Some may perceive traditional and ritualistic music as outdated or ‘not cool’, but Sofian Ben Youssef, who releases music under the moniker AMMAR 808, is one of many international artists that dash that notion to smithereens. He revivifies and spices up the traditional rhythms of raï, targ and Gnawa by playing them on the iconic drum machine TR-808, which is where his name came from.
The Tunisian producer recently released an album, Maghreb United, that embraces different sounds from around the Maghreb countries, from Mauritania to Libya. Other than repurposing traditional rhythms using electronic drum machines, he also passes North African instruments like the gasba flute, zokra bagpipe and guembri through a variety of filters and distortion amps to take them into new and harsher sonic worlds, while still preserving the instruments' feels. He enlists vocalists Sofiane Saidi, Mehdi Nassouli, and Cheb Hassen Tej to add another level of ecstasy to the frenzy. Maghreb United falls somewhere between the essential sound of the traditional auditory world and the modern day electronic psychedelia infused music. Recently, Bandcamp recognized it as one of their Best Albums of Spring 2018.