Thursday, December 24, 2015

Houssa Ahbar 97

Here's some late '90s Middle Atlas Amazigh viola-driven pop music. On the spectrum between the two Amazigh viola tapes I shared on this post last year, this falls closer to the earlier, folkier, acoustic end.

I couldn't find out much online about Houssa Ahbar (or Ahbbar, not to be confused with the prolific Houssa 46). This tape predates anything of his I found online. The j-card bills him as "The Star of Khenifra", implying that he comes from the same city as Rouicha.

Houssa appears to remain active via recordings and live performances. You can find some recent albums of his over at Interesting to compare the sound of these newer albums to the one offered here. Production values for Middle Atlas popular music have sure changed since the late '90s. No autotune, no keyboard, no lotar. Just the viola, bendir, men's and women's voices, and what sounds like a darbuka added to the percussion section.

Iconographic query: Here is the logo for the label Ain Asserdoun Disque. "Ain Asserdoun" is the name of the lovely spring up the mountain above Beni Mellal. The word "Asserdoun" means "mule" in Tamazight, and "Ain" means "spring" or, literally, "eye". So Ain Asserdoun could be translated as The Mule Spring or the Mule's Eye. So can anyone explain to me what is depicted in this logo?

Houssa Ahbar - New 97 (Ain Asserdoun Disque cassette 51)

Excerpt from Track 4 (of 6)

Get it all here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mohamed Amrrakchi - Amarg Fusion, 90s style

Here's a well-loved cassette from my first trip to Marrakech in 1992. The j-card went missing years ago, but I did manage to scribble "Mohamed Marrakchi" on the box. Preliminary googling only resulted in references to an Arabic singer in Fessi chaabi style:

This was a far cry from the Soussi Berber rrbab-driven sounds on my old tape. Some additional googling turned up a better result, using the more Berber-ish spelling "Amrrakchi":

Blogger Ourchifali, who has several posts including lyrics of Mohamed Amrrakchi as well as this great photo here tags these posts with the term "Amarg Fusion". While nowhere near as fusion-y as music from the 2000s by the actual group Amarg Fusion, the electric guitar and drum kit do give the music a bit of what, at the time, was a modern edge. I love the punchy sound added by the kit and guitar. To my ear, they complement rather than undercut the banjo and rrbab. And the melodies are insidiously catchy. Here's some video footage of Amrrakchi with this sort of ensemble:

Mohammed Amrrakchi appears to be the brother of the more well-known Houcine Amrrakchi, who was featured some time ago over at the defunct-but-not-forgotten Snap Crackle and Pop blog.

Mohamed Amrrakchi - Sawt al Ahbab cassette (1992)
Track 1 (of 6) 

Get 'em all here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mustapha Oumguil Twofer - Amazigh Album and Darija Disque

Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, et al. Wishing relief to those mourning, scared, suffering. Music blogging may not count for much in the big picture, but if it brings some smiles and spreads a little cross-cultural grooving, it's a positive activity.

Here's a pair of albums from violist Mustapha Oumguil. A prolific artist, Oumguil has recorded extensively, singing in both Moroccan Arabic (darija) and Central Atlas Tamazight. He hails from El Hajeb (between Meknes and Azrou), as reflected in the name of his cassette label, Tasjilat el Hajeb (El Hajeb Recordings).

This is music for shimmying and shaking in a Middle Atlas sort of way. Check the dancing ladies in the concert footage below - hips don't lie, and Oumghil keeps 'em gyrating all night long. Thousands of Moroccans agree, as evidenced by his appearance at the huge Mawazine festival in Rabat this year:

This is 21st century chaâbi, keyboard-heavy and auto-tuned, but with enough local flavor to keep it countrified. This can be heard in melodies themselves, especially those of the Tamazight language songs. The always-prominent bendir frame drums also keep that Middle Atlas feel prominent.

The Tamazight album comes from a CD that passed through my house earlier this week. It had no artwork, only the name of Oumguil and the title "Tarbat Ighoudan" (a song that is featured in the concert video above).  The Arabic tape is one that I picked up in Beni Mellal in 2012. If you want more Oumguil, there are loads of other Arabic albums at Yala and Amazigh albums at IzlanZik. There's even a $2 album over at Amazon! And check out this this post from last year featuring Abdelâziz Ahouzar, an artist working in a vein similar to Oumguil.

Mustapha Oumghil - Tarbat Ighoudan (CD, 2007)
Track 3 (of 4)


Mustapha Oumghil - Lghaleb Allah ya Bent Ennass (Tasjilat el Hajeb cassette, 2012)
01 Lghaleb Allah ya Bent Ennass
02 Tekmi Garou ou Chicha
03 Talian Ghadrouni b S7ab
04 De7hki ou Tmedghi fel Meska
05 Siri Siri Ghir Nsay
06 Zaêri

Get 'em all here.