Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yes Please, I'd Like Mine With Drum Kit and Electric Guitar - Noujoum el Haouz

Ramadan Mubarak to all, and Happy Father's Day!

This is some of the best music ever!

I recently inherited a box full of cassettes with no j-cards. The second cassette I popped in is an album by the AWESOME electric-guitar-drum-kit-and-shikhat group Noujoum al Houz, who were featured in one of the earliest posts on this blog, almost exactly five years ago!

The music of this group remains one of my favorite Moroccan sounds of all time. I've not heard another group doing quite what these folks did back in the late 80s/early 90s. The songs and singing are straight-up âita and women's chaâbi styles. The accompaniment just happens to replace the viola with an electric guitar and to move the bendir-taârija continuum of interlocking rhythms to a drum kit.

Having a guitar take the riffing melodic lead role (usually played by a viola or an oud) - is something I've not heard elsewhere in Moroccan chaâbi. Most electric guitars one hears in chaâbi (and one rarely hears them any more) are relegated to strumming rhythmic patterns and playing chords along with melodies that never used chords before (like in this old Orchestre Asri cassette, h/t Snap Crackle & Pop). This chordal support function in chaâbi was taken over by keyboards by the early 90s. One was more likely to hear melodic picking of electric guitars in Berber music (Moulay Ahmed Elhassani, Mohammed Amrrakchi), or in some of the Ghiwanesque folk revival groups (Oudaden, early Tagada).

As for the drum kit, well it does remain in chaâbi music, but it's never as in-your-face as you'll hear here. (And I mean "in-your-face" in a good way!) In most chaâbi music, the drum kit seems to play a supporting role in the overall texture of the ensemble. It doesn't drive the rhythm section, but rather provides support to the darbuka and bendirs (like dig this Daoudia live clip - you can barely hear the drum kit behind the bendirs, qarqabas, and darbuka, and it never does any fills.) But for a minute in the 80s and early 90s, the drum kit took a fantastic role in a few chaâbi recordings, stepping to the front of the mix, tumbling and accenting in a really exciting way. (In addition to these Noujoum el Haouz recordings, I'm thinking also of these bitchin' Mahmoud Guinia recordings and this excellent anonymous chaâbi tape.)

Today I'm offering a twofer. One is the newly-found cassette on the Kawakib label.

The second, let's call it a bonus album, is the actual tape that matches this j-card that I uploaded with my original post 5 years ago:

I never uploaded the actual tape that goes with this j-card because it is severely damaged. Over half of side A is barely audible due to some magnetic weirdness. Bits of side B suffer from this as well. Don't download this until you've heard the other tapes. If, like me, you can't get enough of them, you will happily sit through the magnetic weirdness in order to spend a few more minutes with this fantastic group.

I've been able to find no information online about the group or its leader, Lâyyadi Abdeljalil. I'm guessing they were a purely Marrakchi phenomenon, since both of the labels they appeared on, Sawt el Mounadi and al Kawakib, were based in Marrakech. Hope to find out more about them some day. In the meantime, enjoy!!

Noujoum el Haouz (نجوم الحوز) - Sawt el Kawakib cassette (ca. 1990)
1) Daouli Ghzali
2) A Moul L3aoud A Wlidi
3) Track 03
4) Sayh Ya Bu Derbala (see YouTube clip above)
5) Ayma Sabri Llah
6) Track 06
7) Suwwelu Moul Dar

Get it all here.

Noujoum el Haouz (نجوم الحوز) - Tansiq ou Tanshit Lâyyadi Abdeljalil (تنسيق و تنشيط العيادي عبد الجليل)
Sawt el Mounadi (صوت المنادي) cassette, ca. 1993

01) Dami
      Alf Lila Ou Lila
      Husa ya Husa
      Waye Wa Houara
02) Ila Bghiti Temchi Ghir Sir
      Ezzine oul Jamal
      Lilwajed Lmra Zwina

This tape has major audio problems on side 1 (the first 13 minutes), and a few on side 2 as well. But the music is so good, I'm uploading the whole thing anyway.

Get it all here.