Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm All About That Zaêriya

I noticed recently that an old post of mine on Shikh El Houcine el Khouribgui was getting a lot of hits recently. I also noticed that Moroccan TV (الاولى) had broadcast a documentary on Shikh el Houcine. (I wandered into the living room one evening and found his scratchy viola and distinctive face coming thru the TV!) I wonder if the broadcast led to web searches that led to the stash!

I was able to find the documentary on YouTube. It's all in Moroccan Arabic, including interviews with musicians that worked with Shikh El Houcine, but there are some nice performance clips as well that non-Arabic speakers may enjoy. No live clips of Shikh El Houcine, but clips of other artists performing songs associated with him, including Ould Mbarek Khribgui, Abderrahim Meskini (heard in the stash here), and Stati Abdelaziz.

I thought I had another tape of Shikh El Houcine in the stash, but alas, there were no more to be found. I did, however, find a fine tape by Shikh Mohammed al Khirani Khribgui, who was featured in a post about a year back. This tape, again from the fabulous Production Hicham El Atlas, is a great recording featuring a side-long zaêri performance, couplets following couplets, with slow, groovy riffing alternating with ta'rija-punctuated rhythmic rave-ups for shimmying. I never get tired of this stuff. Hope you enjoy it too!

PS - thanks to those who have taken the time to leave comments. I apologize for not responding recently. I'm hoping to sit down soon and write back - I do appreciate the encouragement, feedback, and conversation!

El Khirani Mohamed - Production Hicham El Atlas cassette 2001
Track 2 (excerpt) of 4

Get it all here.

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.