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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya and her Âita Big Band


Here's another vintage album from âita pioneer L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya. These are some classic âita marsawiya and chaâbi tunes here, the sort you would hear typically with a small ensemble (oud, viola, derbuka, bendir) such as that of Bouchaib el Bidaoui. Hamdaouya performs them here with a larger ensemble including several violas, flute, and tar (tambourine). Interesting to hear the âita-style viola riffing with multiple violas, and the nice looooooose heterophony and prominent tambourine give these recordings an almost Arab-Andalusian âla vibe in places. And on top of that, it also manages to rock!

Some of these songs can be heard by other performers elsewhere in the Stash. "Ma Cheftou Leghzal" appears by Bouchaib el Bidaoui here. And "Elghaba" appears (in a version about 7 times faster) by Hamid Zahir and Alfarqat Almarrakchiya here. Enjoy!

L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya - TCK647
01 Errabta 1

02 Errabta 2
03 Essa'diya
04 Elghaba
05 Ma Cheftou Leghzal

Get it all here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eine Kleine Nacht-Âita - a little âita for the heart


Ramadan Mubarak, and prayers for the bereaved in Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, the relatives of those lost over the skies of Ukraine, and all those suffering around our blue warming sphere.

Another âita tape, however great, may seem a distraction in these troubled days. I'm offering it in hopes that it warms the heart and reaffirms humanity for a moment.


It's another vintage recording of Shikh El Houcine El Khouribgui, who has been featured here before, and it's on the great label Production Hicham El Atlas. Plucked new off the shelf in 2012 around Beni Mellal, it's definitely a reissue of an older recording. The tape begins by announcing "Istwanat Markikphone toukadime Shikh El Houcine el Khouribui" (Markikphone Records presents...). The great website settatbladi.org has this image of a cassette reissue of Shikh El Houcine on Markikphone (I assume it's a reissue because the j-card reads in Arabic "the late Shikh El Houcine...):


The centerpiece of the album is the opening piece "Dami", a long form âita with a great 10/8 rhythmic cycle. The j-card lists the titles "Lli Bgha Hbibou" and "Lehsab", but neither track 2 nor 3 sound like other versions of those songs that I know. I labeled track 2 "Nghadrou Kissane" because it shares lyrics with Bouchaib el Bidaoui's track of the same name, and I left track 3 as "Lli Bgha Hbibou", cause I hear the word habibi a lot. Whatever the correct titles may be, I hope you enjoy the old scratchy groove!

Chikh L'Houcine Lakhribgui - Dami (Production Hicham Al Atlas 17)
1) Dami (excerpt below)

2) Nghadrou Kissane
3) Lli Bgha Hbibou
4) Taârida

Get it here.