Thursday, December 19, 2013

Computer woes - meanwhile, other gold abounds

The trusty laptop had a close encounter with a cup of coffee recently, which has taken the wind out of my blogging. Hopefully all will be back to normal soon, 'cause I do have some stuff queued up for y'all. For the moment, though, a blip in the blog...

Meanwhile, there's no shortage of Moroccan goodies appearing in blogistan the last few weeks! Swing by Snap, Crackle & Pop for some Soussi sounds from Raïssa Rkiya Demsiria (as well as a Libyan nationalist concept album from the '70s!).

Then amble over to Bodega Pop for some Gnawa and Soussi sounds, the latter accompanied by this strangely-tinted, Yellow-Submariney image:

Back atcha all real soon, incha'Llah!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Taktouka Jbaliya with Abdelhak Lâaroussi

The last of my Jbala offerings is some relatively trad taktouka jbaliya from Abdelhak Lâaroussi. I say "relatively" because the ensemble does feature a light keyboard bass in addition to the traditional bendir, darbuka, tar, oud, viola and guinbri.

About the genre, Ahmed Aydoun writes that the name taktouka jbaliya, while commonly used, is contested and that purists still prefer the name âita jbaliya. He continues:

"This rather particular âita is placed by its practitioners under the spiritual guidance of the patron saint of the Beni Âros and the Jabal al-Âlam, the [spiritual] pole Mulay Abdessalam Ben Mshish. There is no âita in which he is not cited." (1)

I love the little guinbri. You can see it held by the gentleman at the far left in the photo above. I own one and play it when I have a chance. A violin-playing colleague dubbed it the "plinkophone" because of its distinctive "plink plink plink" timbre.

I also love the loopy 9/8 (3+2+2+2) rhythm (also heard in my previous Jbala posts). In a full performance of taktouka, the 9/8 gives way to a 5/8 section and ultimately ends up in 6/8. You can hear this progression on the Musique du Monde album "Maroc: Taktoka Jabalia", in particular on the track "Aita Jabalia". On my tape, you don't get that progression, but you do get 40 glorious minutes of non-stop 9/8

More love - the Jbala rock the brown jellaba, wearing one sleeve on and one sleeve out. What a great look! 

This tape again comes from my 2001 visit to Tangier. All the Jbala tapes I picked up were issued by companies based in Fes, which is not part of the Jbala region, but is apparently far enough north to be a center for the recording and production of Jbala music. Interestingly, I also picked up a few Riffi tapes on the same trip (coming soon to the blog), and those were all issued by companies based in Nador.

This particular tape was issued by "Disque Les Fêtes de Fes". Can anybody tell me what this logo signifies? It looks like a craftsman's hammer of some kind. I will update this post if I figure it out.

Regarding the artist Abdelhak Lâaroussi, most examples of his music that I find online are in a chaâbi mode, though with a Jbala flavor. Yala has several recent albums of his. I'm happy to be able to show a different side of his work.

Abdelhak Lâaroussi - Taktouka Jbaliya - Moulay Abdeslam (Disque Les Fêtes de Fes AF11)
excerpt from Track 1 (of 4)

Get it all here.

(1) Aydoun, Ahmed. Musiques du Maroc, Casablanca: Editions EDDIF, 1992, pp. 111,  my translation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ashura in Marrakech - Daqqa Marrakchiya

In honor of Ashura, which is celebrated this week, I'm breaking away momentarily from my series of Jbala posts to return to my beloved Marrakech.

Here's a swell tape of daqqa marrakchiya, a fantastic genre performed especially for Ashura, famously in Marrakech (though its roots are apparently in Taroudant).

It's surprisingly difficult to find video examples of it online. The only one I could find is this snippet from the streets of Marrakech, apparently from the Sidi Youssef quarter:

It's performed by large groups of men, most of them with a taârija drum, with one man on a pair of qraqeb. It starts slooooooooooooooow and heavy with looooooong poetic stanzas.  Eventually it builds in speed, the rhythms become less complex, and ends with a raucous, deafening section in good 'old 6/8.

It seems like many Moroccans use the term daqqa marrakchiya to refer to what I knew in Marrakech as dqiqiyya or tkitikat - i.e., men's perussion/party ensembles:

These groups are great fun, but should not be confused with the daqqa I'm presenting here.

Etymological excursion: I'm pretty sure the names of these percussion groups are diminutive forms of the names of other Moroccan genres: dqiqqiya being a diminutive form of daqqa, and tkitikat sounding like a diminutive form of taktouka (about which, more next week).

Back to the real daqqa: In bygone days, each neighborhood in Marrakech had its own daqqa group that would perform all night, outdoors, on the night of Ashura. The rhythm of the long, slow opening section (the âayt), is a lopsided thing. It alternates 3 bangs on the taârija with 4 bangs, and each grouping is separated by a clack of the qarqaba whose delivery is streeeeeeeetched out beyond any reasonable sense of meter. Very striking stuff - check the excerpt below for a bit from the beginning and a bit from the end of the tape.

If you like the sound of this, (and I know you do), try to find a copy of the CD La Daqqa: Tambours sacrés de Marrakech. It's a lovely 62 minute recording (one single track!), with excellent performers.

Dekka de Marrakech: Majmuât ad-daqqa al-marrakchiya under the direction of al Hajj Muhammad Baba
Excerpts from sides 1 and 2

Get it all here.

