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Jaubi - Nafs at Peace Music Album Reviews

Jaubi - Nafs at Peace Music Album Reviews
On their debut album, the Lahore band blends the free-form improvisation of Hindustani classical and jazz with sample-heavy production creating a musical dialogue about faith, spirituality, and the self.

In 2016, Pakistani instrumental quartet Jaubi marked the tenth anniversary of J Dilla’s death by releasing an Indian classical take on the Detroit rapper-producer’s “Time: The Donut of the Heart.” Zohaib Hassan Khan’s sarangi reimagines the original’s jaunty melody (itself sampled from a Jackson 5 track) as a wistful, almost plaintive refrain, backed by minimal acoustic guitar chords. The star of the show is tabla player Kashif Ali Dhani, who treats Dilla’s dynamic, behind-the-beat rhythm as a taal—a percussive framework within which to improvise. In a thrilling display of virtuosity, he traces and re-traces increasingly complex rhythmic patterns on the tabla, building up to a metronomic tattoo that somehow still swings with the original’s fluid grace.

The minute-long cover serves as a perfect introduction to the Lahore band’s musical philosophy, one that marries the free-form improvisation of Hindustani classical and jazz with sampling’s whatever-works approach to composition. This philosophy finds its fullest expression yet on their debut full-length Nafs at Peace, a suite of seven largely instrumental pieces that incorporate Indian classical ragas, the spiritual jazz of Yusuf Lateef and John Coltrane, hip-hop and funk. Tradition and modernity march in lockstep on the record—sarangi melodies vamp over clattering Moog rhythms, space-age synths doodle around the tabla, each instrument adding its own voice to a musical debate about faith, spirituality, and the self.

Nafs at Peace was composed and recorded over two short sessions at studios in Lahore and Oslo with UK multi-instrumentalist Ed “Tenderlonious” Cawthorne and Polish composer Marek “Latarnik” Pędziwiatr (the sessions also yielded Tenderlonious’s 2020 release Ragas From Lahore: Improvisations with Jaubi). Hindustani classical ragas provide the initial jumping-off point, but the compositions here are almost completely improvised, guided by little more than a shared commitment to finding catharsis and transcendence through music.

Thematically, the album draws from the Qur’anic concept of the nafs (Arabic for “self/soul”). In Islam—especially in Sufi and Shia traditions—there are three stages in the development of the nafs. There’s the inciting nafs, which pushes us to indulge in our base instincts. The self-accusing nafs represents the struggle to master the ego, while nafs at peace represents self-actualization, a self that has untangled itself from material and worldly concerns and found true peace. Drawing from their own experiences of bereavement, divorce, drug addiction and crises of faith, Nafs at Peace is Jaubi’s attempt to chart a musical path to the final nafs, each track a different destination on this spiritual journey.

Opener “Seek Refuge” sets the scene with elegiac sarangi and Ali Riaz Baqar’s delicately plucked guitar, backed by the seraphic chorus of a chamber choir. On “Raga Gujri Todi,” the sarangi sketches a mournful lament over an ominous drone, a slow build-up of tension that explodes into an industrial maelstrom of drums and synths that evoke the organized chaos of life on the subcontinent.

“Straight Path” is the album’s thematic and musical centerpiece, its title a reference to a verse in the first chapter of the Qu’ran. If “Raga Gujri Todi” embodied the internal dissonance of the struggle against the ego, “Straight Path” offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies on the other side. Sarangi and flute take turns tracing a raga melody over Latarnik’s ambient synths, before Dhani’s dense tabla percussion takes center stage, allowing the flute and synths to trade increasingly complex and frantic solos. The track ends with an ecstatic showdown between percussion and sarangi, one last counter-attack by the ego.

The closing title track, lead composer Ali Riaz Baqar’s response to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, is a “spiritual jazz raga” that serves as an elongated moment of catharsis. The most conventionally jazz piece on the record, the track features a blistering sax solo by Tenderlonious, who leads the rest of the band into a series of incendiary crescendos, each member pushing the other to even more stratospheric heights. The mind has been purified, the soul purged, and all that’s left is tranquility.

On Nafs at Peace, Jaubi pick up the baton passed to them by ’60s and ’70s trailblazers like Don Cherry and Mahavishnu Orchestra, pushing the boundaries of South Asian classical music into new and exciting spaces. They represent a new generation of South Asian musicians who are neither tied down by the traditional conservatism of classical music, nor burdened by the expectations of rebellion. Instead, they offer a new path that side-steps such debates in favor of something more visceral, more essential: the sheer, blessed joy of creation.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Jaubi - Nafs at Peace Music Album Reviews Jaubi - Nafs at Peace Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 Rating: 5

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