Thursday, December 2, 2021

Hassania - Awesome Amazigh Artiste from Azrou

Continuing with another Tamazight tape this week, this one by the powerhouse singer Hassania. Born in Errachidia, she grew up in Azrou, where she continues to perform. This album is on the imprint Masterone out of Fes. In the late 2000s/early 2010s, the great Rouicha Mohamed was also recording for Masterone, and Hassania was featured as a vocalist on 4 of his albums during this period. [1]

Tracks A1 and B1 are more pop-oriented, featuring prominent use of keyboard and other instruments as well as wider sung melodic ranges, while tracks A2 and B2 stick more closely to the bendir and viola format, with the narrower melodic ambitus typical of Middle Atlas Amazigh song. I wish I could understand the lyrics, but even without that, the expressive power of her singing is formidable.

Another track from this album was uploaded to YouTube by The clip includes the Tamazight lyrics transcribed in both Roman and Arabic letters. It also credits the track to Hassania along with the viola player El Mansouri Houssa. You may also enjoy the accompanying video of someone driving around northern Bretagne.

Hassania is still active performing. Here is a great live clip from a party in Azrou just before COVID, accompanied by a nice band with drum kit, several bendirs, viola, and an unobtrusive keyboard.

Hear more of Hassania's albums at

Hassania - الفنانة الحسنية
Masterone cassette ماستر وان

BMDA 15-365-11


A1 Amari Ayayinghan أماري أيينغان
A2 Mamiqarkh مميقارخ
B1 Adhouritsal Dhiiy أذورتسال ذييي
B2 Mmi Mmi ممي ممي

320 | FLAC

[1] 2018 Interview with Hassania on Amazigh Scoop (in darija)

Friday, November 26, 2021

Said Akchmir - More Amazigh Viola and Vocals

Here's another viola driven Middle Atlas Amazigh album for ya. Said Akchmir is a viola player and singer, I believe from Khenifra. I don't know who is the female singer on this tape, but her opening autotuned solo vocal passage blew my socks off. I also love the syncopated pattern the bendir is holding down.

As with Ouaboud Mohamed, whose tape was featured here last week, Said Akchmir appears to use studio synth instruments in his albums, but not in live performances. Here is a video clip of him, doing the live thing with the typical ensemble of several bendirs and male singers, one viola, and a female singer (plus a quartet of dancing ladies):

Izlanzik has a few of Said Akchmir's albums: And it looks like he created a YouTube channel this past summer:

Said Akchmir سعيد اقشمير
Isourishtab Oumâcharench إسورييشتب أومعشارنش

Amnay Music cassette 28/2012
أمناي موزيك

01 Isourishtab Oumâcharench إسورييشتب أومعشارنش
02 Mghar Itroukh مغار أثروخ
03 Tharbat أثربات
04 Ayounourikh Anmoun أينوريخ انمون
05 Tahidoust تحيدوست

320 | FLAC

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Ouaboud Mohamed - Have Bendir, Will Sing, Syncopate, and Support

Ouaboud Mohamed is a singer and bendir player from the region of Khenifra. Most recordings of Middle Atlas Amazigh music seem to be published under the name of the viola or lotar player (who is often the male lead singer) or that of the lead female singer. The singing male bendir player is typically anonymous in these recordings, being more of a support role than a star role. I love that Ouaboud plays this support role but also can be the lead singer and release his own recordings.  (Full disclosure: I am a singing bendir player who likes the spotlight once in a while but also loves to play a support role in an ensemble. Maybe it comes from also being a bass player.)

I picked up this tape in Beni Mellal in 2012. I couldn't find info online about Ouaboud, but he does maintain a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. He appears to remain quite active performing at private events (weddings and other parties, and private music salons) in the Khenifra area in formations with various viola players like Moha Amzyan and Mustapha Sghir, and female singers such as Fatima Talgadit and Naima Kouda. The ensembles typically consist of several bendirs, one violist, and one or more female singers. In the clip below, Ouaboud is playing the white high-pitched bendir, and he throws in some great syncopated accents in the 2nd half of the clip.

In addition to live performances, Ouaboud has made several studio recordings under his name, but I don't find any of them on the typical streaming platforms like Ournia or even on Izlanzik, which specializes in Middle Atlas Amazigh music. There a number of clips, however, on YouTube. Unlike in live performances like the one above, most of the studio recordings take place with an ensemble augmented by other instruments including, you guessed it, a keyboard bass. 

On this tape, the studio has "chaâbified" the songs not only by using additional instruments, but also by adding instrumental "refrains" to the arrangements. The first 4 tracks of this tape each begin with a short instrumental section that features a melody played by synth strings and synth banjo (track 1) or flute (tracks 2-4). This melody is, in each case, unrelated to the sung melody of the song (other than being in the same melodic mode). Once the melody is played once or twice, the synth strings drop out and the live, scratchy Amazigh viola enters, playing the actual sung melody. After a couple iterations of this melody, Ouaboud enters, singing, followed by the female lead after a couple of verses. After a few back-and-forth verses between the two singers, the synth strings and banjo or flute return, playing the instrumental refrain from the opening of the song:

Even with these chaâbi tropes, the album still highlights the timbres of the scratchy viola and the buzzy bendir. In contrast to the first 4 tracks, the album closes with a short track that recalls the excitement of the live setting by losing the synth strings, ramping up the tempo, and letting the bendir come to the front of the mix in all of its syncopated glory! (Stream Track 5 below.)

Ouaboud Mohamed أعبود محمد
Tasjilat Igly cassette 5/08/2010 تسجيلات اگلي

01 Piste 01 (in YouTube clip above)
02 Ayaitsikit Ghifi أيَايْثْسِيكيثْ غِيفي
03 Bdou Dimhsaden Âafache بْضُو دِيمْحْسَادْنْ عَافَاشْ
04 Aya Margh Iousmoun Inou أَيَا مَارْغْ أُوسْمون إنو
05 Tahidoust تاحيدوست

320 | FLAC