Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Guinbri in Jil Jilala before Baqbou

Early 1980's Jil Jilala personnel. 
Clockwise from top left: Moulay Tahar Asbahani, Mohamed Derhem, Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri, Hassan Miftah, Abdelkrim Elkasbaji

I know the guinbti is not the most important thing to focus on when considering the work of the venerable Moroccan band Jil Jilala. But we're pretty mgennwi here at Moroccan Tape Stash, addicted to the guinbri. So here are some notes on the use of the guinbri in Jil Jilala before Mustapha Baqbou joined the group.

Jil Jilala has had a guinbri player from its very inception in 1972. Founding member Hamid Zoughi relates that when the group was first coming together in Casablanca, they wanted to have a guinbri player join the group. So they drove to Marrakech looking for Mustapha Baqbou. Finding that he was in Essaouira, they then drove to Essaouira. But their friends in Essaouira told them to check out a different, local guinbri player, Abderrahmane Paco. They hit it off with Paco, and Paco hit the road with them to Casablanca.

I assume the earliest recordings of the group feature Paco - he's pictured on the sleeve for the single of "Lklam Lmrassa3" above - but I don't hear any guinbri on the recording. I've heard a couple times the story that Paco left Jil Jilala in the middle of a recording session, after getting into an argument about the rhythm of the song they were recording.

Of course, Paco's story continues when he joins Nass el Ghiwane. I don't know why Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri, the left-haded guinbri player who was in the initial lineup of Nass el Ghiwane, decided to leave that group for Jil Jilala, but it seemed to work out well for all. Here's a very early Nass el Ghiwane concert featuring Tahiri:

One huge difference between Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala is the instrumentation and texture they used. Nass el Ghiwane tended to use the same instrumentation on most songs: bendir, tam-tam, snitra (banjo) and guinbri (plus the gwal, while Boujmiî was still with the group). Jil Jilala, on the other hand, used many different combinations of stringed instruments and percussion in their many recordings and performances. Not to mention the presence of a female singer, Sakina Safadi, in many of their 1970s recordings.

So when Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri joined Jil Jilala, he was not a full-time guinbri player. In videos from his tenure in the group, he is usually featured playing ta'rija or bendir, as in the clip below - a live performance from Kuwait. Tahiri is the one in the light blue vest, singing the solo verses in this version of "Allah ya Moulana", a song made famous by Nass el Ghiwane.

The typical Jil Jilala song from this period features one stringed instrument (a banjo or bouzouki), and some combination of percussion instruments (bendir, ta'rija, tam-tam, or congas). Now and then, Tahiri plays the guinbri, but not very often on the recordings I've heard.

The last album to feature Tahiri (prior to the 1996 reunion album), according to Smagal is from 1984, entitled "Dawiweh". I haven't found the album, but I did come across an amazing video clip of the title song. The instrumentation is an unusual, shimmery combination of 3 stringed instruments - Tahiri on guinbri, Miftah on bouzouki, and Asbahani on gnibri (something I'd never seen him play before) - plus Derhem on congas and Elkasbaji on bendir. It's a lovely piece:

Tahiri's playing is great, and very different somehow from Paco's and Mustapha Baqbou's. I suppose it's because he wasn't brought up (as far as I've heard) in the Gnawa tradition. I wonder how he learned to play guinbri back in the days before it was widely heard outside of Gnawa circles - it sometimes sounds like he's translating techniques from other stringed instruments (oud, perhaps) to the guinbri.

The only tape I have from Tahiri's tenure in Jil Jilala (whose tracks aren't up on Amazon) is this album on Edition Hassania. The catalog number suggest that it dates from the early 1980s, but many of these songs are from much earlier. (I believe that Nass el Ghiwane similarly "re-recorded their old hits" for an album on Edition Hassania around this time.) The song "Al-âr A Bouya" dates from the group's earliest days (B-side of the 45 pictured above), but is re-recorded here featuring a prominent guinbri.

Jil Jilala - Rih L-Bareh (Edition Hassania EH 1274)
01 Baba Mektoubi
02 Al-âr A Bouya

03 Goulou Lkhlili
04 Rih L-Bareh
05 Errifia
06 Jilala

Get it here.


  1. Detailed account on one of Morocco's best and foremost bands. Thanks a lot, Tim.


  2. Great tape, thanks so much! I had the chance to see Nass El Ghiwane at the Fes fest last year, a free show outside the Blue Gate, and it and was really fun.
    Jil Jilala sounds really cool too. The quality of this tape is very good. I really appreciate the background info and clips too. Moroccan music seems infinitely deep and wide.