Maghreb United - AMMAR 808

It's taken us a while to really sit down and listen to this album, but boy was it worth the wait. AMMAR 808 is Sofyann Ben Youssef, the sonic mastermind behind the Tunisian sensation Bargou 08. This is ancient North African music reimagined.


AMMAR 808 (photo by Sia Rosenberg).jpg

The album features singers from the entire Maghreb area of North Africa - Mehdi Nassouli (from Morocco), Sofiane Saidi (Algeria) and Cheb Hassen Tej (Tunisia), - songs from the Targ, Gnawa, and Raï histories, and distorted gumbri, gasba flute and zokra bagpipes alongside the famous Roland TR-808 drum machine. The thing is this album demands your attention. From the first note to the last you'll be transfixed and long to be transported to Africa. Its rare for any album in its opening bars to conquer up such a sense of passion and adventure. When an album is this good it can take hours just to get past track one as this was on repeat for some time.  'Degdega' ( feat. Sofiane Saidi ) is the opening track spluttering and hurling an overpowering bass rhythm. It's all the things you would not associate with Africa and more. Yes, it's traditional, but its fused with an uncompromising defiance to bass and electronics. Its the red carpet of the world. You could imagine an EDM God transforming this into something...well EDM'ish.

Bass I'm glad to report is a recurring theme throughout the album. Whilst tracks like 'Sidi Kommi' & 'Ain Essouda' flirt with the bass 'Layli' ( feat. Mehdi Nassouli ) absolutely embraces it. This is one of my favorite tracks. It's hard to describe just how great this track is as the two worlds come together so effortlessly. The vocals are hypnotic the beat menacing and the overall feel ahead of its time... Then there is 'Kahl el inin' almost documentary style 80's retro, how this works I'll never know. This album is often on the edge which is welcoming and a pleasant surprise almost like a conservative mid-life crisis. I urge you to sample this album and I dare you to try and put it down. 

Willber Willberforce