There is “world music” and then there is world music. The former is a lazy catch-all for the myriad genres spread across innumerable cultures – i.e. non-Western music – while the latter is a true cooption of the many disparate styles contained within the “world music” umbrella that, when paired together, result in something truly representative of the world as a whole. Since its inception in the late-1970s, Suns of Arqa has seen some 200 members pass through its ranks, each of whom represent a wholly different and unique cultural contribution to the group’s sound. At the center of it all is Michael Wadada who, in his global travels, collected recordings and performances with scores of musicians that he then fused into his own unique vision of world music.

Because of the range of sounds and styles found on a Suns of Arqa album, it’s impossible to classify it as anything other than pan-global world music in its purest form. From traditional folk sounds from the British Isles to Eastern melodies to echo-y dub to flamenco and very nearly all points in between (often at the same time!), their debut album Revenge of the Mozabites plays as though the listener were constantly scanning the dial on a giant radio that managed to receive signals from all over the globe. A quick scan of the track list for Revenge gives an idea of the stylistic disparity represented throughout: “Acid Tabla”; “Sully’s Reel”; “Ananta Snake Dance”; “Sanaiscara Saturn.” The unifying thread is Wadada’s rhythmic stitching, used in such a way that these otherwise vastly different – culturally, geographically, politically, philosophically – styles come together to form a gorgeous sonic patchwork quilt.

Given the sheer stylistic disparity contained on Reven of the Mozabites, it can, at first, be somewhat of a jarring listen; random fragments come together throughout to bridge otherwise vast physical and cultural differences. Taken together as a whole, however, they show the true universality of music as it pertains to the human experience: While the sounds and tonalities might vary greatly, the underlying principle behind each remains the same, namely to elicit some sort of emotional or visceral response from the listener. With each melded together, it becomes almost overwhelming attempting to process the many different elements competing for the same amount of sonic real estate. This wild juxtaposition shows the influence of Suns of Arqa to have spread far and wide, ranging from ambient to dub to electronic to “world music” and how each is perceived.

Without any sort of stylistic parameters or restrictions in place, Wadada and company manage a truly liberating listening experience, one that constantly defies expectation and opens up a series of otherwise geographically remote musical ideas in a truly global sense, showing not only just how small the world really is, but how inherently similar we all are regardless of our perceived differences. It’s not for nothing that the cover image is merely that of an eye in close up, a distant Earth reflected in the pupil. Despite having been created nearly 40 years ago, Revenge of the Mozabites remains shockingly modern. Forward-thinking and utterly unique, Revenge of the Mozabites – and Suns of Arqa in general – is unlike anything else because it pulls from everything else.

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