Saturday, September 3, 2011
Fatna Bent el Houcine and Ouled Ben Aguida: Deep 'Aita - Moroccan Arab Country Music
The shikhat. Morocco's singing and dancing bards (bard-esses?). Recognized as carriers of a deep folk poetic-musical tradition, but also derided as women of ill repute. Loved and despised.
The aita (lit., "the cry" or "the call"). Rural Arab Moroccan sung folk poetic tradition. One of the main sources for Moroccan mainstream popular (urban) chaabi music. Aita is to chaabi as rural white southern US folk music ("old-time") is to Nashville-produced country music. Ergo: this is the real deal!
The late Fatna Bent el Houcine. Probably the most well-known shikha within Morocco. As the out-of-print CD on Buda calls her, "La Grande Voix d'el Aita". From the coastal city of Safi, one of the hot-spots for this type of music.
For your enjoyment, 2 cassettes from the 1990s featuring Fatna Bent el Houcine with the instrumental ensemble that backed her for years, Ouled ben Aguida, and her group of shikhat, including Shikha Hafida (pictured withe the band on the cassette cover), who has continued to work with the band since Fatna's passing.
One thing I love about the aita is when the shihat take turns singing verses within a song - you get to hear each singer in succession. There's some nice footage of this here, including both Fatna and Hafida, as well as some dancing (the climactic part of 'aita performances) which you won't get on the audio cassette!
For those of you who love odd rhythmic cycles, dig the final track on EN203, "Aita Bidawiya (Kharboucha)", which begins in a 40-beat cycle then progresses to 19- and10-beat cycles before ending up in a final, ecstatic 6/8. Epic, dramatic, sublime, rocking, beautiful stuff.
1) Allah Injah Loulad
2) track 2
3) K'hal al-Shousha
4) Ya L-Ghayeb Suwwel
5) 'Aita Jbaliya
Get it here.
EN203 (sorry, don't have the j-card for this, but it looked just like the other one anyway...)
1) Habibi Ma Jash
2) 'Ada 'Ada Ya L-Khayl
4) 'Aita Bidawiya (Kharboucha)
Get it here.
BTW - I don't mean to diss Moroccan chaabi or Nashville country - both have their joys! I'll share some chaabi down the road a bit...
BTW2 - There's more aita, of a different regional sort, here.