Thursday, November 6, 2014

El Khalfi Bouchaib - Country vs. Auto-Tune

Here's another tape from my summer 2012 trip. I believe I picked this up in Beni Mellal, though the longstanding Sawt Ennachat label is out of Casablanca. The music sounds Mellali to me - heavy on the zaêriya.

On first listen, this sounded to me like pretty standard early 21st century countrified chaabi. However, a couple of cool things stood out on additional listens:
  • The rhythm is pretty kicking, though it stays pretty mechanical throughout. However, the darbuka player gets pretty OUT in some places, embellishing all over the place. (See track 3.)
  • The viola is not auto-tuned, and it hits a few unusual notes/intervals that sound great in contrast to the otherwise perfect pitches. (See track 4)
  • Bouchaib's country vocal phrasing and embellishment often seem to subvert the auto-tune on his voice. The shikha, on the other hand, is auto-tuned to the max. (See tracks 2 and 6)
  • Track 7 ditches the auto-tune for some straight-up pitch-non-perfect zaêri goodness! 

Mastering note: Track 4 fades out quickly at the end of side 1 of my tape. I was able to find an mp3 of the full track over at and grafted it onto the end of my version. So the last 6 minutes of track 4 comes from that source. (Excuse the obnoxious voiceover at 6:30.)

El Khalfi Bouchaib - Ezzine Ihebbel (Sawt Ennachat cassette)
01) Bin Ezzriba u Lhendia
02) Ezzaêri
03) Ba3 Btata
04) Ezzaêri
05) El Âgra
06) Ezzine Ihebbel
07) Ennegara

Get it all here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Âita with Ghaita? - Hassan al Faryati

Here's an odd tape I picked up in Beni Mellal in 1992. It's a ghaita ensemble, but one that seems unusual to me for a number of reasons.

The ghaita is a loud piercing oboe/shawm, typically used in outdoor processions, accompanied by tbola (barrel drums). Outdoor procession music usually incorporates any and all popular songs. Tbel players may sing, but singing isn't usually that important. The main purpose of these groups is to be heard outdoors (thus the loud ghaita) and to provide tunes that keep people moving and dancing in the streets. (We've got some northern tbel and ghaita elsewhere in the Stash.)

In some ways, the music on this tape sounds like a Beni Mellal wedding procession - the tunes are familiar and the ghaita-led ensemble strings them together one after another. Also, the sketchy production values in the recording remind me of some of my own field recordings of street processions - bad balance between instruments, ambient noise, tape speeding up and slowing down, (OK, I never actually had that problem), etc.

In other ways, though, this differs from a typical tbel and ghaita ensemble. First, there are no tbola drums, only some bnader (frame drums). The groups I've seen around Beni Mellal usually use a combination of tbola and bnader, but usually there will be at least one tbel. Second, this recording seems to feature a designated group of female singers. This is quite unusual. Women sometimes do sing in wedding processions, but I've only ever seen that happen when no professional musical group is hired for the procession, and guests and family do the drumming and singing. Here the women, of course, are part of the professional ensemble hired for the recording. And Track 5 sounds to me like an âita zaêriya, so these could actually be shikhat.

It's a strange combination. Âita is a pretty far cry (ha ha) from tbel and ghaita processional music. But here, you basically have what could be an âita/chaâbi group with the viola being replaced by the ghaita.

The only information I found online about the artist, Hassan al Faryati, is a listing for his performance at the Aita Festival in Asfi in 2008. He is listed on a program of âita haouziya, and the listing states that he is from Kelâat Es-Sraghna (between Beni Mellal and Marrakech).

I don't know if al Faryati is a ghaita player or if he's a drummer. I believe I bought 2 tapes by this artist, but only one appears to remain, and I'm not sure whether it belongs to the j-card pictured above or the one below. At any rate, enjoy this oddity from the ragged corners of the stash.


Hassan al Faryati (Edition al Khair cassette
Track 3 (of 7)

Get it all here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd was the first nationally renowned Chleuh (Soussi Berber) poet and musician. Since his death nearly 70 years ago, his compositions have constantly remained in the repertoire of the rwaïs. Here's a cassette compilation of some of his recordings, released originally on 78RPM records.

The photo on the j-card appears in the 1933 book Corpus de Musique Marocaine: Fascicule II - Musique et danses berbere du Pays Chleuh by Chottin. The full photo is a favorite of mine:

"The raïs Belaïd improvises a poem. In front of him, on the ground, his compositions are scattered. Behind him, a dancer, standing, holds a book full of other poems."

