Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Goodbye Abderrahmane Paco

Sad to report the passing of the incomparable Abderrahmane "Paco" Kirouche this past weekend. First musician to explore the resonances between the Gnawa arts and contemporary social issues in a musical way. Others have done so since, none have done it better.

I have written about and shared some of his music - both solo and with Nass el Ghiwane. The tapes in this post are the last 2 commercial solo cassettes of his that I own. The 1995 cassette pictured below was his first solo album after leaving Nass el Ghiwane in 1993. It's an odd piece of work. His guinbri playing and singing are strong, and all the tunes are right out of the lila repertoire, but the musical setting is rather bizarre. There is a synth marimba that works nicely (as it did a few years later for Gnawa Diffusion). The ambient and jungle noises are just strange, and the synth guitar, synth drum and synth horn punches seem designed to jar. This tape really rubbed me the wrong way back in the day. Listening to it now, it definitely has a "feel" to it (though not as transcendently trippy as this masterpiece of Gnawa psychedelica.) Was Paco trying to make an album as different-sounding as possible from his always-acoustic ex-band?

The cassette pictured at top dates from around 2001, and it's a straight-ahead, solid Gnawa tape, though the mix is a little weird to my ear. All songs are from the Ghabawyin (the black "Sons of the Forest") suite which is performed late in the Gnawa lila ceremony. This tape also seems to be late in Paco's recorded work. I've not come across any other cassettes of his, and for most of the past decade I heard that he was sick. Please, if anyone has other commercial recordings of Paco, let me know - I'd love to hear them!

Though neither of these tapes are as earth-shattering as his best work with Nass el Ghiwane, they still brim with the character and intensity that made Paco such an unforgettable presence on stage and in memory. Saha, Mâalem!

Paco Abderrahmane (1995)
1)  Moulay Brahim

2)  Laghmami
3)  Mimouna
4)  Sidi Bu Derbala

Les Meilleures Chansons Spirituelles de GNAWA (2001)
1)  Allal Ya Allal - Fulani
2)  Sandi
3)  Balini
4)  Allah Ya Rebbi Ya Moulay

5)  Sellem Âla Muhammad Sidi

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kamal El Abdi - Straight Outta Beni Mellal

A generous hour-long cassette from Kamal El Abdi, the popular viola-slinging singer from Casablanca (originally from Khouribga/Beni Mellal). My in-laws are from the Beni Mellal area, and we started seeing VCDs of his countrified-chaâbi a few years ago. His chaâbi is the type you might hear at a wedding out in Beni Mellal province - viola centered, insistent bendir-darbuka percussive drive, high-pitched women's backup singing complementing the male lead vocal. And with a cadre of female dancers wearing the hzam dyal muzun (the belt/sash with all the jingles).

Sometimes the repertoire veers toward aita, and a female vocalist take center stage (as in track 5 here).

I'm trying to discern what separates this regional chaâbi from the mainstream Casablanca variety. Something strikes my ear as different in the melody and the rhythm. The vocal ornamentation seems less ornate than what you might here from, say Senhaji or other male singers from Casa. The melodies stay away from the major-mode aita marsawiya style melodies, tending toward rasd or bayati quarter-tone melodies. Maybe I'm wrong - I'll have to ponder on this a little more... Thoughts anyone?

Loads more from Kamal el Abdi over at

Tracks 1-2 and 4-5 are in the style described above (with a synth bass and synth banjo thrown into the mix). Track 3 is more synth-poppy, and track 6 is some groovy synth ghaita riffing to fill out the cassette.

1)  Ma Khelliti Liya Walo - Ya Lahbiba Âyyeti - Taâla Ou Taâla - ما خليتي ليا والو - يا الحبيبة عيطي - تعالة و تعالة
2)  Miâd Halek Yâjeb - Moulay Brahim - Lagnawi - معاد حالك يعجب - مولاي ابراهيم - ااكنوي
3)  Ya Lebniya Hchouma Hadchi - يالبنية حشومة هادشي
4)  Sima Taoualli - Wajhek S'hih - Mali Ya Rebbi Mali - سيما تولي - وخهك صحيح - مالي يا ربي مالي
5)  Halka - Za'ri - Khellini Nebki - Ouaili Oulaili - حلكة - زعري - خليني نبكي - ويلي ويلي

6)  bonus synth ghaita derdeg

Get it here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shaâbiyat Khouloud - 2012 Chaâbi compilation, Soap Opera Riffing

Here's a chaâbi compliation tape I picked up in Beni Mellal. The title is "Shaâbiyat Khouloud with Kamal el Abdi". I recognized El Abdi, the dapper musician whose photo is the largest on the j-card. I also recognized Nabila (bottom right) and El Miloudia (bottom left). But the big question was - who is the great looking couple in the straw hats?! Is this a stylish new pop-rai duo?

On second look (and after listening to the tape's title track), I recognized them - the stars of the smash soap opera "Matensanich" (Don't Forget Me), which is commonly known by the name of the lead female character, "Khouloud". The series, broadcast this year on 2M, is a dubbing into Moroccan Arabic of the Turkish series "Hanımın Çiftliği". 

My wife watches the show, and I've seen a couple of episodes. The show looks pretty compelling (if you like the melodrama of soaps).  I made a point to avoid watching it - I didn't want to get sucked into it like a couple years ago  when I started watching "Ayna Abi", the fab Moroccan Arabic dubbed version of the American telenovela "Amarte Asi". (Everybody Loves Frijolito!)