PS - I love the blue Sawt al Haouz cassette shell:

Not forgetting the logo featuring the Koutoubia:

And the Doctor Who-ish psychedelic j-card design. Nuff said.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ghaita Jbaliya - The Northern Oboes

More sounds from northern Morocco this week. It's Ghaita Jbaliya:
  • ghaita = oboe (shawm, double reed instrument...)
  • Jbaliya = of the Jbala people/region
Oboe and drum ensembles are found all over North Africa - it's a perfect ensemble for outdoors, where the shrill piercing tones of the ghaita (or zorna in Algeria and further east) announce the presence of festivities. The typical accompanying drum is the tbel barrel drum, as shown below. (The bendir pictured on the j-card above seems to be a mistake.)

The Stash has previously featured some ghaita music in a post on Aissawa music here. Ghaita and tbel groups can be found all over Morocco, and the particular music played depends on the surrounding regional traditions. Thus ghaita jbaliya features melodies and rhythms particular to the Jbala region. Dig, for example the characteristic 9/8 rhythmic pattern that opens track 1 (embedded at bottom of page).

Though ghaita jbaliya is a regional folk tradition, it was, curiously, one of the first Moroccan musical genres to be exported and consumed in the West, courtesy of the Master Musicians of Jajouka and the Bryon Gysin/Brian Jones/Rolling Stones connection. (See Philip Schuyler's article "Joujouka/Jajouka/Zahjoukah. Moroccan Music and Euro-American Imagination" for the definitive analysis of that story/phenomenon.)

By the way, if you've wondered about the images of rifle-wielding turbaned horesmen seen on this cassette and others (e.g., here, here, and here), that's a representation of tborida (also called "fantasia"). It's a type of performance that takes place at tribal gatherings (moussem-s), and sometimes at very big weddings or other social gatherings. In my understanding, it stands as a symbol for Moroccan Arab rural-ness.

And lastly, I love the cassette imprint of "Sawt Bouhlal" (the voice of Bouhlal) - Bouhlal is a mountain in the region of Al Hoceima (n the Jbala region, of course).

Mnuâat Ghaita Jbaliya (Sawt Bouhlal 004)
excerpt of Track 1 (of 4)

Get it here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Northern Soul - Hajji Srifi

My stash is stocked mainly with tapes from central Morocco - Marrakech, Beni Mellal and Rabat being the primary triangle points of my Moroccan travels. However, I do have a handful of tapes from northern Morocco. The last time I was there was in 2001, and I tried to pick up things that were unavailable further south. I know much less about the northern artists and traditions than I do about the central and southern ones, so I relied on friendly tape vendors to steer me toward what the north has to offer. I'll do what I can to provide some context for these tapes.

I'll start with a nice tape from the artist Hajji Srifi. According to, he was born in the 1940s, has been recording since as early as the 1970s, and is based in the area of Al Hoceima, on the Mediterranean coast.

The music on this tape sounds to me like chaâbi with a northern, specifically Jbala flair. The term "Jbala" can refer to either the mountainous region of northwest Morocco or to people of the Arabic-speaking tribes of that region.

Most tracks on this tape (except track 6) fit into the basic 6/8 groove structure found across Morocco. And the prominence in the mix of keyboard, violin and percussion set it within a typical chaâbi soundscape. However, a Jbala tinge can be heard through a few sonic markers drawn from a couple of Jbala musical genres: Taqtouqa Jbaliya and Ghaita Jbaliya (more on these in the next few posts).

In the title track (embedded toward the bottom of this post), for example, the opening keyboard timbre mimics that of a ghaita (oboe), such as one would hear in the ghaita jbaliya genre (made famous outside of Morocco by the Master Musicians of Jajouka). The vocal melody of this track reminds me of the mode and contour of taqtouqa jbaliya melodies (see YouTube video below, starting around 2:04).

Elsewhere on the tape, other Jbala signifiers can be heard. The oud and small guinbri (or gnibri) used in taqtouqa jbaliya can be heard here and there. (Listen to the very very beginning of track 4 to hear the high-pitched little guinbri.) And something about Hajji's style of vocal vibrato seems typically Jbala to me. See especially the intro to track 6 to hear this vocal quality. Track 6 finishes out the album in the loopy 9/8 taqtuqa rhythm.

As you can see from the video above, Hajji Srifi performs not only in chaâbi-style but also in more traditional modes (and costumes) than this tape and his suit-and-tie photo alone might suggest. has a large number of his more recent albums streaming and downloadable here. Some are more traditional sounding, others incorporate the trappings of modern chaâbi, But all of them are rooted in that Jbala sound. Moroccan Tape Stash gives a big thumbs to this great sound, and thanks those tape vendors in Tangier for doing me right!

Hajji Srifi - Ghab L-Hbib Âliya (Fassiphone 216)
01) Ghab L-Hbib Âliya

02) Allah Allah Lefki
03) L-Hbib Lli Âsherna
04) Ma Bqat Tiqa
05) Anta Bghiti N'tfarqou
06) Toubou Lillah Toubou

Get it here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moroccan Twist - Abdelwahab Doukkali

Riffing this week on hawglblawg's recent post "Algerian Twist", which gathers some Algerian twist-related singles, I've got an old 45 here Abdelwahab Doukkali. 

Doukkali is one of the leading figures of Moroccan chanson moderne. Singer, composer, oud player, he's responsible for many enduring songs from the '60s up to the present.

