Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ahwach al-Âwad - Moroccan Fife and Drum

Another ahwach cassette for ya this week. As I mentioned in my last post, there are many different regional forms of ahwach. I don't know exactly where this one comes from, but the cassette production house if in Agadir. Unlike last week's offering, which was heavy on the vocal solos, this ahwach tape features no singing whatsoever. Instead, this music is driven by a pair of riffy, high-pitched âwad flutes. And as with other ahwach-s, you get a slew of punchy bendir-s, plus lots of rhythmic footstepping, handclapping, and raucous exclamations. I hear some sort of naqqus (metal ideophone) here as well.

In some parts of the world, fife and drum ensembles are a favored type of outdoor music for parades and processions. Ahigh-pitched flute is an ideal instrument to cut through the onslaught of loud drums in an outdoor setting. In other locales, the preferred instrument for this setting is the oboe/shawm - another shrill sound that can be heard outdoors above a battery of drums.

In Morocco, the ghaita (oboe) and tbel (barrel drum) are the typical instruments for an outdoor procession. While the ghaita is sufficiently shrill and piercing for outdoor venues, flutes in Morocco tend to be low-pitched and breathy - the gasba flutes played by Jilala musicians are a good example.

The âwad flutes heard on this tape, however, have that clear high sound that is perfect for the drum-heavy outdoor ahwach. The pentatonic, repeating melodies and shrill sound of these âwad tunes remind me of American blues fife and drum tunes, though the Berber rhythms are a little more angular than the rolling blues rhythms:

Ahwach al-Âwad - Ûmar Dahouss: Alhan Amazighia Jdida wa Khalda (Berber tunes, New and Immortal)

Track 4 (of five)

Get it all here.

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