Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch

The stash abides! YOU WANT THIS TAPE. You should start downloading it now, then come back and read the blogpost.

OK? Let's continue...

This is a tape of Hamadsha songs, apparently from the mid '90s. According to the pixelated Arabic transcription on my homemade j-card (printed from my first computer using my first Arabic word processing program), this cassette was on the Fassiphone label, credited to a group called Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch. I wonder if the group includes Moqaddem Abderrahim Amrani, whose late-90s album on the same label remains one of the stash's most popular offerings.

This is a fantastic album. A short invocation and a shorter coda bookend two looooong tracks of Hamadcha songs. The opening invocation track is just weird - creepy new-agey synthesizer and what could be a guinbri but is hard to distinguish beneath the dripping layers of overdone ambience.

But it's over quickly, and you plunge straight into the organic heaviness of buzzy harraz clay goblet drums driving 10/8 rhythms under blaring ghaita oboes, group male vocals, and the celebratory zgharit ululations of the attendant womenfolk. This is unrushed, unrelenting, insistent stuff. You know it's building toward something frenzied, but it takes it's sweet time. By the end of side 1, you get a sense of where it's going.

Side 2, however, does not continue this progression. In performance, Side 2's long suite of songs would probably precede Side 1's suite: The ghaitas are absent, the songs feature passages of solo singing in addition to the group vocals, the lyrics seem directed to the Hamadcha's eponym (Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch) and the final song of Side 2 is the opening song of side 1. I thought about reversing the running order of the tracks, but I'm kind of digging the way Side 2's songs follow the Side 1's songs. After 20 minutes of ghaitas blaring, their absence leaves sonic space for the vocals to become starkly prominent and memorable. And the opening invocation and closing "coda" of ghaitas seem deliberately placed. So I left the running order as-is, while naming the 2 long tracks "Part 1" and "Part A" to honor the ambiguity.

I had no recollection of having a copy of this. I found it while looking for some good Gnawa music to offer up before Chaabane turns into Ramadan. It was tucked away on the flip side of a Gnawa tape I dubbed years ago. Hope you enjoy it!

Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch (Fassiphone cassette)
1) intro 1:10
2) Hmadcha (pt. 1) 19:55
3) Hmadcha (pt. A) 19:57
4) coda 0:56

Get it here.


  1. Hi there,
    I stumbled upon your blog recently and I really enjoyed this release. Just a few questions:
    What is this style of music called?
    What are similar recordings?

    Thank you.

  2. this is the music of the hamadcha brotherhood
    similar recording:

    be careful. a lot of youtube videos are mislabeled and are not hmadcha at all. some are hayt and have nothing to do with the hmadcha

  3. Thanks Djbli! Yes, ritual music of the Hamadsha brotherhood. There is some information about the Hamadsha in my earlier post ( and in a post over at Snap, Crackle and Pops ( Both of those posts feature music from a different part of the Hamadsha ceremony, featuring a plucked guinbri rather than the double-reed ghaita. You can also check the webiste of the Fez Hamadcha group for more info, video, and clips: And if you're really into it, Vincent Crapanzano's book "The Hamadsha: A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry" remains an ethnographic classic.

  4. Oh yes, and a few audio snippets are available through the Lomax archive:

  5. in case anyone wants 44 minutes of hadra hamdushiyya in the street:

  6. this just got posted today on youtube. it is the gnawiyya part of the 7madcha 7adra:

  7. this is a case in point: the other videos posted by the person who posted the above gnawiyya video while also titled as hmadcha are not hmadcha at all, although to an inexperienced listener they may sound similar. also on youtube are a number of others which are actually aissaoua. as the years go passing by and modernity of one sort and another wins out, even many moroccans cannot identify correctly what they are hearing

  8. Thanks for this Tim! So great to see Abderrahim Amrani's son reposting this on Facebook!

  9. And, after listening, this is definitely Abderrahim. Unmistakeable voice.

  10. Grand Merci à tous!

    Abderrahim Amrani