"Khouloud" was very popular in Morocco this year. Here's a Moroccan pop-rai tune referencing characters from the show:

In the chaâbi-TV crossover songs that I can recall (like here), the lyrics are less about the plots of the shows and more about the obsessions people have with the show. That's the case in both Cheb Hindi's song in the YouTube clip above and, i think, in the title track of today's featured cassette. 

As for the rest of the cassette, it's a pleasant collection of current Moroccan chaabi stylings: some country-chaâbi from Kamal el Abdi, some pop-rai from Cheb Hindi (though I wonder why the tape doesn't include his "Khouloud" song), some peppy pop from Nabila (the queen of chaâbi auto-tune), and a smattering of other chaâbi tracks. The kicking-est track, IMHO, is the unlisted Track 9, an uptempo, percussion-heavy, viola-driven, auto-tuned rave-up riff-fest.

1) Khouloud - Kamal el Abdi
2) Shkoun Lli Âllemek - Al Miloudiya
3) Taâlla Ya Dak - Nabila
4) Mkebel Darkoum - Shaâbiyat Lehbal
5) Ban Liya fi Ûdi - Al Mardi
6) Flous El Ghella - Al Hindi
7) Suwwelu Dak Ezzine - Ar-Rehaala
8) Flous f-Chekkara - Mbarek el Meskini
9) Bonus derdeg - Unknown Chaâbi Group

Get it all here.

Mastering note - as usual, I recorded this tape to my computer with Logic Express, where I divided it into discrete tracks. I typically don't process the sound much thereafter, other than a little compression to smooth out the peaks and let me raise the volume a little. This time, I thought I'd use Logic's built in mastering tool, in particular the Hi-Fi setting. Gives the final product a more shiny sound. Hope it sounds alright!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shikh El Houcine el Khouribgui - Viola, Good 'n' Scratchy

If I was lukewarm about the viola in my last post, I'm happy to post here some fabulous, scratchy viola from Shikh El Houcine el Khouribgui. Some good, old fashioned aita for ya, Khouriba-style. Another offering from the swell Hicham Atlas imprint.

Track 2 of 4:

Get it all here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More Wimmenz Grooves - El Âouniyate Chatahate

This CD sort of does double duty - you've got some lady-driven call-response singalong tunes (which would probably sound just fine without the viola that plays along through the whole thing). And you've got some viola-driven chaabi tunes and riffs that give that desired wedding/party ambiance - in particular, track 6 which feature what sounds like someone doing rhythmic-percussive footsteps on a qaâda (the metal basin that dancers climb onto during weddings or performances, to let their feet sing).

Here's a pretty rocking qaâda clip (which spins off into silliness about halfway thru...)

But back to the CD. Personally, I prefer my call-response women's songs with percussion-only. But I understand the irresistable pull of the viola - the chaâbi ambiance-animator supreme, and it works alright here. What surprised me and worried me on my recent trip to Morocco, is that when hunting for tapes of the great âbidat errma genre in and around Beni Mellal, I was told by all tape sellers that nobody was recording it anymore with its traditional percussion-only ensemble - the only recordings I could find featured violas in the group. Stupid me, I was so disappointed that I didn't pick up any tapes of that. It would have been interesting (he says, donning his ethnomusicological hat) to compare older tapes of the genre with what's calling itself âbidat errma today. On my previous trip in 2006, the trad stuff had become quite popular, and there were loads of young men playing playing in âbidat errma groups in the Beni Mellal area. I've got some vintage âbidat errma I'll drop on ya one of these days. You've never heard a pair of scissors played so funky!!

By the way this CD and many tapes I got on this trip come from the production house Hicham Atlas. Their product lists no address - only a cell phone number. I'm guessing they're located around the greater Beni Mellal-Tadla-Khouribga-Fkih ben Salah area. Good stuff!

Here's a sample - Track 1 of 9:

Get it all here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Non-Stop Full-Speed Kickin' Women's Grooves: More Houariyat

Greetings everyone, and thanks for the comments and greetings during Ramadan! I hope to catch up on correspondence soon.

Morocco was HOT HOT HOT during my entire trip. I did a bit of cassette shopping, mainly around Beni Mellal, but not much in Marrakech, where I spent only a couple of days. I managed to pick up one tape there - at a second hand shop near Sidi Abdelaziz - I saw the Aâtiphone logo peeking out of a pile of tapes with no labels or jewel boxes. Everything I have on Aâtiphone is gold, so I grabbed it. Didn't have the stamina to continue poking through the pile in 120 degree heat in the middle of the day, fasting...

Indeed, it's a good tape - 40 minutes of raucous call-response, full-throated Houariyat songs (all in 6/8 - none of the loopy quintuple stuff). Zahia's name is written on the tape, and she certainly put some mileage on this tape - there are some dropouts here and there. Patina...

I'll drop some more ladies' percussion grooves soon - an interesting CD I picked up, which I'm still trying to decode.

Hope you've all been well - it's nice to be back!

01) 3jebtini A L-Bayda
02) Tlebt l-3ali 3tah 3liya
03) Wlidi ha weld errda
04) 3jbuha
05) N-Haousou L-Beldan
06) Diriha Aoudiha

Get it here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eid Mubarak - back soon with more goodies

Wishing Eid Mubarak to all of those celebrating, and sending good thoughts to all. I'll be back from Morocco soon. It's been tough doing much shopping, what with Ramadan and 50 degree (Celsius) heat some days. But I have managed to pick up a few things - looking forward to listening and sharing with y'all soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Most Psychedelic Gnawa Tape Ever

Before Chaabane gives way to Ramadan, here's a good one - one of the strangest Gnawa cassettes I've ever found. Picked this up around 2001 in Essaouira. Nothing about the j-card gives a clue about the psychedelic grooves contained within.

