Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Entrancing: Cheb i Sabbah and "Raja Vedalu"

Question: Is trance music of the nineties roughly similar in its goals and effects to the psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s? From what I've read, the answer would suggest yes. Psychedelic music of the sixties developed out of a culture that was clearly into experimentation and usage of drugs such as LSD, and the music was often played by people who were taking these drugs and translating their experiences into music, and the music was in turn listened to by people who were also using drugs and getting not only a chemical but an aural high all at the same time. The music was also known for bringing in new instrumentation, particularly Indian instruments such as the sitar and tabla, as well as using other techniques such as looping, phasing, backward taping and lots of reverberation.

In turn, in the 1990s as electronica became more popular in music, many of these techniques were also used along with repeating melodies, and usually a fast beat though not always. Trance music was also used to replicate the effects of the drug Ecstasy, or X, by amplifying inner peace, self acceptance, heightened mood and euphoria, intimacy and love for others, insight, introspection and clarity, self confidence, desire, drive, motivation, energy, endurance, alertness, awareness, awakening, empathy, compassion and forgiveness while diminishing aggression, hostility, fear, anger and insecurity. Trance music is supposed to do all of this without the harmful effects of drug usage. Glow sticks are also a big part of the trance music scene.

Despite both psychedelic music and trance music having an association with drug usage, I think that they stand well on their own. I certainly like both, and the fact that they have a similar history doesn't surprise me.

The random tune today is a trancy kind of composition from DJ Cheb i Sabbah called Raja Vedalu. Sabbah, who died in 2013 at age 66, was a DJ, composer and producer that combined Asian, Arabic and African sounds. Born Serge el Beze, he was Algerian of Jewish and Berber descent. Born into a family of musicians, he moved to Paris as a teenager and began DJing in 1964, working primarily in American soul records. In 1984, he moved to San Francisco and took the name Cheb i Sabbah which means "young of the morning." He was nominated in 2006 for the BBC's World Music Award in the Club Global category, and he was known for concerts featuring live musicians, dancers and massive projections that backed up his electronic music. He died of stomach cancer in November of 2013 in San Francisco. Raja Vedalu can be found on the Shiva Rea's compilation CD Nataraja (2006) and other compilations as well. It has also been remixed and mashed up a few times.