Sunday, March 29, 2020

4 Hours from a Gnawa Lila in Essaouira - Said Boulhimas and Ahmed Baqbou

Here's a nice recording from a lila ceremony held at the Zawiya of Sidna Bilal in Essaouira featuring Maalem Ahmed Baqbou from Marrakech and Maalem Said Boulhimas from Essaouira. This was uploaded by YouTube user chahidessafa. There's so much Gnawa music available on YouTube, it's a bit overwhelming so I rarely dip into it. But I'm a sucker for lila tapes, especially when they feature great players like these. This is certainly not a studio quality recording, but it's not bad and has a decent balance between singing, guinbri, and qraqeb. And the great performance, ambiance, and live interaction more than compensate for any flaws in audio fidelity. I've put the videos into a playlist that follows the order of the performance:

The recording goes as far as the Musawi portion of the lila. It features the particular Essaouira version of Sidi Musa which is different from the version played in other Gnawa locales. (A lovely version of this piece is featured as the title track of Houssam Gania's album Mosawi Swiri, released earlier this year by Hive Mind Records - still available for download here.)

I've put together a few other playlists of YouTube audio from Gnawa lilas. If you're in the mood for more, check them out here and here and here.

Sorry for the long absence. I'll have a new old tape up for you to enjoy in the next day or so. Hope you're all doing OK out there. Strange times these are indeed. Looking forward to a time when we can again hear, play, and dance to music in rooms together.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Chaâbi Sweet Spot - Orchestre el Ânq (اركسترا العنق)

Long drawn out medleys? Check. Âita melodies and structures? Check. Scratchy viola and punchy darbuka? Check. Drum kit, electric guitar and organ? Yes - right there!

This swell tape comes from a little stash of tapes that fell into my lap a few months back. All without j-cards and most with only the name of the production house on the cassette shell. This one is from a company called Sawt el Ânq (انتاج صوت العنق). I'm guessing it's from Casablanca, but only because the singer gives a shout out to the soccer teams Raja and Wydad.

[blogger knows he's seen that logo before, goes digging around in the stash...] 

Well - I knew I'd seen that Sawt el Ânq logo before on an orphaned j-card in the stash. (And a fantastic logo it is, too!) Went looking for it, hoping it would reveal the location of the production house. No luck there, but... the song titles were a match for this tape!! The tape must have bounced around among the Moroccan ladies in the Bay Area for 20 years and then landed back here in the stash where its j-card was waiting for it!

Also, my friend Jamal confirms that El Ânq is a neighborhood in Casablanca, so we're pretty sure this is a Casa production.

This is some vintage late 1980s chaâbi. Hope it hits your sweet spot too!

Orchestre el Ânq (اركسترا العنق)
Sawt el Ânq (انتاج صوت العنق) cassette
1) Sid el Qadi سيدي لقاضي
2) Melki Ma Jiti
3) Zaeri - Musa ben 3amran الزعري ‫-‬ موسى بن عمران
4) Al 3aloua Hddariya  العلوةحضارية
5) Khellik M3aya - Taârida خليك معايا ‫-‬ تعريضة

Get it all HERE.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Yacht Rai - Ready for Summer with the Brothers Bouchenak

Here's a ready-for-summer album by Bouchenak (a.k.a. Les Frères Bouchenak), a longtime fixture on the Moroccan pop music scene, out of Oujda in the east.

I promise you, I resisted the urge to call this Yacht Rai. If you are a longtime visitor to Moroccan Tape Stash, you know that I don't easily suffer facile comparisons with Anglo-American pop genres and groups. (My manifesto is here, but I quickly violated it here.) And it's questionable whether Yacht Rock is even a true genre. (The term originated in a series of YouTube comedy shorts.) But the urge here was strong - colorful tropical shirts, feel-good unthreatening and smooth pop grooves, and era-appropriate facial hair screamed out "Yacht Rock" to me.

But yea, I resisted. No, I told myself, I am strong enough to not give in to the urge to make a silly, superficial comparison. I'm mature enough to say something objective and insightful about this album, to place the interesting Bouchenak band in its proper historical context - this 1992 album coming after a decade of albums which saw them experimenting with combining local forms from the Moroccan east (a musical/cultural terrain similar to Oran in the Algerian west) with a rock band format (electric guitar, keyboard and drums). Similar in some ways, but different in others, from what musicians in Oran and Sidi Bel Abbas were doing with rai music in Algeria around the same time. (Dig, for instance, this unusual 1984 album, still available over at the Snap, Crackle and Pop blog. See also the comments for a wealth of historical info about the Bouchenak Brothers from H. Hammer.)

Verily, I would resist the pull of the Yacht Rai moniker, even though my own personal introduction to them was seeing them onstage in Marrakech in the summer of 1992, where they followed a combined performance by Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala (OMG!!) with the silliest, lightest pop ditties, lip-synched (!!!) in those same tropical shirts (!!!!!!!!), and wondering who in their right mind would put these guys onstage after the clearly deeper and more culturally significant NG and JJ!!!!!!!!!!! (But dammit, if that earworm "Aji Netsamhou" didn't dig its way into my psyche anyway!)

And though this album sort of annoys me (it is really lightweight and poppy, and features no electric guitar or drum set like their earlier work), on second listen, there are some interesting things to appreciate: the keyboard sounds and textures are varied from track to track (unlike some rai albums where keyboards sounds can be monotonous), and the harmony vocal arrangements are quite good. And "Yahdik Allah" actually rocks pretty hard.

I really could have gotten through this entire post without invoking Yacht Rai. Then I stumbled across a video clip for"Jana Essaif", from this album.


Bouchenak الاخوان بوشناق
Edition Sonya Disque/INES cassette (1992)

1) Aji Natsamhou اجي نتسامحو
2) Jana Essaif جانا الصيف
3) Makablouhach ماقبلوهاش
4) Njoum Ellil نجوم الليل
5) Yahdik Allah يهديك الله
6) Laghzal لغزال
7) Charou Lina شارو الين
8) Salam Alikoum السلام علي

Get it all HERE.