Saturday, September 24, 2011

Solidarity with Palestine, 1992-style - Nass el Ghiwane "Intifada"


In honor of the pending vote at the UN regarding Palestinian statehood, here's a Nass el Ghiwane tape from around 1992 featuring the song "Intifada", commemorating the then current intifada. This was not the first time Nass el Ghiwane had sung about the situation in Palestine. Their more well-known song on the subject is "Majzara" (popularly known as "Sabra & Shatila") was released 10 years earlier, following the terrible massacres there.

It's unusual for NG to be so explicit when dealing with social and political issues. It's easier for them to do so when they are singing about situations outside of Morocco. When singing about issues within the kingdom, they danced a fine line, using metaphor and oblique references to let their audience know what they were talking about while avoiding running into trouble with the authorities.

This approach was certainly necessary during the reign of Hassan II. Nass el Ghiwane were past their prime of popularity by '92, but there were really no other outlets (to my knowledge) for music with social commentary in those days.  Hassan's successor Mohammed VI has made some progressive changes since ascending the throne in 1999, and some avenues for music addressing social themes seem to have opened up for Moroccan hip-hop and fusion artists. However, artists can only go so far in what they say for, like his father, the present king does not tolerate direct criticism of his policies from journalists or musicians.

1) Intifada
2) Mardouma
3) Dallal
4) Limadha ya Karama

Get it here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bouchaib el Bidaoui - Mellifluous-Voiced Cross-Dressing Singer of Aita Marsawiya



Continuing with another aita post, and vintage stuff too. This tape is another vinyl-to-cassette dub, purchased from a vendor in Rabat in the mid-'90s.

My translation of a short article on Bouchaib el Bidaoui:
He is regarded by many experts as the renovator and modernizer of the art of Aïta. "Before Bouchaïb the Aïta was limited to being a traditional country song, tribal and pastoral. He succeeded in urbanizing the art by maintaining the lyrics while developing more sophisticated musical arrangements, says Hassan Bahraoui, author of "The Art of the Aïta in Morocco".
Bouchaïb formed, with violinist Marshal Kibbou and Bent Chikha Louqid the star-troupe of the 50s and 60s. At first, nothing predisposed this colonial French lawyer's accountant and native of Derb Dalia (in the old medina of Casablanca) to become the darling of the Moroccan pop music. It was at a chance meeting in the 1940's with two bourgeois fans of chikhate, Benjdiya and Ben M'sik... that he attended performances of the stars at the time, Hajja Rouida and Arjouniya, at moussem-s and weddings. "It was from there that Bouchaïb choose his vocation as a chikh," says Mr. Bahraoui.
With independence [1956], festivity gains the four corners of the kingdom to celebrate the return of Mohammed V and regained freedom. The artist increased his appearances and made his first recordings for Boudraouaphone and Baïdaphone. "He did fantastic work on the repertoire. He excelled in Marsawi aita-s and made the songs of Abda available to the general public. Finally, Bouchaïb would improvise his own successful aita-s that are still performed today, such as "Dabayji", "Milouda bent Driss" and "Alkass a Abbas," the professor emphasized...
Bouchaïb died in 1964 at the age of 35.
Although the quote states that Bouchaib el Bidaoui chose the profession of shikh, it would be more accurate to say that he chose the profession of shikha - he sang women's songs in a woman's vocal range, and performed wearing women's clothing. He was not the first Moroccan performer to do this, but was the first to reach national stardom in this role, in the age of mechanical reproduction.






The style of aita represented here is different from that of my previous aita posts. If my memory is correct, this style, aita marsawiya, is associated with the coastal region around Casablanca and El Jadida. In addition to the viola, oud, and bendir, the darbuka is used here.

I don't see any Bouchaib el Bidaoui video footage on the web (though I could swear I've seen some before, perhaps on Moroccan TV.) However, if you close your eyes and listen to Khalid from the Ouled Bouazzaoui group, you could swear you're hearing Bouchaib el-Bidaoui - he's a dead ringer. But don't close your eyes - Khalid's a great performer and plays the viola as well as sings (though he doesn't wear women's clothes).



Here are a couple of websites with a bunch of streaming audio of Bouchaib el Bidaoui:
Some songs on my tape can be found in the above links - some in different recorded versions, some duplicates of what are here. Some have less surface noise than my versions, though bitrate is not always so good. A few of the songs on my tape I couldn't find anywhere else on the web, including the famous "Daba Iji". Can't find my original cassette j-card for this, so track titles are best guesses or cribbed from elsewhere:
  1. Daba Iji
  2. Ma Cheftou Leghzal
  3. Ma Cheftou Leghzal pt. 2
  4. Kharboucha
  5. Kharboucha pt. 2
  6. Track 06
  7. Al-Ma'bud Allah
  8. Rkoub el Kheil (Mal Hbibi)
  9. Rkoub el Kheil pt 2
  10. Lli Bgha Habibou
  11. Lli Bgha Habibou pt 2
  12. Chiaa Alik
  13. Nghadrou Kissane
  14. Aalach Taadini
  15. Taarida 
Get it here.

BTW - More quintuple meter featured here in this tape ("Lli Bgha Habibou").

BTW2 - The marsawi version of "Kharboucha" (heard on this tape and in the video clip) opens with a 42-beat rhythmic cycle. This differs from the hasbawi version of "Kharboucha" performed by Fatna bent el-Houcine here, which opens with a 40-beat cycle.

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.

EN202:
1) Allah Injah Loulad
2) track 2
3) K'hal al-Shousha
4) Ya L-Ghayeb Suwwel
5) 'Aita Jbaliya
6) Sh'aibiya

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
3) Za'ri
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.