Mohamed Assani Doesn’t Miss on New LP Wayfinder

By Deuce

On his recently released LP Wayfinder, Mohamed Assani is trying to tell you something. Quite urgently, at times, with that incessant sitar of his bending, inflecting, speaking to you with nary a word, yet articulating, feelings, sentences, coherent thoughts, all the same.

Understanding just what he’s trying to say requires a level of attunement—and openness—to interpret the melodies of an hour’s worth of tunes as though they were a conversation. It’s not just his sitar speaking, but also the tabla of Ustad Shahbaz Hussain, the mridangam, kanjira, and mbira of Curtis Andrews, and the peerless, personified bass of Jeanse Le Doujet.

Collectively, the quartet hits you with styles, sounds, and feelings that are seemingly desultory, but which coalesce into a cadence of rhythm and patterns that blend like the smooth stirring of a cocktail. Again, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s something they’re trying to tell you without words, particularly on the opening number “Awakening”. At times part Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, at others part classic rave clubs, “Awakening” erupts well beyond its four-on-the-floor beat to stir something deep within the patient listener.

Other tunes eschew the esotericism on “Awakening” for equally profound (if not more so) rhythms that’ll sub in any load. Check the 808’s on “Black Sugar”, for instance, and see if you can keep your head still as the track slumps along. Assani’s sitar is the perfect counterpoint to the laidback groove that’s seemingly just dying for a hot 16, or one of those endless freestyles.

The real treat, however, is the backing instruments that provide warmth and space for the natural evolution of many of these cuts, especially on “Sugar”. This symphony furnishes the perfect segue to keep the tunes from sounding inaccessibly ethnic, bridging the way to good sounding music regardless of instrument or style.

In fact, it’s this nuance—largely attributed to the supporting instruments—that enables Assani to ride these tracks for considerably lengthy time periods without weariness. Each of the seven tunes borders on 10 minutes in length, with “Darbari Dub” clocking in at just under 11.

But trust, out of all of them, you’re sure to let “Sugar” bang to the finale. I know I did, which is typical of the songs on the album and a sure indicator of the high level of quality Assani’s dealing with on Wayfinder.

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