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Mohamed Assani: Wayfinder

Mohamed Assani
Wayfinder
(Mohamed Assani)

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One of Canada’s truly unique musical imports is award-winning sitar player and composer, Mohamed Assani. On his new album, Wayfinder, the listener gets caught into a multi-genre, traditional, as well as modern read on the kind of mayhem Indian instruments can manage.

“Awakening,” starts the seven-song album, with a roiling plucked arpeggio forming the bed and Assani soloing atop it. The swirls of slight electronic sounds and Indian-spiced percussions set us on the way of a slightly scary track. Jeanse Le Doujet’s bass plods us into a string swirl and what sounds like doubled string riffing of the second song, “Serendipity,’ while “Khusro’s Footsteps,” presents the stabbing spikey handle-of-notes-at-a-time expression I think we are most used to when it comes to sitar playing. There is some cool tabla stuff behind Assani here especially, deftly played by Ustad Shahbaz Hussain. But mostly what we get is Assani sailing out and beyond.

It sounds like we have the full complement of Assani’s backing musicians on (these include the players already mentioned, as well as Curtis Andrews) on “Darbari Dub,” the longest tune here. Again, we are rooted to the traditional by the instruments used, but there is just enough color by the consistent beat and occasional modern production to set this tune as one of my favorites. “Transit,” which ends Wayfinder, is kinetic, with a loop of vocals added in, more electronic washes than with any tune before it and bleating cool bass-y kind of stomps here and there. It is a great wild ender to an equally great album.

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