This is from pretty early in his career, and is certainly not one of his most memorable pieces, though it is an interesting one. The song is addressed to a woman, asking her not to cut short her hair or dye it to follow trends (la mode). Are the twist beat and choral interjections of the song meant to evoke the modernity that the woman threatens to follow? Or is the juxtaposition meant to be ironic - that the man singing the song warns against this modernity while himself "twisting"? 

Listen to side 1 here:

Get it all here.

PS - I'm a big fan of Doukkali. You can hear a lot of good stuff of his at Yala. And Amazon even has a few albums of his. I'll revisit the stash and see if I have any unavailable goodies to share.

PPS - I picked up this 45 at the fabulous Comptoir Marocain de Distribution de Disques in Casablanca, as did the blogger at iCrates, whose scan of the 45 sleeve I stole for this post (his/her copy was in slightly better shape than mine).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

And the Zaêri Beat Goes On - Shikh Mohammed al Khirani Khribgui

Some more great Âita  Zaêriya for ya, straight outta Khouribga, served up by Production Hicham Atlas. Couldn't find any info on Shikh Mohammed on the interwebs. Nevertheless, these performances sound like seasoned old-school veterans, rocking out Zaêri-style.

I was gonna drop 2 albums on ya. After transferring them both, however, I realized that these two tapes actually included the same recordings with merely differing fade-ins and fade-outs. Track 3 combines pieces from both tapes.

Track 2 (of 5)

Get it all here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

El Madad Ya Rasul Allah - El Haj Muhammad Bouzoubaa

Here's some nice religious chaâbi-amdah for ya from Muhammad Bouzoubaa (b.1940, Fes). Bouzoubaa grew up in the milhun tradition and his chaâbi stylings stay toward the classical Andalusian and milhun end of the spectrum. He's particularly known for his religious odes (amdah), 3 of which are included here. I found this out-of-print (outside of Morocco, at least) Tichkaphone CD in Berkeley!

There's more nice Bouzoubaa over at Yala.
And Toukadime recently uploaded some sweet vintage Bouzoubaa vinyl rips to YouTube.
And head over to Bouzoubaa's Facebook page to find a 2-part video biography (in Arabic) from Moroccan television.

Ramadan Mubarak to those celebrating, and best wishes and blessings to all!

Hajj Muhammad Bouzoubaa - El Madad Ya Rasul Allah

1) El Madad Ya Rasul Allah (excerpt below)

2) Ala M'habtek Ya Rasul Allah
3) Ya Jenna Ya Naïma

Get it here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

More Raucous Âita Zaêriya - El Khirani Charki

You want this tape! Long, sweaty tracks of âita zaêriya, just right for that we-can-do-this-all-night-long summer wedding vibe. The sound quality indicates a professional studio recording, but throughout the whole tape one can hear people having conversations, clapping along, ululating, encouraging the dancers and musicians, dancing on the qaâda perhaps? Maybe it's a good recording from a very rocking wedding? Whatever the source may be, it's a noisy, raucous, lively one that will do you right! Another winner from Production Hicham Atlas.

I don't know anything about the artist El Khirani Charki, though a few clips of his performances are available on YouTube. I picked up the cassette in 2012 in or around Beni Mellal.

By the way, I don't know what is the deal with the nutty taârija player in this video clip. I just saw him on Moroccan TV the other night, doing the same shtick. It's especially weird when, as here, sultry shikhat are vying for one's gaze. Perhaps he is the equivalent of the pickled ginger eaten with sushi to cleanse the (here, visual) palate, making one appreciate the shikhat even more...

El Khirani Charki - El Khadem (Hicham Atlas 1100)
01) El Khadem

02) Track 2
03) Zaêriya

Get it all here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Âita Zaêriya with Shikh al-Moutchou

I've referred to Âita with frequency in my posts, and with good reason. It's among the most important genres of Arab music in Morocco. It's well-loved in its own right and it serves as the basis for much of Moroccan chaâbi music. I wish I could give a better overall description of the genre and its variants. For those interested, I translated below a few paragraphs from Ahmed Aydoun's Musiques du Maroc to give some basic musical dimensions of âita and a few interesting tidbits of information. For a deeper analysis of the aesthetics and powerful association held between âita and regional identity, check out the work of ethnomusicologist Alessandra Ciucci.

Today's post features yet another cassette from the Hicham Atlas imprint, this time featuring a violist called Shikh al-Moutcho. I didn't find much info on him web-wise. lists an Ahmed Al Moucho, but most of the tunes with his name feature the ghaita oboe rather than the viola. (These tracks are worth checking out though - âita with ghaita is pretty unusual!)

The centerpiece of this tape (for me at least) is the 12 minute "Hsab Zaêri". I love pieces like this - short vocal couplets alternate with long passages of doing-it-to-death viola riffing, and are punctuated by syncopated accents on the bendir. In comments on a previous post, Hammer dissertated on âita zaêriya and described the practice called "Hisab Al-Za'ari" as a competition between singers.

(Hammer - hoping you may weigh in with some info on Shikh al-Moutcho - I notice that you mentioned his name in the aforementioned comments - any info is, as always, greatly appreciated!)

Unfortunately the shikhat singers featured on this recording are unidentified, and I can't tell how old these recordings may be. I picked up the tape in 2012 in Kasba Tadla or Beni Mellal. Hope you enjoy, and Happy Father's Day!

