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Zero-G Sahara Beats

Kontakt Instruments By Paul White
Published August 2022

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Requiring the full version of NI’s Kontakt, Zero‑G Sahara Beats is based on a wide range of exotic percussive beats and grooves inspired by Middle Eastern and North African music. Sahara Beats comes as two Kontakt instruments covering multiple percussion styles and variations. The sounds are based on loop‑slices, and there are some 2400 loops, beats and grooves included, totalling 2GB (compressed) of 48kHz, 16‑bit samples. The interface provides the user with tools to manipulate the loops in creative ways.

Zero-G Sahara Beats sample librarySahara Beats also takes advantage of the NI effects engine to include an effects rack supporting convolution reverbs, delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, distortion, overdrive and amp simulators. Individual slices within a loop can be changed in level, replaced, re‑pitched, reversed, stretched, panned and even randomised with separate attack time adjustments for each slice.

On opening Kontakt you’ll find Sahara Beats 1 and Sahara Beats 2 offering a range of beats in Arabian Gulf and North African Khaligi styles, and the user can adjust the tuning, feel and speed of each loop. The loops are arranged as 100 styles with 24 variations of each, with the option of real‑time control over tuning and phrases/loops using keyswitches. A three‑octave section of the keyboard is dedicated to selecting the loop style, with areas in lower octaves used as keyswitches to control Tune, Variation and Slice.

A row of tabs at the top of the GUI provides access to slice parameter editing, and this works in an extremely intuitive manner. When a parameter has been selected, a horizontal bar appears over each slice that can be dragged up or down in the manner of a fader. Slice is used to replace a slice with one taken from the 24 variation loops, while Tune allows the slice to be tuned over a ±1 octave range. Volume, Pan and Attack can also be adjusted and individual slices can be stretched. The overall feel of the loop can also be changed by selecting an alternative from the Feel menu, but we are warned that the result depends on the structure of the original loop — sometimes it works well, other times not. There’s also the option to play back loops at half or double speed.

...the ability to edit the loops in such intensive ways allows them to be repurposed to fit most musical styles.

The sounds and rhythms certainly evoke Moroccan and Arabic music, and comprise mainly mid‑ and high‑pitched percussion instruments such as dharbukas and other small drums. Often quite busy, the rhythms capture the vibrant energy of the music associated with North Africa and the Middle East, though the ability to edit the loops in such intensive ways allows them to be repurposed to fit most musical styles. I found that the sounds also made very effective toppers for more conventional loops. The overall sound quality is impressive, while the ease with which loops can be manipulated is to be applauded.