Hassan Hakmoun | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hassan Hakmoun 

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Hassan Hakmoun traveled to New York with a troupe of Gnawa musicians in 1987 and never left. Held in sway by the city's excitement and bristling multiculturalism, he's subsequently followed the path of assimilation without losing sight of his roots. On his stunning 1993 album Trance (Real World) he and his group Zahar transplanted the mysteriously powerful trance-out grooves of Gnawa music into a vital, contemporary sound without watering down its primal spirit. The heart of Gnawa music is the sintir, a three-stringed lutelike instrument with a resonant bass sound on which the music's highly seductive lines are played. The trance element of the music is no joke; extended exposure to the hypnotic patterns has been known to affect both performers and audience members. According to a review in the New York Times, at a recent performance Hakmoun's mother fell into a trance onstage, whirling about in a state of altered consciousness, and stories abound from writers like Paul Bowles and Brion Gysin of Gnawans walking on hot coals while in trances. Coupled with Hakmoun's soulful Arabic-language vocals, his music throbs with a slow-burning intensity. Joining Hakmoun will be multiinstrumentalist Alan Rudolph, whose recent Skyway (Soul Note) showcases his mastery of musical cross-pollination, including turns on bendir, the Moroccan frame drum. Hamid Drake, fluent in infinite styles from free jazz to reggae and perhaps the most versatile and daring percussionist in Chicago, if not America, also participates. This evening's performance and a promising Saturday-night jam session featuring many of the AACM's finest musicians--Edward Wilkerson, Fred Anderson, Ernest Dawkins, Harrison Bankhead, and others--represent HotHouse's final gigs in the Flat Iron Building after six years of consistently innovative programming. Friday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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