Here is some info on his life and work, translated from Mohamed Ameskane's Chansons Maghréines:
"Emblematic and essential figure of the Amazigh amarg [art song tradition], Haj Belaïd is to Moroccan Berber song what Mohamed Abdelwahab is to Arabic song. His timeless refrains have been reprised, since the thirties, by generations of Rwayes such as Rkia Damsiria, Amentag, Amouri Mbarek, by the groups Izenzaren, Ousman, Oudaden, not to mention the new scene with, among others, Amarg Fusion.

"His recordings, the documents of his fabulous destiny, and his photos are very rare. The troubadour of the Souss was born in the 19th century, between 1870 and 1875, at Anou n Adou, in the area of Tiznit. Coming from a modest family, he lost his father at an early age. Soon he would leave Koranic school, where his mother had enrolled him, to earn a crust of bread and to help his brothers. As a shepherd, he traveled the areas of Ida Obaâkil and Anzi, accompanied by his inseparable flute.

"He recounts that he dilligently frequented the Mellah of Tahala, in the Tafraoute region, where he learned music among the Judeo-Berber community of that place. The intervention of the Cheikh R'ma of Tazeroualt, the Cherif Sidi Mohamed Ousaleh, was decisive in his life and career. Haj Belaid joined his band as a flutist, was introduced to the l’outar and the ribab. Thereafter, he started his own company with Mohamed Rais Boudrâa Tazeroualti, Moulay Ali Souiri and Mbarek Boulahcen. In their company, he roamed the country like the medieval troubadours, performing for great political, religious, and business personalities. Much appreciated, his passages were run. His themes, his incomparable ribab playing, and his bewitching voice made women cry and lulled generations of music lovers.

"An author, improvising his refrains, a songwriter and performer, Haj Belaid sang on a number of themes. In "Fars", "Tadouat d’lklam", "Ribab", "Ouar laman", "Igh Istara Oudar", and "Ika isbar yan", he evokes his suffering with poetry, wandering and traveling. In “L’jouhr", "Ajdig nimi n'trga", "Adbib", "Talb," "Atbir oumlil “, it is courtly love. Feminine beauty is celebrated in very modest terms and subtle metaphors. With "Ch'rab” and “Taroudant" social criticism is put forward. Haj Belaid also played an undeniable role as a historian of everyday life, in recording events that shook the region and the innovations introduced by Western civilization, in the songs “L’makina ousatiam","Tiznit Oulbacha", and "Chifour outoumoubil." Haj Belaid also leaves us anthology pieces about his travels such as "Amoudou L’hij", describing his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1910, “Amoudou n'taliouine" visiting the Pasha Haj Thami Glaoui, and his famous "Amoudou n'bariz." The latter piece refers to a visit of King Mohammed V to Paris. Although the great Rais did not make the trip, he sings a tribute to the City of Lights:
Our sul illa ch'ka gh'lberr wala gh'waman
There are no more troubles, neither on earth nor at sea
Wanna add our iran amoudou yakka laâdourat
He who wishes to travel has no more excuses
Mkar tid ournki, lakhbar'ns lan darnigh
Although we have not been, we have news of him
Koulou matidikan our iaâwid blah ghar'lkhir
Those who have visited say only good things
"In the twilight of his life, "Al Dalail Khairat" and the ribab slung over his shoulder, the eternal wanderer consulted the doctors of the faith on the legality of making commerce of his art. After a positive response, he said, "People sell what they have; so do I." Haj Belaid only began recording in 1929. Listening to him singing, at the age of 70, "Tachirguid", "Zeroualia", "Tazeroualt" "Ouar lman", "Tagujist" and "Toumoubil”, released by Gramophone, one can only imagine the subtleties of his voice when he was young. What a pity!"
This compliation includes two types of compositions. Some pieces are unmetered, poetic declamations ("Tagzirt", "Bariz", and "Alhaj") while the others are metered and include choral refrains. Oddly, tracks 1 and 10 begin with an announcement in Arabic along the lines of "Amarg Bariz, Rais Lhaj Belaïd and his group, in the presence of Ustad Muhammad Abdel Wahab", though neither of these songs are in fact "Bariz". Apparently the great Egyptian performer and composer Muhammad Abdel Wahab was in the studio when Lhaj Belaïd recorded these sides, and was quite impressed at Belaïd's ability to improvise verses.

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd Volume 2 (Casa Music cassette)
01) Tagzirt pt. 1
02) Tagzirt pt. 2
03) Bariz pt. 1
04) Bariz pt. 2
05) Lmakina pt. 1

06) Lmakina pt. 2
07) Adbir Oumlil
08) Alhaj pt. 1
09) Alhaj pt. 2
10) Tadouat Da Lqlim pt. 1
11) Tadouat Da Lqlim pt. 2
12) Aka Isber Yan
13) Attaleb
14) Mqar Tla Touga Arafoud

Get it all here.