Sounds drop in and out: Indian tabla and bol drum syllables, jaw harp, darbuka, English recitation, guinbri, gong, digeridoo, and various other sounds. But the texture never seems cluttered - all sounds have plenty of space to breathe. I'd love to know more about this album and who collaborated on it! (Especially, who in the world is doing the English recitation!)

Mahmoud's singing is fantastic - relaxed, often in the lower register. Some of the tracks are built around songs from the Gnawa repertoire (tracks 1, 5 and 6), while others appear to be original to this project. The English recitations are riffs on the Arabic lyrics (or vice versa). And ever think you'd hear Mahmoud sing in fus7a (Standard Arabic)? Check track 8!

Despite the fact that the serial number on the cassette shell matches that of the j-card, none of the listed song titles have anything to do with the songs on the cassette. Track titles here are my own:

1)  Jilali Bouâlem

2)  Lâayoune Dahika
3)  Jwedi ya Jwedi
4)  Allah Yuhibb Alkurama
5)  Fofo Denba
6)  Berrma Nana Soutanbi
7)  Alhubb Wahid Wa Eddunya Wahida
8)  Africa Muwahhada
9)  Alhaqiqa
10) Al Umm

I hope to drop another cassette before Ramadan starts. I may not post at all during Ramadan, as I'll be fasting as well as traveling. In case you don't hear from me between now and the end of Ramadan, here's wishing blessing, grace, and peace upon you all!

Gnawadelica here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Festival d'Essaouira

Last weekend the 15th Gnawa Festival in Essaouira was held. The festival usually features a number of ad-hoc collaborations between Gnawa groups and European or American musicians, usually jazz musicians. Sometimes these collaborations produced interesting textures (Mustapha Baqbou at the 2000 festival proved that Gnawa rock could pump up arena-sized crowds). Sometimes they produced train wrecks - Gnawa musicians don't necessarily understand jazz, and jazz musicians don't necessarily understand Gnawa music, so there is often much stepping on one another's musical toes.

I have a few tapes and CDs labeled "Festival d'Essaouira" from prior to 2003, but they are merely pirate mixtapes of tracks from Orchestre National de Barbes, Gnawa Diffusion and other artists. This CD is the earliest one I've seen that appears to be an official compilation of performances recorded on the festival stage. I've seen 2 editions of this disc, one with a 2003 date and one (pictured here) with a 2004 date.

This CD culls some pretty good performances from the festival stage. I believe the performances took place in either 2002 or 2003. It was around this time that drummer Karim Ziad began his artistic involvement with the festival, and his group Ifrikiya plays on several of these tracks. If you like the way fusion jazz and Gnawa sound together, this is a pretty good set. Also includes Amadou & Maryam on a couple tracks, some Houariyat fusion (!?) and a nice trad piece by an Algerian group, Ouled Sidna Bilal.

1)  Sadati Manayo - Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa & Band
2)  La Illaha Illa Allah - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band + Louis Bertignac
3)  Samaoui - Maâlem Hamid El Kasri & Band
4)  Laribi - Maâlem Abdelkebir Merchane & Band
5)  Dawi - Ouled Sidna Bilal
6)  Hamdouchia - Maâlem Hamid El Kasri & Band
7)  Baba El Arabi - Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa & Band

8)  Hamouda - Ifrikya, Maâlem Abdelkébir Merchane, Maâlem Abdeslam Alikane
9)  Moul Hkaim - Bnet Houariyat & Ifrikya
10) Dek Illalane - Amadou & Maryam & Hamid El Kasri
11) Bayerma - Maâlem Hamida Boussou & Band
12) Ouled Bambara - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band
13) Al Adda - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band

Dig it here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Recent Moroccan tape blog roundup

Hi everyone. I was a little busy and distracted in the late spring, and my posts have been sporadic of late. But summer is officially here, and I should have something new for ya later this weekend.

In the meantime, sending out props for some great Moroccan tape-cd-lp posts over the last few weeks. If you missed these, do yourself a favor and check 'em out!!

Mr. Tear at Snap, Crackle & Pop served up a slice of old-school rock 'n' rai from the Frères Bouchenak c.1984. Similar to what Raina Rai were doing across the border in Sidi Bel Abbes, the Bouchenak brothers in Oujda were playing their rai with a full rock band (complete with ripping electric guitar solos). The Bouchenaks would abandon this format for the prevailing synthesizer-based format a few years later. Great to hear this oldie! Check it out here.

Gary at Bodega Pop dropped this goodie from the kings of aita marswawiya, the Ouled Bouazzaoui. These are all remakes of songs recorded in the past by Bouchaib el Bidaoui. Khaled, the singer/violist of the group, sounds so much like Bouchaib el Bidaoui, it's scary! Great to have some hi-fi versions of these old school classics! Check it out here.

Brian at Awesome Tapes from Africa laid down this one from the reigning diva of Middle Atlas tamazight song, Hadda Ouakki. A bit heavy on the synth violins for my taste, but her voice remains in great form! Dig it here.