01) Ayam Ezzine
02) Bâd Menni
03) Hsab Zaêri

04) Moul al Bar
05) Ghzali Ghzali
06) Wlidi Wlidi

Get it all here.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention - Track 2 "Bâd Menni" features the same melody as Najat Aâtabou's famous "Shouffi Ghirou" (as featured here). I wonder if it's a traditional melody that Najat borrowed or if this track borrows from Najat...


From Ahmed Aydoun's Musiques du Maroc, Casablanca: Editions EDDIF, 1992, pp. 108-109,  my translation:

It is primarily in the plains bordering the Atlantic where al 'âita is most appreciated. Specifically, the genre is practiced in the regions of Shawiya, Dukkala and 'Abda, that is to say, in the Casablanca-Safi axis. Al 'âita is also found in the plains of Z'ayer, in Beni Mellal and in the Hawz, for which variants are named. The term 'âita is also used to refer the song of the Jbala, incorrectly referred to by the name taqtüqa jabaliya. Finally we have found the term in the hadra of the Hmadsha of Essaouira, where it refers simply to the instrumental part that introduces the trance.

Two different interpretations can be made of the word 'âita. According to the first, it would be a derivation of the verb 'ayyat (to call, in dialectical Arabic). According to the second, it would be a deformation of ghayta (folk oboe). We prefer the first version since it is effectively a call - nearly all of the 'âitas begin with the invocation of Allah and the saints. The act of calling has several other connotations - anticipating, searching, asking for inspiration.

Al 'âita takes different qualificative names by region; it is Marsawiya along the coast, Za'riya, Mellaliya and Jabaliya. In addition to these principal variants, there exists at Safi a special 'âita called Haçba, its repertoire limited to several examples of the genre.

With the exception of Za'riya, which is monorhythmic, all of the 'ayût feature changes of rhythm, usually in three progressively faster sections.

The 'ayüt are often sung by a group of mixed men and women. In cases where the latter are absent, one of the men of the group wears women's clothes and imitates women's voice and dance. The 'âita of Wlad Hmar is a good example of this.

During the second half of the 19th century the 'âita had its hours of glory  with the Qaîd 'Îsa ben 'Umâr al 'Abdi who was, it seems, a connoisseur. His house attracted the best musicians and singers whose performances were graciously rewarded.

According to Mohamed Abu Hamid, the 'âita genre grew from its simplest form of expression, al muqlâ' (the distich), to become over time an elaborate composition best exemplified by the Marsawi variant.

The Marsawi is composed of two parts of contrasting rhythm and character. Each part is comprised of strophes (qatibât) linked by cadences and poetic transitions (hatta). The 'âita ends with a sadda, that is, a final cadence.

The first part is slow and is called lafrâsh (literally: the bed, the bottom sheet). It begins with a musical introduction that prepares the entry of singing. Often the introduction is a taqsîm, then an exposition of the sung theme without strict rhythm. The principal phrase of the song is repeated from start to finish; in the second part, it undergoes only small changes.

The fast-paced second section is called ghta (blanket). Here, the rollicking rhythm drives the dance. The latter is regular, calculated - for this reason it is called hsâb (literally: calculation). The youngest of the chikhât performs before the audience sensual dances (play of the belly and hips, undulating and quivering of the body, swinging of the hair…), then the singing restarts with a dialogue between the main chikha and the rest of the chikhat and musicians.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bnate Houara - Yeah!

Ya know 'em, ya love 'em! Here's another vintage cassette of houariyat songs. These are all in the standard 6/8 chaâbi rhythm. None of the mind-warping songs in 7/4 -> 10/8 rhythms, which Alaa Sagid identified as "houari tqil" and "houari khfif" in an earlier houariyat post. Still, the groove is undeniable, and these Marrakchiyat pour some crazy energy into it. And when they shift melodic gears mid-song and soar off in a completely unrelated key (see embedded track at 4:27)...  Yeah!!

By the way, the lovely j-card graphic shows two ladies clapping on the ramparts at Essaouira. I don't think this music is typically found as far west as Essaouira - I always understood it to be centered around Marrakech and the surrounding countryside. The tape itself is produced in Marrakech.

Oh, and if the clapping ladies were actually standing on the ramparts as pictured here, they would be at least 35 feet tall.

Track 2 (of 6)

Get it all here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Abdelaziz Stati - The Heavyweight Champion of the World of the Jarrrrrrrrrra Style

The viola-slinging singer Âbdelaziz Stati has been a big star in Morocco since the mid 1980's. According to Yala's bio, he hails from El Jadida, just south of Casablanca on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. I picked up this tape in 2012, but it looks pretty vintage - I'm guessing late '80s or early '90s.

Stati's brand of chaâbi has always remained close to traditional âita and folk forms and textures, even in times days when rai and synth sounds pervade chaabi-ville. Here's Stati ca. 2009, working it at the humongous Mawazine festival in Rabat:

The name "Stati" apparently comes from the number 6, referring to Stati's left hand, which sports 6 fingers.

The "heavyweight" title of this post comes from the song "Wakel Chareb Na3ess" by Morocco's #1 rock band Hoba Hoba Spirit, which features Stati. Jarra comes from the word jarr (to pull), and refers to the way the viola is played - upright, with the bow pulled percussively.

