Fantazia, Polyglot Berber and Gnawa Funk

London (UK) – Fantazia has recorded

Mul Sheshe
, one of the most exciting North African fusion albums in recent
years. Unlike some who stick to orthodoxy and others who go outright commercial,
Fantazia combines the best of Berber and Gnawa music with Afro-American funk. I’m talking
about a powerful rhythm section mixed with brass. The lyrics uses include
various languages, including Arabic and English. Yazid Fentazi, ud player and principal songwriter with Fantazia, is an
Algerian Berber living in the urban sprawl of North East London. The band’s
debut album

The Lost Place
(2000), was an attractively light and jazzy affair,
whereas

Mul Sheshe
(‘The Turbaned One’) has a grittier more groove based
feel, closer to their live sound.

Fantazia has beefed things up instrumentally with new recruit trumpeter Andy
Mellon and the album’s producer Richard Bignell on keyboards and programming,
plus guest appearances from UK based master of the Syrian qanun zither

Abdullah Chhadeh
and respected jazz trumpet man Claude Deppa. Vocals have
been added to the mix too, courtesy of Yazid and new boy Mourad Simba. The pair
actually go back many years, to their teenage days in Algeria, when they
performed together in a Western pop covers band.

There are stories here. Tales of loss, love, celebration, remembrance and
displacement. Yazid left Algeria in the early 1990s when the problems began,
making what had previously been a musical hotbed into a dangerous place for a
musician, especially a Berber musician, to ply his trade. He came to London to
find the freedom to express himself through music. This album is a street-smart
celebration of that freedom.

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