And finally, Abdel at FolkMusicSMB rolled out this unbelievably great Hamid Zahir album! As I mentioned in my last post, it's nice when Zahir stretches his chaabi chops and veers away from his usual dkitikat-based typical Marrakchi street & party singalongs. There are some almost aita-ish melodies on this one - well worth a listen! Connect here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The contemplative side of Hamid Zahir


Most of Hamid Zahir's oeuvre is pretty formulaic, and it's a formula I love: uptempo, singalong Marrakchi party tunes with light, catchy, often humorous lyrics, an insistent percussive drive from darbuka and tar (tambourine), interlocking syncopated handclapping, call-response vocal punctuations, and Zahir's funky oud. This album, at least to my ear, deviates just slightly from that formula - most of the familiar ingredients are the same, but tempos are just a tad slower, the melodic modes tend toward the minor (track 3) or rast (tracks 1 & 4) rather than the major, and the lyrics seem somehow a little more world-weary than usual. Not as obsessive and bluesy as Rouicha's work, but more contemplative than the typical Hamid Zahir tape.

Speaking of tapes (and ignore this if you're not interested in how I edited the album), I own 2 cassette copies of this album, both of which have incorrect pitch - one too high and the other too low. (I wonder if I perceive this album as contemplative because for years I listened to a tape that ran lugubriously slowly.) I found what appears to be a CD rip online. I planned to use that to find the correct pitch. But the CD also contained "extended" or full versions of a couple of songs which faded out early on the cassettes. Conversely, one of my cassettes contained several extra phrases of Zahir's fantastic oud soloing at the beginning of two different songs, where the CD cuts into the solos late.

So here is my edit of the CD rip (which had better audio quality overall than my tape) with the missing opening phrases appended to the beginning of tracks 1 and 3 from my cassette, with pitch correction. Whew...

1) Tiqi Biya Rak Âziz
2) Haram Âlik ya Dunya
3) Mali ou Mal Ennas

4) Daba Iferrej Allah

Get it here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Vintage Mahmoud Guinia

Here's a couple more vintage cassettes of Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. These are released on the Fikriphone label out of Agadir. The other Fikriphone cassette I posted of Mahmoud (FP25) was purported to be his first commercial release, so I'm guessing these are also quite old. Unlike that album, which appears to have been recorded live at a lila, these tapes are studio recordings and feature a tam-tam drum in addition to the guinbri and qraqeb.

I'm uploading them together because the track names on the j-cards don't match the songs on either cassette - some songs listed on 42 appear on 41 and vice versa, some songs listed don't appear at all, and some songs on the cassettes aren't listed at all.

Here's my track listing:
1) Allah Allah Bulila
2) Yumali Ye Yumala
3) La ilaha illa Llah
4) Fulani Baba Sidi

1) Ya Sudani Bangara Bangara
2) Lalla Maymouna Sultan Gnawiya
3) Lalla Fatima Zahra - Shay Llah Dar Dammana
4) 'Awwenuna Rijal Allah Baba L'Arabi
5) Soyo Soyo Kamilana

Get 'em here.

PS - audio sample coming soon - divshare upload seems to be down...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Najat Aatabou (and the Jordanaires)

Here's another oldie from Najat Aatabou. I was always curious about this tape - All of her other albums from her debut in 1984(-ish) up to the mid-'90s were released on the Editions Hassania label. I'm guessing this tape, on the Nabilophone imprint, is an early one. It features the simple ensemble of her early Hassania cassettes - oud, bendir, darbuka, Najat's voice, and a male backing vocal section. This a great album with some classic tunes. I saw her in concert in 1999, and she included a couple of these in her set: "Halfa 'Alih" and "Sh'hal Suwwelt 'Alih".


I've always found it unusual when a backing vocal group doesn't merely repeat lyrics sung by a lead singer but instead transposes those lines to the third person. I'm thinking of Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear", where he sings "Oh let ME be...", and the backing vocal group, the Jordanaires, echo with "Oh let HIM be...". I wonder what factors into a composer/arranger's decision to use this technique rather than a straight repeat of the lyrics.

Off the top of my head, I'd think that the technique could be used for any of several reasons, among these:
  • a) dramatic reasons - to highlight the subject position of the lead singer's persona in the song; 
  • b) gender reasons - when the lead singer is of a different gender than that of the choral group (i.e., when it might sound silly for a man to be singing the words just sung by a woman)
  • c) rhythmic reasons - e.g., in "Teddy Bear", Elvis sings "Oh let me be" to 4 straight quarter notes (not including the hiccups) - that is, all syllables are of equal duration. In the Jordanaires' echo, the rhythm changes to a syncopated one - the syllable "let" becomes a short one (an eighth note), followed by a longer "him" (quarter note). It would sound awkward to sing "let me" to this rhythm - "let him" sounds much more natural. (If you want to hear this, the phrase comes at about 0:15 in the clip below.)

