Sunday, January 29, 2012

Al-Hadri Hamid - Riffin' the Ouled Bambara, Meknes-Style

Hard days in the music blogosphere. Sad to find the great Holy Warbles took a hit, though I have no doubt that the Owl will rise again! Hope I can continue sharing with you here. I try to keep my posts to music that is out of print and/or impossible to find. Thanks Gary at Bodega Pop for his thoughtful and passionate comments.

Carrying on with another Gnawa cassette for ya, this one picked up in Meknes c.1999. In the popular imagination (within Morocco and without...) Gnawa are associated primarily with Essaouira (where they are heavily promoted/exploited by the tourist industry) and Marrakech (where they probably exist in the greatest numbers of any Moroccan city). However, Gnawa practices and the musicians who animate them can be found in cities across Morocco, from Tangier to Oujda to Merzouga to Agadir...

The Meknes Gnawa tradition is well established and well documented.  It appears to be more prominent than that of neighboring Fez. Perhaps the presence in Meknes of the zawiya (shrine) of the Hadi ben Aissa, patron saint of the Aissawa brotherhood, makes Meknes more conducive to trance-music practitioners. Still, Gnawa from Meknes have rarely been featured in international or even nationwide recordings. One recent exception is Maalem Abdenbi el Meknassi.

I don't know anything about the performer here, al-Hadri Hamid, though I have another cassette from Meknes that I believe features him as well. This tape is all Ouled Bambara - that is, it features songs from the opening phase of the lila ceremony. Unusually, they are performed here with qarqaba rather than with the interlocking clapping that is typical of this phase. Some of the typical Ouled Bambara songs are featured here (Bangara Bangara, Chalaba Titara, etc.).  But there are also some rarely performed pieces, including a version of Tintinbara, which traditionally features a very funny pantomime where a Gnawi dancer (male) dresses up as a pregnant woman.

1) Tsiyyisa - Fangoro Fangoro - Amara Yobadi - Sidi L'-Afu Shshiyat Ammar
2) Berrma Sutanbi - Fulan Walina - Sawiye - Ye Llah Sawiye
3) Yobadi
4) Lalla L-Wa'riqma - Jellaba Titara - Jellaba Tiktu - Berkat a Husa
5) Kalkani Bulila
6) L-'Aribi 1 (Wayli a wayli) - L-'Aribi 2 (L'Aribi kum kum kum)
7) Allah Yobadi Sadiyariyara 1 - Allah Yobadi Sadiyariyara 2
8) Baniya yar kama - Allah Mitara Chkam Bambara - Wahyana waye - 'Ar Allah 'Ar N-nbi - Sadi w-Llah - Serku Balaji ya Huma - Tintinbara - Allah ya Mbwirika, Siydek rah ja (take 1)
9) Allah ya Mbwirika, Siydek rah ja (take 2)

Get it here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rouicha R.I.P. (1950-2012)

Very sad to report the passing of the great Mohammed Rouicha. Thanks for the great tunes and your warm spirit. This is my other favorite Rouicha tape. Has the classics "Lil el Lil" and "Lahbiba", and fills out the last 4 minutes of side 2 riding out the groove with a lotar jam.

1) Lil el-Lil
2) Lakin ana Mellit
3) L-Hbiba

4) A Khuya ma Tkerh el Jamal
5) (ta'rida)

Get it here.

Also worth a listen is a recent collaboration between Rouicha and the Moroccan rock band Hoba Hoba Spirit - just hitting the interwebs this week:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Noujoum Essaouira - back in the day (or night) with Maalem Omar Hayat

Well I'm pretty sure it's Maalem Omar Hayat here. One of the top Gnawi maalem-s of Essaouira. I haven't seen any other commercial recordings by him, though he is a perennial at the Gnawa Festival.

It's a small-group session - sounds like just 3 musicians. I can't figure out what percussion is being used here. It's definitely not qraqeb. Sounds a little like a hi-hat, but I think more likely it's someone using spoons on a tea tray, or some other such improvised utensils. Pretty mellow vibe.

The spine reads: Lila ma3 Noujoum Essaouira / Lila ma3 Gnaoua fi Essaouira (Night with the Stars of Essaouira / Night with Gnawa in Essaouira). This ostensibly refers to the Gnawa lila ceremony, though the songs are all over the place (in terms of what parts of the ceremony they are pulled from), and the vibe is nothing like a lila. Non-Gnawa (including festival promoters and cassette/CD companies) are pretty loose with the term lila. The several times I attended the festival in Essaouira, there were events billed as "lila-s" held away from the main stage. These were not lila ceremonies, but rather small concerts featuring Gnawa groups (without the ubiquitous jazz-fusions that occurred on the main stages).

Even with the misleading lila reference, the tape is pretty enjoyable - an interesting selection of songs, and strong playing from Maalem Omar.

1) Track 1: La ilaha illa Llah / Mulay 'Abdelqader / Ara ara chaw / Tilku lila / Chabakro
2) Track 2: Bunga Bunga Bulila / Jabuna / Marhaba Baba Mimoun / Lalla Meryem Chelha / Moulati Fatima / Casa Casa ya Tungra
3) Lalla Zohra / Majdouba Lalla Rqiya

4) Budali Sidi Rahhal

Get it here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hmida Boussou - Subtle and Serious Guinbri Sounds

OK - enough with the Pokémon you say? Scraping the bottom of the stash? Au contraire! If chaabi Pokémon ain't your style, consider it an audio palate cleaning, a slice of picked ginger on your sushi platter, to get your ears ready for some full-on tagnawit sounds.

The late Hmida Boussou (of Casablanca, but with roots in Marrakech) was a serious, deep Gnawi maalem. His guinbri spoke volumes, and we're lucky to have some fantastic recordings of him in the Al Sur 5-disc Gnawa Leila series. He didn't record many commercial cassettes in Morocco. This is one of only a couple that I've seen. It appears to date from the 1980s, though it's hard to say for sure. I picked it up around '93, and it's a great one.

The guinbri is prominent in the mix but not distractingly so. One of my pet peeves with Gnawa recordings and electrified performances is that the guinbri is sometimes too far up front in the mix, destroying the dynamic tension between the sound of the guinbri and that of the incessant, clattering qraqeb. That being said, Maalem Hmida's playing is so subtle and consistent that it withstands being so "naked" in the mix. (This is also the case on disc 1 one of the Al Sur series.)

Discographic note: J-card lists the cassette publisher as "Sawt er Rbi3", but cassette shell reads Edition el Kawakib. Song titles, however, appear to be correct.

With a couple of exceptions (Sadie Fulani Hiriza and Wahyana Waye), nothing here duplicates anything Maalem Hmida plays in the Al Sur series.

1) Ouled Bambara (includes Chalaba Titara, Sadie Fulani Hiriza, Wahyana Waye)
2) L3afou Moulana (climax of the Ftih ar Rahba suite. Performed atypically here with interlocking clapping rather than with qraqeb.)
3) 3aicha l-Hamdouchia (includes Baba L-Ghumami, Sidi Muhammad ya Suba3i, Marhaba ya Mimoun Marhaba, 3aicha L-Gnawiya, 3aicha Qandisha) 

Get it here.