NPR 25 favorite albums of 2014
Al Qantara ("The Bridge") is a fitting title for the new album by Majid Bekkas. The native Moroccan's home country has long been a nexus of African, Eastern and Western cultures. Bekkas is steeped in Gnawa, an ancient Moroccan spiritual trance music, but on Al Qantara he adroitly fuses the tradition with jazz and African styles.
His principal tools are the oud and the guembri, a three-stringed guitar-sized instrument covered in camel skin that produces the low notes of a double bass.
With his Afro-Oriental Jazz Trio, Bekkas guides a journey through traditional Moroccan tunes ("Bania"), jazz staples (Don Cherry's "Guinea") and his own mesmerizing creations. "Choroq," after an extended oud introduction, gives way to Manuel Hermia's evocative basuri (bamboo flute).
When Khalid Kouhen's Indian tabla drums kick in, the piece takes flight with a melody of sublime beauty. Hopefully Al Qantara will bridge yet one more gap — the one between the notoriety Bekkas enjoys in Morocco and that which we hope he finds far beyond.
Tom Huizenga, NPR (USA), 2014
Source : NPR Music