Najat has a few songs that use this technique. On this album, the refrain of "Sh'hal Suwwelt 'Alih" features different lyrics when sung by Najat than when it is sung by the male response vocalists:

Najat The Boys
Sh'hal suwwelt 'alih
'Ajbu-ni 'aynih
Jibu-li dak elloun
Jibu-li k'hel laayoun
Ana ken-bghih
Aha ken-mout 'alih
Sh'hal SUWWLAT 'alih
'Ajbu-HA 'aynih
Jibu-L'HA dak elloun
Jibu-L'HA k'hel laayoun
RAHA KET-bghih
RAHA KET-mout 'alih

  For so long I've asked about him 
His eyes please me
Bring me that kind
Bring me the black-eyed one
I want him
I'm crazy about him

  For so long SHE's asked about him 
His eyes please HER
Bring HER that kind
Bring HER the black-eyed one
SHE wants him
SHE's crazy about him

Since none of the changed lyrics come at the end of the line, the rhyme scheme remains intact.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of songs by other Moroccan artists that use this technique. But in Najat's repertoire, you can hear it in "Sh'hal Suwwelt 'Alih" (listen below) and in "Mali Ana Ma 'Andi Zhar".

On another silly tangent, I always liked the outfit Najat is wearing on the right panel of the j-card. I recently found a video from a live performance where she wears it. In fact, I think the photo comes from this performace:

1) Halfa 'Alih
2) Mchite ou Jite
3) Ach Blani Bik, Ach Dani Lik
4) Sh'hal Suwwelt 'Alih

Get it here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Najat Aatabou - The Orchestral Album

Here's another goodie from Najat Aatabou, the siren of Khemisset, whose first album I posted here some time ago. As I mentioned then, my favorite recordings of hers keep the texture simple. In the early days, this was an oud and some percussion (bendir-s & maybe darbuka). This album, from around 1987, was, I believe, the first time she broke out of that style.

And what a way to go. You can tell this tape is something special because it has an extra fold-out panel at the right side of the j-card. The only Moroccan cassettes that get this sort of treatment are of the chanson moderne genre, where it is customary to list the lyricist, composer, and singer, in that order. (See, for example, the tape of Latifa Raafat I posted a few months back.)

Indeed, this is Najat Aatabou singing chanson moderne with a large, modern orchestra. Sort of like Hank Williams singing with the Nelson Riddle orchestra. Improbable, but it sort of works! The sharp, country edge of Najat's voice makes a nice contrast with the lush arrangements and melodies of Ahmed el Alaoui (who's written some nice stuff for other singers, including the song "Nasyak" on the aforementioned Latifa Raafat album.) It's an interesting combination, and I wonder what was the backstory to this cassette - Whose idea was it? How did it come to fruition?

Oddly, the j-card omits track 3, "Lillah Ya S'haba". It's listed on the cassette shell, so why isn't it on the j-card? It's the only track not written by lyricist Ali el Haddani and composer Ahmed el Alaoui. The out-of-print Globestyle album "The Voice of the Atlas" credits this song to Najat herself. She tends to compose her own material most of the time, but most chaâbi cassettes do not list composer credits.

"Lillah Ya S'haba" is an interesting song of Najat's. Unlike most of her compositions, which follow a simple verse/refrain form, this one is an extended long-form composition with several discrete sections. Yep, it's basically a chanson moderne form. Well done, Najat! The version on this album appears to be a live performance (dig the feedback at about 4:35). Here's a performance of the song with a more typical Najat backing group:

If you have the "Voice of the Atlas" album, then you already have all 4 of these tracks. Perhaps it's understandable that a western release included these orchestral tracks - its target audience might get bored with a whole album of just oud and bendir-s. Or perhaps the folks over at Editions Hassania, when approached for international licensing, chose to pitch these more "serious" tracks of Najat's. But these orchestral tracks are not what made Najat Aatabou famous - it was the stripped-down stuff like this. Don't get me wrong - I love this album, it's just not the most "representative" of her work. If you like the tape, you should seek out a copy of the Globestyle album - much nicer digital transfers from the master tapes than my garage transfer from an old well-loved cassette... (but you can hear the love, can't you?)

Discographic note. The first song, Baghi Nertahuh, appears on both the Globestyle album (where it is listed as "Baghi Nerjah") and the Rounder CD "Country Girls and City Women" (where it is listed as "Ar-Rih").

01) Zourouni Lillah
02) Baghi Nertahuh
03) Lillah ya S'haba

04) Feen Triqi

Get it here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

L'Hajja L'Hamdawya again

Here's another Hamdawya cassette - seems to have been recorded at the same time as the one I posted last week. It has that same electric guitar and funky harpsichordey thing going on. (Plus the catalogue numbers are consecutive.)

Track 2 is the oldie "Hbibi Dyali", recorded by, among others, the great Zohra al Fassia. Track titles are taken right from the j-card except for track 4, which is unlisted. It's a tune I've heard before at Moroccan Arab weddings, played by chaâbi bands when they need to play something that sounds Berber. (This is needed if, as is common, the bride puts on a Berber-style outfit at some point during the wedding.) Note the typically Tachelhit pentatonic melody + use of the clanging naqqus.

1) Shouf ar-Rouida Ma Dir
2) Hbibi Dyali
3) 'Alah A Lalla Hyani
4) Ayla ha Lilila Ayli Awa

5) Ta'rida

Get it here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

L'Hajja L'Hamdawya - 'Nuff Said!

I was thrilled to see the return of the fantastic diva L'Hajja L'Hamdawya to prominence in Morocco over the last decade. Through the '90s and early 2000s (when I spent a lot of time in Morocco), she seemed like nothing but a sepiatone memory. A well-loved celebrity from the '50s &'60s who, it was said, had fallen on hard times, been too generous (or foolhardy) with her money, and was now living in obscurity somewhere in Casablanca. Over the last 10 years, she's proved to be not only alive and well, but in fantastic voice, now into her '80s.

