Gathering One (BRG/In The Pocket BRG 1268 2424701262 2, 2003)
If a good fusion band is one that knows how to combine the best of all their worlds into a sound that’s immediately engaging and stays that way, then Hamsa Lila goes beyond good and well into the realm of great. Of course, when your starting point is the spiritual music of the Gnawa (a Sufi Muslim sect descended from black Africans enslaved by Arabs centuries ago, you’re already trodding a path likely to lead to something quite special.
The “Lila” part of the band’s moniker, in fact, is taken from the word for the nocturnal mystical music and healing sessions undertaken by the Gnawa to achieve purification via connection with The Almighty.
Hamsa Lila is based in San Francisco, which may account for the rather (dare I say it) psychedelic quality of their music. However, much of their melodic muscle comes from liberal use of guimbri and sintir, stringed gut-and-skin instruments that in Morocco (where many Gnawa now reside) are the rough
equivalent of guitar and bass. A standard drum set sharpens and regulates the rhythmic flow, but don’t assume for a minute that this music sounds reined in.
It’s as free-spirited as music gets, extending an invitation to dance and trance that’s hard to resist. Incantory female vocals, African, Arabic, Asian and Latin grooves and ancient atmospherics rubbing elbows with modern ones are all part of the Hamsa Lila signature sound.
Further inspection (and introspection) reveals that this music is largely music of the spirit, incorporating perspectives from Islamic, Judaic, Buddhist, Yoruba and other ideologies in praise of The Divine.
I’m not going to flap my gums any further about how great this disc is, since it’s gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it stuff. Oh, and for the remix lovers among you, there’s an album’s worth of Hamsa Lila remixes available courtesy of one Ian “Inkx” Herman.
Buy Gathering One.