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.


  1. wow -- what a fascinating interplay of timbres, especially with the very cool electronics, too. sheesh, when i saw the cover had a lady with a drum, i knew i was gonna like it. she's a great performer, too. makes it feel so flowing and natural... thank you many times, and greetings from this place to your place...

  2. Tim you are the man! More of these please.



  3. The last track is Dour Biha (دور بها): just like that last wonderful cassette post made by S.C.&P. had it (Wa Sari Sara El-Liel on Mystery Singer from Marrakesh), this same song is like the antidote to Sari Sara El-Liel. To wt, this is a 100% Moroccan tune whereas those in the Arabian Gulf area took it and made it one of theirs in the early 70's playing it in weddings and celebrations, so very often... everyone and their dogs (or, camels, goats, etc...) knows this tune like the palm of their hands. Dour Biha Ya Eshimali (Dour Biha) is its fullest title. Sometimes, people trance to it, too.

    Just amazing how similar cultures in the Arab world trade their music and still... the songs remain the same. It's an untouchable "mystery" (to quote Snap himself), rarely found elsewhere in the world.

    Mucho thanks again.



  4. Oh Tim! This is wonderful. Many thanks.

  5. @Hammer - oh how funny about Wa Sari Sar el-Leil vs. Dour Biha! I didn't know that Dour Biha was known all the way to the Gulf!

    The funny thing is: I don't think Dour Biha is actually on this tape - the name appears on the j-card, but I don't hear it...

  6. The most recent youtube clip is beyond amazing!!!!
    Thank you so much for this post.

  7. > السي عبدالله السلام عليكم ورحمة الله،تبرك الله عليك والله يحفظك على الصفحة الممتازة
    > والإختيار الراقي والذوق المميز والسليم،الله يحفظك .
    > السي عبدالله أنا، وأعود بالله من كلمة أنا، عبدالله من دسلدورف بألمانيا ما سبق لينا تراسلنا من قبل هادي أول مرة.
    > خويا لعزيز واش ممكن أطلب منك طلب؟ أنا شفت في صفحتك
    > وضعت أشرطة كاسيط من بينهم كاسيط واش عندك شي من هده النوادر خاصة أن بناصروخويا وحادة وعكي +خدوج الزمورية عملوا أغاني مشتركة . السي عبدالله واش ممكن تزودني بهده الكاسيطات الله يحفظك ويحفظ ليك والديك
    > ويحفظلك كل عزيز عليك يارب .هاذ الكاسيطات راهم كانو عندي وكانو عزازن علييّ بزاف..لكن سرقوهم مني وإختفى أثرهم بلا رجعة... لما شفت في صفحتك
    > وقلت لنفسي سأكتب لك عسى أن يجد طلبي عندك قبول وتحقق لي حلم دكريات ضاعت مني بحت عنها ولم
    > أجدها إلا في صفحتك.السي عبدالله أنا مستعد لتنفيد أي أمر تطلبه مني .هل تقبل أخي الكريم
    > أنتظر جوابك الكريم و أنت تأمر أنتظر جوابك إنشاء الله يارب يكون مفرح ،والسلام عليكم