She began her career singing aita marsawiya and was one of the first artists to sing it on television (when it was still considered provocative music of ill-repute). Notably, she also performed and recorded with large orchestras of the chanson moderne style favored by Moroccan television and radio in the 50's-'60s. Such orchestras were usually reserved for artists working in the Arab-Art-Music of long-form compositions rather than the folkloric aita and popular chaâbi song forms. According to a Moroccan scholar I spoke with years ago, the sight of a woman holding the iconic bendir or ta'rija of the aita in front of one of these large orchestras was something unheard of, back in the day.

(video and audio are out of sync, but here's a rare vintage TV appearance of Hajja Hamdaouia)

This cassette features a more stripped-down ensemble - not a full orchestra, but just a couple of violas, a flute, a harpsichordey keyboard, and an electric guitar (in addition to the percussion). I'm guessing this recording is from the 1960s or early 1970s. I own an LP with this same photo on it (as well as a couple other cassettes with the same photo), so I'm guessing this is a cassette reissue of an earlier LP release.

1) Ach Ja Idir?

2) Al Asmar I'jebni
3) Ayamna Ayamna
4) Allah Ya'tik B-Sber
5) Wlida Wlida - Dawr Biha

Get it here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chaâbi viola as Jilala flute - Saïd Senhaji

About 10-12 years ago, there seemed to be an explosion of pop hits in Morocco making reference to trance of one flavor or another. I don't mean pop versions of Gnawa or Jilala songs. Rather, I mean NEW songs with lyrics referring to the spirits or to the experience of trance. What struck me as odd was that most of these songs made no musical reference to trance music of the Gnawa, Jilala or other groups. Rather, they fit the basic mold of chaâbi songs, ready to slip into the repertoire of a wedding band with a viola player and a nicely dressed lead singer. You don't typically want to hire a trance music group for a wedding but, as Deborah Kapchan has noted, the aesthetics of nashat (lively, energetic, loose party feeling) often come close to those of jadba (possession trance), and sometimes bump up against each other (1).

I tend to like my trance uncut, so these songs never did much for me. Some of the tunes were pretty catchy and popular, though. You can hear a few of these on a great early-2000s chaâbi compilation Maroc by Night (tracks 6, 17 and 19). Hamri's "Samaoui" in particular was massive in the spring-summer of 2001.

One track that I do rather like is "Aicha el Mejdouba" by Orchestre Senhaji. What got under my skin was the weird sound processing on the violin. The first time I heard this, I had no idea what instrument was playing. To my ears now, the strange throb seems to hearken to the unique timbre of the gasba flutes in Jilala trance music. The lyrics of the song also refer to the Jilala. Here's a lip-sync/playback clip of Saïd Senhaji performing this tune:

"Aicha el Mejdouba", track 5 on today's offering, is the only tune on the album to feature the tweaked viola sound. The rest of the album is some darn fine straight-up Casablanca chaâbi music, vintage Y2K, served up by the singer Saïd Senhaji and his orchestre. Heavy on the rhythm (drum kit in effect), swell riffin' on the viola, catchy call-response vocals. The electric guitar comping doesn't always work for me, but I've heard waaaaaaay worse.

Check for Senhaji's bio and more tunes. Amazon has LOTS of Sehaji mp3s (though, oddly, not the album I've got here.) And for those of you here on the West Coast of the USA, Saïd Senhaji will perform in Anaheim on Saturday May 19!

Discographic note: the j-card reads
 سهرة حية مع الجمهور, i.e., "live concert with audience", but that does not appear to be the case - this sounds like a studio recording.

Get it here.


(1) Deborah Kapchan. "Nashat: The Gender of Musical Celebration in Morocco." Pp. 251-65 in Music and Gender: Perspectives from the Mediterranean, edited by Tullia Magrini. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2003.


UPDATE 2012-04-21, 11:30PM - I think the link was incorrect earlier. It should be fine now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

El Bhiri - Chaâbi from Casa, yeah!

Instead of poring through the Lomax collection yesterday, I decided to pore through a stash of about 75 cassettes I inherited from a friend recently. Separated out the Maghrebi music tapes from the Middle Eastern ones and the Islamic lectures. I was still jonesing for some chaâbi, and scored with a swell tape of El Bhiri. describes him as a chaâbi artist from Casablanca. The tracks here stay mostly to the aita side of the chaâbi field, with the exception of track 5, which is more of a call-response percussion band-style rave-up.

The tape is missing the first couple minutes of track 3, where someone inadvertently (or advertently?) taped some interesting but completely non-sequitur Middle Atlas tamazight song on top.

Here's El Bhiri on TV:

Get it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alan Lomax's Moroccan Tape Stash


Well, his Moroccan stash is but a tiny tiny pinch of shake from his huge stash of field recordings. His recordings of American folk music are, of course, the most famous, but he also did his share of international recordings during his many years of research.

Association for Cultural Equity and the Alan Lomax Archive recently went live with over 800 hours of sound recordings as well as video and photographs from Lomax's collection. Perhaps the mother of all tape stashes!

I had no idea Lomax had recorded in Morocco! I'm just starting to dip into this collection, and I'll try to link to anything that particularly catches my ear.

First question I had, of course... is there any Gnawa music? Indeed, there is one short piece recorded in the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech - it's an excerpt from "Negsha".

Explore the Moroccan collection here.
Explore the entire audio collection here.
Or start at the main menu to get to photographs, video, and other resources.


