Ben Aylon

Xalam
(Riverboat Records )

Israeli drummer and percussionist Ben Aylon is fascinated by African music, particularly the traditions of Senegal and Mali, so he created a drum kit that features 10 different percussion instruments. He also plays xalam, a stringed instrument found throughout West Africa, as well as djeli ngoni, a variation of the xalam from Mali. The melodies Aylon composed for Xalam, which he recorded with the late Senegalese sabar master Doudou N’diaye Rose starting in 2013, blend the sounds of Africa, the Middle East, rock, reggae and more into a pleasing sonic landscape.

The title track opens the program with interlocking melodies on xalam and cadences set up by Rose and five other sabar masters. Aylon’s atmospheric touches on electric bass give the tune an otherworldly aura. His multitracked xalams and electric bass play the rippling hook that drives “Café Touba,” accenting the melody with hand percussion. Guest singer Amy Scako, known as the Tina Turner of Mali, supplies vivid ornamentations to the r&b hybrid “Jonibenina.” Hints of funk (“Benn Takamba”), blues (“Hulem Belibe”) and even country music (“SeneGambia, Part 2”) round out the set’s international appeal.



On Sale Now
December 2021
Roy Hargrove
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