Saturday, January 14, 2012

Noujoum Essaouira - back in the day (or night) with Maalem Omar Hayat

Well I'm pretty sure it's Maalem Omar Hayat here. One of the top Gnawi maalem-s of Essaouira. I haven't seen any other commercial recordings by him, though he is a perennial at the Gnawa Festival.

It's a small-group session - sounds like just 3 musicians. I can't figure out what percussion is being used here. It's definitely not qraqeb. Sounds a little like a hi-hat, but I think more likely it's someone using spoons on a tea tray, or some other such improvised utensils. Pretty mellow vibe.

The spine reads: Lila ma3 Noujoum Essaouira / Lila ma3 Gnaoua fi Essaouira (Night with the Stars of Essaouira / Night with Gnawa in Essaouira). This ostensibly refers to the Gnawa lila ceremony, though the songs are all over the place (in terms of what parts of the ceremony they are pulled from), and the vibe is nothing like a lila. Non-Gnawa (including festival promoters and cassette/CD companies) are pretty loose with the term lila. The several times I attended the festival in Essaouira, there were events billed as "lila-s" held away from the main stage. These were not lila ceremonies, but rather small concerts featuring Gnawa groups (without the ubiquitous jazz-fusions that occurred on the main stages).

Even with the misleading lila reference, the tape is pretty enjoyable - an interesting selection of songs, and strong playing from Maalem Omar.

1) Track 1: La ilaha illa Llah / Mulay 'Abdelqader / Ara ara chaw / Tilku lila / Chabakro
2) Track 2: Bunga Bunga Bulila / Jabuna / Marhaba Baba Mimoun / Lalla Meryem Chelha / Moulati Fatima / Casa Casa ya Tungra
3) Lalla Zohra / Majdouba Lalla Rqiya

4) Budali Sidi Rahhal

Get it here.


  1. Been really digging these gnawa k7s.

    Just in case you are interested...I am soliciting contributions from musicians to collaborate on a little project. A little guinbri thumping, guitar strumming, bendir thwacking, rock and roll shouting, or
    clarinet squawking would be welcome. Details here

  2. You're doing a great job, Tim. Really enjoying this music.

  3. Amazing! These CCRs are gemstones.

    Regarding the terminology of what Leila (ليلة) might refer to in Arabic; the term itself does not construe the diurnality of the 24-hour dayspan: it's a way for Arabs to share something special with somebody else (in this case, it's the record company sharing it with the buyer, for all I can guess). Merely does any term in Arabic have its own outward meaning, and in Arabic there's something called Tawriya (تورية) which means literally 'double-meaning'. So, yeah it works for both, daytime and nighttime, too.