I found 2 more short Gnawa tracks, in Lomax's recordings from Fez. They are from outdoor processional âada repertoire, thus feature the tbola rather than the guinbri. The recordings were made at the moussem of Moulay Idriss, and include recordings of Aissawa and Hamadcha as well!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More Aita Haouzia - Mustapha & Latifa El Issawia

I wanted to post more chaâbi after my last chaâbi post, but didn't find anything that inspired me. Like I said last week, my fave chaâbi stays pretty close to the rural, aita end of the field (rather than the Andalusian end, the smooth orchestrated end, or the pop-rai end). I'll try to dig out a good Stati tape soon. In the meantime, here's some more bitchin' aita haouzia. 

After scanning the shell, I realized that this tape comes from the same production house as my last aita haouzia post - Edition Atif, or Aâtiphone, based in ... Kelaat es-Sraghna? I've been thru Sraghna a bunch of times, since it's the biggest city on the road between Marrakech and Beni Mellal, my 2 main perches in Morocco. But never had any reason to stop there (except for one time when it was Ramadan and time to break fast - the bus parked and everyone was able able to get that important bowl of harira...) At any rate, I don't know if these performers are from Sraghna or Marrakech - I would guess Marrakech. The other haouzia group on this label was from Marrakech, and the little picture in the top-left corner of the j-card and on the spine is of the Menara - a royal-summer-house-turned-public-garden in Marrakech.

Track titles on the j-card didn't seem to match the lyrics I heard on the tape, so I didn't transcribe them. The front panel reads "The star of Haouzi song". And track 2 is seamlessly edited together from the end of side A and the beginning of side B by yours truly.

Excerpt from track 2 (of 3):

Get the whole thing here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Great few weeks for Moroccan Stashes!

Wow - props to my blogosphere colleagues for a bumper few weeks of Moroccan grooves! Well worth checking out:

Snap, Crackle & Pop
Mr. Tear over at Snap, Crackle & Pop is back from a recent Morocco trip and promises to share some goodies in the weeks to come. If the current offerings are any indication, these should be fantastic! Already up is the Mustapha Baqbou tape pictured above - IF YOU LIKE GNAWA MUSIC, YOU NEED THIS TAPE!! This is my all-time favorite Baqbou tape - stunning virtuosity on the guinbri, masterful control of dynamics and drama, passionate singing, and songs from deep in the Ghaba suite! I lost my copy about 15 years back - so happy to hear this again. Also up at SC&P is a lovely album by the group Izmaz - an intense yet laid back offering from one of the '70s folk revival groups. 

Bodega Pop
Gary recently dropped a CD by old-school amarg artist Rais (Hajj) Omar Wahrouche. These are some great recordings, well worth a listen!

Still digesting this huge cache of Jil Jilala tunes over at Hammer's. Some of it familiar, some of it very obscure!

See ya soon!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chaabi Marrakchi with drum kit

Moroccan chaabi music sounds great with a drum kit. Hi-hat gives you the bright jingle of a tar tambourine, a nice loose snare drum gives you the buzz of the bendir, and tom and bass drum give you a nice variety of low tones for the all-important dummmm.

Here's a nice old school chaabi tape with some in-the-pocket drum kit playing. I don't know who the performers are, but the tape is from the Sawt el Mounadi label out of Marrakech, so you know it's gonna be good like this and this!

Chaabi is a pretty wide genre. My fave chaabi keeps it close to rural forms and textures, and that's what you get here - one viola, heavy on the percussion (drum kit and darbuka), lots of call & response singing, one male lead singer and two or three shikhat-styled backup singer. Track 3 mixes it up a bit with a naqqus clanging out a Berber rhythm. Song titles are best-guess cribs from the lyrics.

1) Khelli li ya Lmwima

2) Basha Hammou
3) Hmam Cherradi
4) Mchite Njibou - Galouli Rkeb Sfina
5) Track 5

Enjoy it here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hassan Baska - Fiery Tagnawit and a little Gnawa Blues

Here's a solid cassette from Hassan Baska and group. I wrote a bit about Hassan and his brothers in my post on Muluk el Hwa last week. This tape is from around Y2K. Tracks 1, 3 and 4 are straight-up, fiery Marrakchi tagnawit (that is, music from the Gnawa ritual repertoire). Quite nicely recorded, and high in energy. (Marred slightly by vocals going sharp on the first piece of track 3). The lead vocalist sounds to me like it could be Ahmed Baska rather than Hassan, but I'm not sure.

Track 2 is an unusual gem, featuring 2 songs I believe to be originals. (They're certainly not from the tagnawit repertoire.) "Mamayo" features a darbuka in addition to guinbri and qraqeb. It is sung in a blues pentatonic (rather than the typical Gnawi pentatonic) and in a typical Maghrebi 2/4. In the second piece "Sudani Mani Zara", guinbri and qraqeb lock into a blues-swing groove! (totally weird - totally works!) There are so many overblown Gnawa fusions - this one is about as simple as it gets, and is all the more sweet for it! The vocalist is different on this track than on the rest of the album. I think it may be Hassan singing here and Ahmed on the other tracks, but again, I could be wrong.

Discographic note: I own 2 cassettes of Hassan Baska. The j-cards for both read "Edition Safi Disque". The cassette shells for both read Sawt al-Kawakib. Go figure...

