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  • Writer's pictureRiddimStyle Staff Writer

Chaka Chouka project and their album “Sharka”

The Chaka Chouka project and their album "Sharka" were never meant to happen. The covid 19 lockdowns of 2020 seriously disrupted the lives of everyone on planet Earth but none more so than the musicians and artists who plan their lives months or even years in advance. Simon Webster and Bernard O'Neill have been playing together as a rhythm section for years, have travelled all over the world playing major world music festivals as well as working on the London session and studio scene together. With weeks of lockdown looming, they decided to put their time and studios to good use.

Based on a drum and percussion loop that Simon had put on hold for a rainy day, he wrote "Gnaoua Reggae" on guitar and melodica in his studio in Meknès, Morocco where he lives with Mouna Eddrou, a French–Moroccan singer. Mouna added her vocals, the Chaka Chouka sound was forged, and the project was born. Simon sent the track to Bernard, who lives and works from his studio in the southwest of France. Bernard added bass and organ and made the crucial connection by sending it on to Cyprus to Haji Mike.

Haji had planned to record an acoustic dub poetry album in Cyprus with Bernard who he had met at Peter Gabriel's Realworld Studios the previous December, a project now on hold due to the lockdown. Haji added his vocals to the track, and his socially committed and compelling dub poetry texts are complimented perfectly by Mouna's Sufi inspired lyrics and singing. This vocal combination, thanks to Bernard's excellent production, remains a constant theme throughout the album.

Four months later, with hundreds of files pinging back and forth across the Mediterranean, an album was complete.

Morocco is a cultural crossroads where North African Berber culture meets the Middle East, the Sahara, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. Chaka Chouka's music is a reflection of this and also links seamlessly with the African roots, traditional "mento" music and jazz/ R n B influences of reggae. Listening to the album will infuse your senses with a unique blend of flavours from the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East.

"Sharka" means "share" in Arabic and Chaka Chouka's music is an expression of their diverse musical roots and a desire for a fairer, more compassionate society. Even though "Sharka" has lyrics in four different languages, the message is clear. We are part of a world commune. We can make a difference with respect and love, and understanding. Chaka Chouka is making their journey, so join us, on the peace train.



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