Aisha Kandisha's Jarring Effects
Those of you who rail against cultural appropriation should start sharpening your knives for this one. A trance band reviled in its native Morocco because of its impolitic name (Aisha Kandisha is a she-devil of legend whose name is not spoken aloud in proper circles), Jarring Effects first recorded these tracks in 1991 and 1992. Co-producer Patrick Jabbar El Shaheed, of Swiss descent, then inserted found sounds (random babble, a gunshot) into the mix, which was fiddled with again in 1993 by Bill Laswell, one of the more idiosyncratic producers working in the United States. Laswell recruited several cohorts, including Last Poet Umar Bin Hassan and Parliament-Funkadelic vet Bernie Worrell, to add a modern edge to the disc. No doubt world-music purists will find the result thoroughly repellent, but less doctrinaire listeners may well be captivated. The English-language samples on "Nbrik" and the massive, reggae-inflected bass lines that Laswell uses to power "A Muey A Muey" and several other cuts are as authentically Moroccan as a bowl of Froot Loops, but they pull a Western listener inside a sonic universe that's brimming with delights; particularly diverting are the sounds of the kmenja (a violin-like instrument), the guimbri (a West African bass), the aouuda (a wooden flute) and the ululating vocals of My. Cheb Ahmed. The effect achieved is something more than mere exotica. Rather, it's a continental melange in which musical elements associated with vastly different societies gracefully co-exist. Shabeesation is danceable and hypnotic--and if some see it as politically incorrect, well, that's their problem.--Michael Roberts
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Home Alive: The Art of Self Defense
Home Alive, a women's self-defense organization dedicated to the memory of Mia Zapata, a promising Seattle musician who was raped and murdered in 1993, is an exceedingly worthy cause, and supporting it by purchasing this two-disc package is a fine idea. But don't expect an easy listening experience: The set, which is stuffed to the brim with throwaways and spoken-word rants, seems to have been assembled using the time-tested "52 Pick-up" method. However, judicious use of your CD player's programming button will help you locate interesting offerings from the Supersuckers, the Gits, 7 Year Bitch and Nirvana. Added bonus: "Leaving Here," which to my way of thinking is Pearl Jam's best recorded performance. The number was penned by the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team; perhaps Eddie and company should consider becoming a cover band.--Roberts