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.