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.