Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kamal El Abdi - Straight Outta Beni Mellal

A generous hour-long cassette from Kamal El Abdi, the popular viola-slinging singer from Casablanca (originally from Khouribga/Beni Mellal). My in-laws are from the Beni Mellal area, and we started seeing VCDs of his countrified-chaâbi a few years ago. His chaâbi is the type you might hear at a wedding out in Beni Mellal province - viola centered, insistent bendir-darbuka percussive drive, high-pitched women's backup singing complementing the male lead vocal. And with a cadre of female dancers wearing the hzam dyal muzun (the belt/sash with all the jingles).

Sometimes the repertoire veers toward aita, and a female vocalist take center stage (as in track 5 here).

I'm trying to discern what separates this regional chaâbi from the mainstream Casablanca variety. Something strikes my ear as different in the melody and the rhythm. The vocal ornamentation seems less ornate than what you might here from, say Senhaji or other male singers from Casa. The melodies stay away from the major-mode aita marsawiya style melodies, tending toward rasd or bayati quarter-tone melodies. Maybe I'm wrong - I'll have to ponder on this a little more... Thoughts anyone?

Loads more from Kamal el Abdi over at

Tracks 1-2 and 4-5 are in the style described above (with a synth bass and synth banjo thrown into the mix). Track 3 is more synth-poppy, and track 6 is some groovy synth ghaita riffing to fill out the cassette.

1)  Ma Khelliti Liya Walo - Ya Lahbiba Âyyeti - Taâla Ou Taâla - ما خليتي ليا والو - يا الحبيبة عيطي - تعالة و تعالة
2)  Miâd Halek Yâjeb - Moulay Brahim - Lagnawi - معاد حالك يعجب - مولاي ابراهيم - ااكنوي
3)  Ya Lebniya Hchouma Hadchi - يالبنية حشومة هادشي
4)  Sima Taoualli - Wajhek S'hih - Mali Ya Rebbi Mali - سيما تولي - وخهك صحيح - مالي يا ربي مالي
5)  Halka - Za'ri - Khellini Nebki - Ouaili Oulaili - حلكة - زعري - خليني نبكي - ويلي ويلي

6)  bonus synth ghaita derdeg

Get it here.

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