Stati Âbdelaziz - Sawt Chaouia cassette
01) Wahda fat'ha lik
02) Al-wasiya ma darti-hash
03) Sidi Âllal ben Âbdellah
04) Gherrebouk
05) Hebb Shaâbi

Get it all here.
Lots of Stati available at Amazon or at Yala.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Best Ever Najat Aâtabou Tape!

This is my favorite album by one of my favorite artists. If you're new to Najat, check here for my intro to her and her work. If you know her already, you know about her stunning voice, her groundbreaking songwriting, and the killer Middle Atlas grooves she rides.

This is, I believe, her second album, and it's a classic. The four great songs are performed in long versions, with no-nonsense arrangements, allowing singer and oud player to stretch out, ride the groove, and build intensity. The big hit was "Shoufi Ghirou", and fantastic it is. My fave track, though is the lead-off "Ach Dart Ana" ("What Did I Do?") - Mother, what did I do? By God, I haven't grown tired of you. This separation was brought upon us by the Lord.

I would have posted this earlier, but I've managed to lose the j-card somewhere in the stash, and it's a beautiful one. I kept hoping it would turn up, but to no avail. The only image I could find of it was on a rip of the cassette posted on Daily Motion:

The  inside of the j-card features a lovely photo of a heartbroken Najat (with modern coif and dress) embracing a woman in a traditional jellaba. The embraced woman is shown from behind, so we don't see her face. It always seemed to me that the photo was meant to go with the song "Ach Dart Ana", posing a hope for reconciliation that isn't found in the song itself. If I ever find that j-card, I'll be sure to scan it for ya. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these tunes as much as I do!

01) Ash Dart Ana
02) Shoufi Ghirou
03) Lin Hroubi
04) Ezzaida Melami

Get 'em all here.
More Najat in the stash here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Old School Âbidat Errma

Here's some raw, old-school âbidat errma. Unlike the tapes I posted last week, which featured young lads riding the revival in the early 2000's, this much older recording features some real oldsters! I hear some metal percussion here, but it doesn't sound like scissors to me - I can't hear the distinctive opening and closing sound. On the other hand, the j-card does feature a gentleman playing the scissors (lower right corner).

Some of these songs are also performed as part of the âita repertiore. You can hear a longer version of Âda ya L-Khayl performed by the incomparable Fatna Bent El Houcine & Ouled Ben Aguida here.

02) Al-Âloua

05) Al-Ghaba
06) Âda ya L-Khayl

Grab it all here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Got A Fever, And The Only Prescription is More Scissors! - Âbidat Errma

Âbidat Errma - a traditional rural genre, found around the region of Khouribga. Similar in some respects to âita - some of its poetry is very old, often features a series of different lead singers over the course of a performance, singers also dance. Unlike âita, it is a male genre and traditionally features only percussion - bendir-s, ta'rija-s and, distinctively, a sawed-off pair of scissors beaten with a metal rod.

I gotta say, I love the scissors! What a great musical instrument - unlike some Moroccan metal percussion instruments (e.g., the naqqus or qarqaba), with the scissors (mqess) one can modulate the timbre by opening and closing the shears! Here's some old-school âbidat errma - check 4:45 forward for some good scissors action:

In the early years of the last decade, âbidat errma experienced a new popularity. I'm not sure how that happened - it may have been due to television exposure featuring some young performers. Here's a recent clip from Moroccan TV, featuring some of the entertaining, pantomime dancing that makes âbidat errma so well-loved.

Whatever the reason may have been, young groups of âbidat errma performers began to proliferate. Here's a tape from around 2004 out of Beni Mellal (on the label Ain Asserdoun Disque!) from a group called Noujoum Al-Asala Al-Âmriya:

Track 8 (of 8)
Get it all here.

As I complained in a previous post, despite the renewed popularity of âbidat errma, it seems that it has quickly been subsumed into another flavor of chaâbi by the incorporation of viola (and sometimes other full-band instruments like guitar and keyboard), at least in recordings.  It makes for a pretty fun flavor of chaâbi - you still get a lot of call-response vocal, a battery of bendir-s and ta'rija-s, and of course the iconic scissors. But I was sad last summer to find not a single cassette of âbidat errma without a viola there to chaâbi-fy the mix.

For good measure, here's a chaâbi-fied âbidat errma tape from the group Majmuât Essayada. I think I got this back in 2006.  It is indeed good fun, and features the perennial fave "Baghi Naâmmer Eddar". Still, I don't think it needs the viola to make it rock.

Majmuât Essayada - Nashat Errma (Edition Safi 0502)
01 Baghi Naâmmer Eddar - Essahra Bladna
02 Âlash Tsalou
03 L-Bnat Berhou
04 Hadi âla Loulid

05 Wah A Baba - Wahya Loulad - Snah Esserbat

Get it here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Maâlem Abdelkader Amlil - Gnawa from Rabat

I've been continuing to explore the offerings over at GnawaMaVie's channel on YouTube. There are a few recordings from the Rabat-based maâlem Abdelkader Amlil. Like the musicians I mentioned in my recent post about GnawaMaVie, Maâlem Abdelkader isn't often heard on commercial recordings outside of Morocco. 

I put together a playlist of about 2-1/2 hours of music from one lila performance, very nicely recorded. Many of the songs feature the fantastic Marrakchi singer Saîd Damir a.k.a. "Saghot", (He takes over the lead singing in clip number 4 of the playlist.) It's a striking performance - many of the pieces are played at a very slow tempo, allowing the singing to shine.

