani school of North India and the carnatic school of South India. In India, the two are usually kept separate — North Indian musicians who are schooled in Hindustani playing generally stick to that tradition, while South Indian musicians who receive carnatic training tend to stick to carnatic environments. But I Sabbah, being an Arabic outsider from Algeria, doesn't have to choose one over the other; on Krishna Lila, he allows both to inspire him. I Sabbah takes liberties with Indian classical music and the end result is a highly rewarding CD.

Biography

Born: August 7, 1947 in Algeria

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The music of the world converged through the productions and remixes of Algeria-born, San Francisco-based DJ Cheb i Sabbah. The producer/promoter of a world music series, 1002 Nights, Sabbah presented a diverse cast of musicians, ranging from Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to London-based bhangra artist Bally Sagoo. Beginning in 1988, Sabbah presented a similar series, Africa/India/Arabia, weekly at Nickie's, a popular San Francisco nightclub. Sabbah began his professional career...
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Krishna Lila, Cheb i Sabbah
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