1) Kohl (incl. Mimouna, Ghumami, Marhaba)
2) Mamayo - Sudani Mani Zara

3) Shorfa (incl. Hadiya, Ali ya Ali)
4) Salihin (incl. Jilala, La ilaha illa Llah Jilala, Jilali Boualem, Jilali Dawi Hali)

Get it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Muluk el Hwa - 80s folk revival, Gnawa front and center

Muluk el Hwa (the "Demons" of Love) formed in the late '70s in Marrakech, riding the folk revival wave of groups like Nass el Ghiwane, Jil Jilala and Lemchaheb. Unlike these groups, Muluk el Hwa performed primarily traditional songs rather than original material. Forefront in their particular mix of traditional forms was Gnawa music.

According to a 2005 resume, the group was "discovered by Spanish author Juan Goytisolo" in 1980 and went on to produce 7 cassettes of traditional Gnawa song, 4 cassettes of Gnawa popular music and 3 cassettes of love songs. The group also collaborated with the Spanish group Al Tall on the album Xarq al Andalus, which focused on medieval Valencian-Andalusian traditions.

One of the members, Abdeljalil Kodssi, has gone on to a number of interesting projects over the years, recording albums with Nass Marrakech and under his own name.

Another member, Hassan Baska, is one of several brothers very active in Marrakech Gnawa life. The maalem of the family is Abbas, who is featured on the 3 hours of YouTube audio I linked to in my last post. Abbas, who was one of my primary interlocutors during my dissertation research on Gnawa music, is also featured on several CDs of Gnawa music - World of Gnawa on Rounder, and Kamar Music's fantastic 3-CD Black Album (2 discs of Gnawa and one of Gnawa-inspired electronic dance music). The latter album is available at CD Baby, where you can also purchase the 2 Gnawa discs seaprarately as mp3 downloads. A third brother, Ahmed, is one of the most recognizable faces in Moroccan Gnawa music. A fabulous dancer-singer and a charismatic presence, he's performed with many Marrakchi maalems on television and CD, including Mahjoub Khalmous, Mustapha Baqbou, and Hmida Boussou. A beautiful album, if you can track it down is Rhabaouine by Gnawa Halwa, featuring Abbas and Ahmed Baska in an atypically pianissimo Gnawa recording.

1) Sa'di bil wali jani
2) Sahiyoun
3) Salah el Bahja (=Chalaba Titara)

4) La ilaha illa Llah
5) An-Negsha

Get it here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3 hours of Marrakchi Gnawa Lila audio!

Dig it! GnawaMaVie's channel on YouTube has some great Gnawa audio (including some things I've posted on this blog). One fantastic series of clips presents 3 hours worth of audio from a Gnawa lila. The notes say it features Maalem Mustapha Baqbou and Maalem Abbas Baska. I put the 25 clips into a playlist so you'll can listen to them in the correct order. It's not an entire lila (it's missing the entire Buhala, Kohl, Ghabawyin and 3ayalat, as well as pieces of the other suites listed below), but I'm not complaining!

For me, this sort of Gnawa tape blows doors on any studio recording - this is Gnawa music at its organic best - when the music ebbs and flows, expands and contracts in accordance with the vibe in the room, the particular mix of people in attendance, and the needs of trancers.

Entire playlist is embedded above. Individual links are below. Many thanks to GnawaMaVie for sharing these recordings!

Ouled Bambara
Salat ala nabina
Soudani + Baniya
Folane Nhiriza + Youbadi
Boulila + Chabagrou

Lala Fatima + Koubayli
Rabi moulay + Lah lah Moulana
Zid el Male + Youmala

Ftih ar-Rahba
Ftouh Rahba
Ftouh Rahba 2
Hamadi 2


Sidi Moussa
Koubaili Bala
Bala Mousa + La_Ilaha_Illa_Allah_Mousa

Bori Ya Bori + Baniya
Sidi Koumi

Ali Ya Ali
Bouchama + Moulay 'Abdallah
Moulay 'Abdallah Ben Hsein & Moulay 'Brahim
Moulay Hamed

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jilala & 'Aita Down at Bir Jdid - Mohammed L3aouina

Here's one of my fave cassettes - a particularly fierce Jilala tape for ya. Picked this up in the mid-'90s, I think in Marrakech or thereabouts. The tape is from Bir Jdid (which I had to look up on Google) - it's between Casablanca and El Jadida.

The tape doesn't say "Jilala" anywhere on it, but the tunes have that same throb and rasp that identify the Jilala groove. In addition to the gasba flutes and bendir frame drums, you'll hear some qarqaba metal clappers on the tunes labeled "Buwwab". These songs invoke some of the spirits associated with the Gnawa, who are the main users of the qarqaba.

In addition to the trance material (Sidi Slimane, Sidi Chamharouch, Buwwab), the tape also contains "Al-3aloua", a piece usually associated with aita / shikhat. The recording of this song (as well as track 6, another song that seems to be non-Jilala) features only a single gasba, rather than 2. The use of 2 gasba-s adds a loopy dimension to the sound and seems appropriate to the trance material. Whatever the aesthetics of trance textures vs. non-trance textures may be, it is certainly true that most musicians working with trance repertoires also perform other non-trance genres, and that seems to be the case with this ensemble.


1) Intro
2) Chamharouche (? i guess. I can't hear the name in the lyrics, but it is written on the j-card, but then again, the tracks are all out of order too...
3) Sidi Slimane

4) Al Buwwab 1 (edited together from end of side 1 and beginning of side 2)
5) Al Buwwab 2
6) Track 6
7) Al 3aloua

Get it here.