Hassan Hakmoun is a Moroccan musician/singer currently residing in the US - while some of his recordings reflect a more traditional presentation of Moroccan and North African folk-rooted trance music, others strive for a cross-pollination/co-mingling of same with Western rock/pop/dance styles. His latest, The Gift, is a sort-of middle ground between the two. The traditional modal, cyclic North African elements are strong, but to be sure, the "Western" side (funk, rock, guest American vocalist, sleek, textured production) of the equation is not dominant nor is it overwhelming - this fine platter is NOT a case of sell-out/a musician whoring to the Western music market. Here, the musical worlds respectfully coalesce instead of merely co-existing a la the proverbial oil-and-water combo. The rippling, Bootsy-ish funky rhythms engage in give-and-take with the deeply entrancing, sinuous North African rhythms - sometimes displaying the common ground between them - making this set an engaging, ebullient, mesmerizing deep-groove delight. Other ingredients in his savory stew include some rich, earthy Hammond organ (the kind that’d sound great on a Solomon Burke or Lucinda Williams album), swirling violins, a dash of bluesy guitar and a haunting vocal duet with Paula Cole. There’s a sultry Spanish/Moors/flamenco awareness/presence and a touch of Indian Ghazal singing as well. Hakmoun’s voice is slightly gravelly, warm and soulful, and unlike some African singers, he does not overdo the melismatics. In the humble (yeah, sure) opinion of This Writer, The Gift is one of the very best World Music/ethno-fusion albums around, joining the rare heights scaled by such platters as Lukas Ligeti’s Beta Foly, The Klezmatics’ Possessed and Rachid Taha’s Ole.