Saturday, May 10, 2014

More thoughts on Mustapha Baqbou in Jil Jilala

I've been revisiting the Jil Jilala albums featuring the Gnawi mâalem Mustapha Baqbou. It's an interesting group of recording.

Baqbou joined the group in the mid-1980s following the departure of Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri (who was originally with Nass el Ghiwane in the early '70s before Paco joined that group). Despite playing guinbri in Nass el Ghiwane, Tahiri was not a specialist in Gnawa music but rather in melhun, a stately old Moroccan sung poetry tradition. With Jil Jilala, Tahiri brought brought a modern, youthful exuberance to old melhun classics like "Chamâa" and "Lotfya", endearing these songs to a new, young audience.

After Tahiri's departure, the group, naturally, took a different direction, with the addition of Mustapha Baqbou. Baqbou had performed in the Netherlands-based folk-revival band Tiq Maya, but was also deeply rooted in the Gnawa ritual tradition. In the 1980s-90s, Mustapha appeared on at least the following albums:
  • Hada Wa'dek ya Meskine (Disques Gam GB.85.86) Moroccan Tape Stash or Yala
  • Lqalb Lmeskun (Disques Gam GB.87.88) pictured above/see below
  • Nour al Anwar (Sawt Errbi' cassette) Awesome Tapes
  • Kouna wa Kentou (Edition Sonya Disque E.S.D. 303) [c. 1993] Yala
  • La Taiesse (Edition Sonya Disque E.S.D. 500) [c. 1994] Yala or Amazon
I featured "Hada Wa'dek ya Meskine" in a recent post and I called it "the most Gnawa-influenced" Jil Jilala album. Today's offering, "Lqalb Lmeskun", is perhaps the most Ghiwani of their albums. That is, it comes closest (to my ear) to the sound and feel of Nass el Ghiwane. That ain't necessarily a bad thing - it's a great sound. But it does seem an odd direction for Jil Jilala to take so many years into the its history, and at a time when Nass el Ghiwane's style was going out of fashion. On the other hand, when you have a great Gnawi guinbri player in the group, why wouldn't you use that to its greatest effect and play up the Gnawa influence as Nass el Ghiwane did.

Apparently, these albums were not very successful commercially, and the group changed their approach for the final 3 albums listed above. The most comprehensive and concise biography I could find on the group (in English) was in a post by Smangal at Regarding this period, he writes:

"In a desperate move to salvage their name, they tried to modernize their sound a little bit by introducing a drum machine to play all their percussive sounds. As a consequence, albums La Tayess and Nour el Anouar sounded processed and mechanical, even if they had good song writing. They tried to follow the trends but failed to gain any noticeable attention, and this made Mohamed Derhem amicably leave the band in 1995."

The use of the drum machine is pretty weird. And even weirder that they would use a synthesized bass to play lines clearly designed for the guinbri, as here, in "Dib el Ghaba", a track from "La Taiesse":

Weird, but it does have a certain charm, and it clearly represents a (perhaps jarring) break from the folky/Ghiwani sound. You can hear it on the latter 3 albums listed above, as well as on Mohamed Derhem's solo album. The album Nour al Anwar in particular features some great songs.

While their albums featured these mechanical sounds, I believe their live performances always featured the organic, acoustic instruments of the ensemble. Check out this live version of Dib el Ghaba - BAQBOU'S GUINBRI RIFFING IS UNBELIEVABLY GROOVY:

My copy of Lqalb Lmeskun is a cassette dub of someone else's cassette. I don't have the album art, so am using Yala's copy of the art from the CD.

Jil Jilala - Lqalb Lmeskun (Disques Gam GB.87.88)
01 Lqalb Lmeskun
02 El Laymin (excerpt below)

03 Massab
04 Qallat Zadi

Get it all here.
And again, if you want more pristine (though at lower bitrate) digital versions of these tunes, Yala's got 'em here

1 comment:

  1. J'ai eu de la chance d'avoir passé quelques jour avec ce groupe lors de l'enregistrement de leur dernier album ! Have a nice day !