DAPTONE, the home of soul and funk, is one of those labels whose judgement you can trust; when they’re onto something you just know it’s going to deliver.
News that they will be releasing Innov Gnawa’s new album, LILA, on April 30th may seem a bit leftfield given that the band are dedicated explorers of the Moroccan spiritual music that their name suggests, but gnawa, often conveniently tagged the ‘Sufi blues’, is really just deep soul from a different perspective; so the Innov Gnawa release has Daptone recognising and celebrating that connection.
Still need convincing? Then listen to the taster from the album, the epic spiralling workout that is “Chorfa”: 13 minutes plus of hypnotic intensity. Driven by their leader Ma’alem Hassan Ben Jaafer’s guembri bass lines and powered by the percussive locomotion of the ensemble’s qraqeb players, this is a pure, unadorned Gnawa cycle of sound.
As the call of the lead voice draws the unified chants of the ensemble’s singers, Ben Jaafer’s fluid, colourful playing shapes the urgency of the vocal response. Repetition is necessarily a part of it, but as you get deeper into the track the subtleties of the staccato rhythms, and the uplift of the voices gently filter through. It’s music for listening.
As a master musician and spiritual leader (Ma’alem), Hassan Ben Jaafer has been at the centre of the collective of gnawa musicians within New York’s Moroccan community since 1990. Innov Gnawa developed as an ensemble from those early relationships steadily building their reputation within and beyond the New York world music scene.
The release of LILA, staggeringly recorded in a single five-hour, one-take session, looks set to extend their mesmerising, meditative influence as far as can be imagined.
Innov Gnawa’s LILA will be released by Daptone Records on April 30th digitally, on CD, on trad black and coloured vinyl, and on both these wax options with a limited bonus 10″; go make your selection now over at the Daptone website, or Piccadilly Records is a good bet in the UK.