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.


  1. Great work, Tim.

    Zahir's music is so upbeat and as you've mentioned these song's 'call-and-response' and encouraging shouts are what make them very enjoyable.

    Note: I am about to write a short introduction on Gnawa music after I'm done writing the next post on my blog (hopefully, I might finish it today as it contains so many albums and is full of information about Mohammed Abdou and Saudi Arabia. Worthy to mention is that, song #3 was also sung by M. Abdou).

    If you're interested, please let me know how can you help. My suggestion is as follows: you can have your own spot and write an intro/eassy as you see it befitting in terms of length, information, or the direction which you might want to use in writing it. You are free. And, free also to refuse.
    E me @ hythammer at hotmail dot com I.Y.I., Tim.

    Many thanks.


  2. i love doing stuff like that -- making your own perfect tracks. i used to have to join longer tracks of Barrister's classic Nigerian FUJI, back when youtube limited uploads to 10 minutes. And sometimes there'd be a missing little piece in the middle that could only be filled-in via a scratchy record from a blog, etc. Super fun, so thanks for sharing the inside details of your work. I never had to use pitch correction, so that's a new idea for me. Thanks, again...

  3. Hey! great works first of all! I am checking your blog for a second time after my 2nd trip to the beautiful country that is Morocco and its diverse music.
    I have the same tape and can check if its high peached too:)