I have one cassette of Maâlem Abdelkader in the stash. It dates from around 2001 and features two long tracks. Hope you enjoy!

01) Shorfa (excerpt below)

02) Hamdouchia

Get it all here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Khouribga Champions - Auto-Tune the Shikhat

The Big 5 - or at least the biggest 5 on Edition Motawakil. "Al-Botooula Al Khribguia" ("The Khouriba Champions" or "Tournament") is a compilation tape featuring some down-home chaâbi with a healthy dose of âita zaêriya. From left to right on the j-card:
  • Mbarek Elmeskini (who was also heard on this other compilation)
  • either Lârbi Briouika or Saleh Al Mzabi
  • Al Âlami
  • Al Hirch
  • Abderrahim El Meskini
Auto-tuned vocals abound on many of these tracks. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know. But I'm digging some of the auto-tuned shikhat (check the Track 4 sample below!) and spoken intros (Track 1).

I couldn't match all of the tracks to the titles on the j-card and vice versa - here's my best guess:

01) Wellahi Ma Sme7 Lik - unknown
02) Az-Zaêri - Lârbi Briouika
03) Hmeqtini Ya Lkas - Al-Âlami
04) Az-Zaêri - Mbark Al Meskini

05) Min Ghirek Enti Mandir Hbib - unknown
06) Az-Zaêri - Saleh Al Mzabi
07) Bkatni Hubbi - Al Hirch
08) Âoujouk As'hab Al Euro - Mbark Al Meskini
09) Kan Jat Yal Demâa - Saleh Al Mzabi
10) Az-Zaêri - Abderrahim Al Meskini

Get it all here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

100% Tamghra! - Soussi Wedding Pop

Yep, its 100% Tamghra, according to the j-card! Tamghra means "wedding" in Tachelhit. The Arabic tag on the left side reads something like "Songs for the sweetest events and Amazigh weddings."

The music is pretty poppy, but many of the timbres are drawn from long-standing Soussi Berber traditions including ahwach (âwad flutes and punchy bendir-s, and punctuations of interlocking clapping) as well as the amarg tradition of the rwayes musicians (namely, the scratchy horsehair rrbab fiddle and the naqqus metal percussion instrument). The electric guitar sometimes sounds like the small Berber guinbri, and sometimes plays righteous, slippery, pentatonic runs.

The musical group is called "Tisslatin N'Ait Baamran" (The Brides of Ait Baâmran). Here's a swell videoclip of the group in action, with wedding ambiance in abundance:

Ait Baâmran is a group tribes located around the area of Sidi Ifni, south of Agadir and Tiznit. The j-card also gives the name "Habiba", and a web search reveals that the singer is known more fully as Habiba Tabaamrant. (Etymological note: Berber nouns become feminine with the addition of "t" at the beginning and end of the word. Thus, "Tabaâmrant" is the feminine of "Baâmran".)

The singer on this tape should not be confused with the very famous singer Fatima Tabaamrant, who sings in the more classic style of the rwais. Habiba works more in a pop mode, as evidenced by this highly entertaining sketch/videoclip:

Track 4 (of 4)

Get it all here.



Gary at Bodega Pop also posted some nice Soussi pop earlier this weekend. And if you like the sound of brides, Brian at Awesome Tapes shared a tape from another Brides group a while back.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

More Gnawa lila audio at GnawaMaVie

If you're a fan of Gnawa music, it's definitely worth keeping an eye on GnawaMaVie's YouTube channel. There are hours and hours of tunes over there, and many of them seem to be taken from private recordings made at lila ceremonies.

Since YouTube clips are limited in duration, these recordings are necessarily broken up into pieces. I like to listen in sequence, so I've put together playlists for a couple of recordings. Above is a set of recordings featuring the Maâlem Abdelkbir "Kbiber" Benselloum of Marrakech. Below is another playlist, featuring a recording of Maâlem Said Oughassal of Casablanca, who I think lives in Spain.

Both Kbiber and Said are great, longtime maâlems, and neither of them are heard much on CDs or commercial cassettes. Particularly interesting to Gnawa aficionados is the last clip of Kbiber's playlist, which features a couple of songs from the rarely-heard Sebtyin suite.

Kick back and enjoy 3 hours from the deep of the Gnawa night!

Oh - and don't miss the fantastic 3 hour recording of Mustapha Baqbou audio from GnawaMaVie which I wrote about in a previous post.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ahwach al-Âwad - Moroccan Fife and Drum

Another ahwach cassette for ya this week. As I mentioned in my last post, there are many different regional forms of ahwach. I don't know exactly where this one comes from, but the cassette production house if in Agadir. Unlike last week's offering, which was heavy on the vocal solos, this ahwach tape features no singing whatsoever. Instead, this music is driven by a pair of riffy, high-pitched âwad flutes. And as with other ahwach-s, you get a slew of punchy bendir-s, plus lots of rhythmic footstepping, handclapping, and raucous exclamations. I hear some sort of naqqus (metal ideophone) here as well.

In some parts of the world, fife and drum ensembles are a favored type of outdoor music for parades and processions. Ahigh-pitched flute is an ideal instrument to cut through the onslaught of loud drums in an outdoor setting. In other locales, the preferred instrument for this setting is the oboe/shawm - another shrill sound that can be heard outdoors above a battery of drums.

In Morocco, the ghaita (oboe) and tbel (barrel drum) are the typical instruments for an outdoor procession. While the ghaita is sufficiently shrill and piercing for outdoor venues, flutes in Morocco tend to be low-pitched and breathy - the gasba flutes played by Jilala musicians are a good example.

The âwad flutes heard on this tape, however, have that clear high sound that is perfect for the drum-heavy outdoor ahwach. The pentatonic, repeating melodies and shrill sound of these âwad tunes remind me of American blues fife and drum tunes, though the Berber rhythms are a little more angular than the rolling blues rhythms:

Ahwach al-Âwad - Ûmar Dahouss: Alhan Amazighia Jdida wa Khalda (Berber tunes, New and Immortal)

Track 4 (of five)

Get it all here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ahwach from Tafraout

Here's a swell recording of ahwach, the communal song-dance-drum tradition of the Tachelhit-speaking Imazighen/Berbers of southern Morocco. Rhythms and forms change from region to region and tribe to tribe. The ensembles can be huge - there are 30 people pictured on this j-card. It's a big, rhythmic sound!

Since the group's name refers to it, I assume they come from the city of Tafraout. As Mr. Tear points out in comments to another ahwach post at Awesome Tapes from Africa, the rock pictured here (and on Awesome Tapes' cassette) is called Le Chapeau de Napoléon and is just outside of Tafraout. He also mentioned that Tafraout is host to the annual Tifawin Festival. This cassette's j-card includes the logo from that festival, but it doesn't sound to me like a live recording.

I've never been down to that area of Morocco, and my only experience of live ahwach has been at the annual Festival National des Arts Populaires in Marrakech ("the folklore festival"), where 20 groups each get a 5-minute performance slot. It's an impressive show, but you know you're only getting the highlight reel, as a typical ahwach performance goes on much longer. Someday I hope I'll have the chance to see a performance at a wedding or other community event rather than on a festival stage. Here's a short clip of this group's singer in such a performance:

Ahwach Argan Tafraout - Othman Azolid & Al Hajj Âabd o Tata - Ttamza Music cassette

Track 3 (of 3) - excerpt

Get it all here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hamadsha Information and Jilala Tunes

The most popular post on this blog to date is my post from February 2012 about the Hamadsha and Lalla Aisha, featuring the music of Abderrahim Amrani. I was delighted to receive this message last week from Chris Witulski, an ethnomusicologist currently doing research in Fez. Mr. Amrani saw my blog post and wanted to share some information about Lalla Aisha for the followers of this blog! Many thanks to Chris and to Si Abderrahim for their interest and generosity!



I am a researcher working with the Gnawa, Hamadsha, and Aissawa here in Fez. Amrani has been a good friend of mine for a few years from now, and he just sent me a link to this page with a request. First, I appreciate the recording. Even he has trouble finding some of these older tapes of himself now. He did not realize that you posted a link to his own opinions about Aisha, but he asked that I translate a part of a recent conversation between us regarding who Aisha is into English for your page. He cites four Aishas, three of whom were different living figures that should not be compounded or confused. This, of course, runs counter to many contemporary opinions about the mysterious Aisha that is so present in Moroccan life.

So please pardon the long comment that is to follow. Hopefully you or your readers find it to be an interesting perspective. We were speaking of Sidi Dghughi's trip to see Sultan Bil-Khir at the request of Sidi Ali Bin Hamdush, during which the king gave Dghughi Aisha as a gift for Sidi Ali. According to Amrani, we do not know if his intention was that Aisha be Sidi Ali's wife or servant.

"For six months, Sidi Ahmed traveled to return to Sidi Ali with Ayisha. When he arrived to the place where Sidi Ali had been sitting, he found his master dead under the tree. Sidi Ahmed began to strike his head. In the poem "Al-Warshan" (the carrier pigeon) we hear the story. Then this Aisha, now without Sidi Ali there to marry or serve, began to do miracles of healing. She healed those who would come from afar: the desert, Algeria, Tunisia, and other cities across Morocco. (In Tunisia, there is still an active hamadsha zawiya that celebrates the hamadsha mussem in the city of Um Al-'Arais with Moroccan clothing. She saw many people before suddenly disappearing. No one knew what happened to her or where she was. Her cave, however, remained and became a pilgrimage site just downhill from the zawiya of Sidi Ali Bin Hamdush. Despite the fact that she was no longer there, her cavern became a place where one could bring a sacrifice, light candles, and be healed. This practice entered the tradition, as people would continue to visit and live within the proximity of her past and continuing miracles. This is Aisha Sudaniyya. She was the one who came from the Sudan, from King Bil-Khir, to Sidi Ali Bin Hamdush.

There is a second Aisha: Aisha Bahariyya (of the ocean). She came to Azemmour from Baghdad. Now people go to Azemmour (near El-Jadida) to see her and visit her qubba. Mulay Bu Sha'i al Rddad is the wali of Azemmour, just as we have Moulay Idriss here in Fez. He studied in Baghdad, where she saw him, fell in love, and followed him here (to Morocco). But he was like Sidi Ali, tsawwuf. She came to the edge of the ocean and slept there. The women from here came to know her after hearing her story, that she followed him here out of love. [He did not bring her. She came on her own.] She asked about him when she arrived to learn that he had given up women, cigarettes, alcohol, etc (لقاتو زهد). She had no house, no friends or family. All the woman knew of the story of her love for him. The waves took her [she was sleeping on the beach] and killed her. They buried her body near the coast and now people in love [especially women] visit her marabout in order to write their names and those of their beloved on the walls of the building in henna. She blesses them with requited love. There is a well nearby with very cold water. She is not a jinn, but was a woman.

The third Aisha was Aisha Qadissa from Portugal (not Qandisha, a mispronunciation of her Portugese name). She was a beautiful woman. The Portuguese colonizers killed her husband. She would make herself available to any man who wanted her [Portuguese soldiers], and over the course of an evening, she would kill him, avenging her husband's death. She killed 500 soldiers. ("She was like Zorro.") She was not a jinn.

But those here, the Gnawa, Jbaliyya... shame on them [hashuma alihum]. They create the atmosphere that she is a jinn. Aisha was one of Mohammed's women, how could there be a jinn with the same name? The first two of these examples were holy [ربنية, Sudaniyya and Bahriyya] and the third is powerful [قوية, Qadissa].

There is a fourth Aisha. That's the life that we live, you and me and everyone."

Thank you for reading, and allowing him to speak to his music a bit more directly (albeit translated).

 Christopher Witulski


Unfortunately I have no more Hamadsha tapes in my stash (that I can share, at least...). I was going to share an Aissawa tape that has some Gnawa songs on it (to further exemplify the borrowing and sharing of songs between the Moroccan trance music repertoires. But then when googling around to find more information about the performer, Al-Hajj Said Al-Guissi I found that the tape has been issued on CD and is available on iTunes as "L'Art Aïssawa, Vol. 2". (Though the cassette j-card pictured here is much more glorious!)

So instead, here's a vintage Jilala cassette on Tichkaphone. I'm pretty sure I bought this one sealed, but the lyrics (what I can make out of them) don't seem to have any relationship to the song titles on the j-card. Unusual that one of the vocalists is female!

Track 2 (of 4)

Get it all here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hi Y'all - Back with More Marrakchi Party Tunes - Si Mohamed Aguir

Happy 2013 to all. Sorry for the long absence - tape deck needed a little maintenance, and I guess I needed a little break too. Thanks for the comments and well wishes in the interim!

Still have a bunch of tapes from my summer trip to get digitized and out to ya. For now, though, here's a couple of oldies from deep in the stash. These both feature my fave oud man out of Marrakech, Hamid Zahir, but also highlight a particular member of his group, Si Mohamed Aguir.

The first tape, pictured above, is credited to Alfarqat Almarrakchiya (The Marrakchi Ensemble). It's basically the Hamid Zahir group, but featuring some different lead singers. I'm pretty sure that the singer on some of these tracks is Si Mohamed Aguir, and I think he's the one pictured on the cassette j-card. The only picture I could find online is from the sleeve of the 45 seen in the YouTube clip below. Does it look like the same guy to you? It sure sounds like him:

The cassette contains some tracks that appear on other cassettes credited to Hamid Zahir (#2 and #3 specifically). You'll still want to hear this album, though, if only for the insanely catchy singalong "Lebniya Llah Ihdik" (preview below).

The second cassette, pictured below, features tracks recorded live by Hamid Zahir and troupe (somewhere outside of Morocco, if I'm hearing the introductory comments to track 5 correctly).

This set features Si Mohamed Aguir singing on track 5. Zahir introduces Si Mohamed as the singer (and, at the end of the song, dancer). You'll hear Aguir's prominent rhythmic footstamping on several tracks. I believe Si Mohamed is the heavy set gentleman clapping, dancing and singing back-up in the following YouTube clip.

Even when he's not singing lead, he's a huge part of the atmosphere of Zahir's performances - adding the percussive clapping, cadential call-outs, and syncopated footwork. The songs he sings are more ironic and comedic than than those sung by Zahir. I don't know if he's still with us, but his good-time vibe is still in effect when the Marrakchi groove hits!

Any corrections or additional info about Si Mohamed Aguir would be greatly appreciated!!

Audio transfer notes: I did a time-pitch correction on track 4 of "Alfarqat Almarrakchi". It always seemed to run too fast to me - now the oud is in tune with that of the other tracks on the tape, though this track was certainly recorded at a different session. The Koutoubiaphone tape seems to me to run on the slow side, but I didn't adjust anything on it.

Discographic note: The Zahir live tape says "Koutoubiaphone" on the j-card, but the cassette shell bears the Tichkaphone imprint. They are one and the same company.

Tagnawit note: Track 2 of the Koutoubiaphone tape contains 2 Gnawa-related songs. "Hada Wa'du Meskin" takes lyrics from a Gnawa song but gives them a different (but still pentatonic) melody. "Lagnawi" refers to the Gnawa melk Sidi Mimoun. However I believe this song has its origins in the Aissawa repertoire - I've heard the melody played at an Aissawa ceremony, but it's not typically played at Gnawa ceremonies.

Alfarqat Almarrakchia - Editions Hassania EH1097
1) Lebniya Llah Ihdik

2) A Bgha Itjewwej
3) Kulshi Msha Ghafel
4) Farkh Lehmam (or so it says on the j-card - the only refrain I hear sung refers to "Al-ghaba")

Hamid Zahir - H. Azzahir (live) Koutoubiaphone/Tichkaphone CKTP5006
1) Lalla Souad
2) Hada Wa'du Meskin - Lagnawi
3) Lil Lil Ya Sidi Âamara
4) Lghorba
5) Ma Bghit Zuwwej 

And of course there's more Hamid Zahir stashed away here and here.