Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm All About That Zaêriya

I noticed recently that an old post of mine on Shikh El Houcine el Khouribgui was getting a lot of hits recently. I also noticed that Moroccan TV (الاولى) had broadcast a documentary on Shikh el Houcine. (I wandered into the living room one evening and found his scratchy viola and distinctive face coming thru the TV!) I wonder if the broadcast led to web searches that led to the stash!

I was able to find the documentary on YouTube. It's all in Moroccan Arabic, including interviews with musicians that worked with Shikh El Houcine, but there are some nice performance clips as well that non-Arabic speakers may enjoy. No live clips of Shikh El Houcine, but clips of other artists performing songs associated with him, including Ould Mbarek Khribgui, Abderrahim Meskini (heard in the stash here), and Stati Abdelaziz.

I thought I had another tape of Shikh El Houcine in the stash, but alas, there were no more to be found. I did, however, find a fine tape by Shikh Mohammed al Khirani Khribgui, who was featured in a post about a year back. This tape, again from the fabulous Production Hicham El Atlas, is a great recording featuring a side-long zaêri performance, couplets following couplets, with slow, groovy riffing alternating with ta'rija-punctuated rhythmic rave-ups for shimmying. I never get tired of this stuff. Hope you enjoy it too!

PS - thanks to those who have taken the time to leave comments. I apologize for not responding recently. I'm hoping to sit down soon and write back - I do appreciate the encouragement, feedback, and conversation!

El Khirani Mohamed - Production Hicham El Atlas cassette 2001
Track 2 (excerpt) of 4

Get it all here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

El Khalfi Bouchaib - Country vs. Auto-Tune

Here's another tape from my summer 2012 trip. I believe I picked this up in Beni Mellal, though the longstanding Sawt Ennachat label is out of Casablanca. The music sounds Mellali to me - heavy on the zaêriya.

On first listen, this sounded to me like pretty standard early 21st century countrified chaabi. However, a couple of cool things stood out on additional listens:
  • The rhythm is pretty kicking, though it stays pretty mechanical throughout. However, the darbuka player gets pretty OUT in some places, embellishing all over the place. (See track 3.)
  • The viola is not auto-tuned, and it hits a few unusual notes/intervals that sound great in contrast to the otherwise perfect pitches. (See track 4)
  • Bouchaib's country vocal phrasing and embellishment often seem to subvert the auto-tune on his voice. The shikha, on the other hand, is auto-tuned to the max. (See tracks 2 and 6)
  • Track 7 ditches the auto-tune for some straight-up pitch-non-perfect zaêri goodness! 

Mastering note: Track 4 fades out quickly at the end of side 1 of my tape. I was able to find an mp3 of the full track over at and grafted it onto the end of my version. So the last 6 minutes of track 4 comes from that source. (Excuse the obnoxious voiceover at 6:30.)

El Khalfi Bouchaib - Ezzine Ihebbel (Sawt Ennachat cassette)
01) Bin Ezzriba u Lhendia
02) Ezzaêri
03) Ba3 Btata
04) Ezzaêri
05) El Âgra
06) Ezzine Ihebbel
07) Ennegara
Get it all here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Âita with Ghaita? - Hassan al Faryati

Here's an odd tape I picked up in Beni Mellal in 1992. It's a ghaita ensemble, but one that seems unusual to me for a number of reasons.

The ghaita is a loud piercing oboe/shawm, typically used in outdoor processions, accompanied by tbola (barrel drums). Outdoor procession music usually incorporates any and all popular songs. Tbel players may sing, but singing isn't usually that important. The main purpose of these groups is to be heard outdoors (thus the loud ghaita) and to provide tunes that keep people moving and dancing in the streets. (We've got some northern tbel and ghaita elsewhere in the Stash.)

In some ways, the music on this tape sounds like a Beni Mellal wedding procession - the tunes are familiar and the ghaita-led ensemble strings them together one after another. Also, the sketchy production values in the recording remind me of some of my own field recordings of street processions - bad balance between instruments, ambient noise, tape speeding up and slowing down, (OK, I never actually had that problem), etc.

In other ways, though, this differs from a typical tbel and ghaita ensemble. First, there are no tbola drums, only some bnader (frame drums). The groups I've seen around Beni Mellal usually use a combination of tbola and bnader, but usually there will be at least one tbel. Second, this recording seems to feature a designated group of female singers. This is quite unusual. Women sometimes do sing in wedding processions, but I've only ever seen that happen when no professional musical group is hired for the procession, and guests and family do the drumming and singing. Here the women, of course, are part of the professional ensemble hired for the recording. And Track 5 sounds to me like an âita zaêriya, so these could actually be shikhat.

It's a strange combination. Âita is a pretty far cry (ha ha) from tbel and ghaita processional music. But here, you basically have what could be an âita/chaâbi group with the viola being replaced by the ghaita.

The only information I found online about the artist, Hassan al Faryati, is a listing for his performance at the Aita Festival in Asfi in 2008. He is listed on a program of âita haouziya, and the listing states that he is from Kelâat Es-Sraghna (between Beni Mellal and Marrakech).

I don't know if al Faryati is a ghaita player or if he's a drummer. I believe I bought 2 tapes by this artist, but only one appears to remain, and I'm not sure whether it belongs to the j-card pictured above or the one below. At any rate, enjoy this oddity from the ragged corners of the stash.


Hassan al Faryati (Edition al Khair cassette)
Track 3 (of 7)

Get it all here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd was the first nationally renowned Chleuh (Soussi Berber) poet and musician. Since his death nearly 70 years ago, his compositions have constantly remained in the repertoire of the rwaïs. Here's a cassette compilation of some of his recordings, released originally on 78RPM records.

The photo on the j-card appears in the 1933 book Corpus de Musique Marocaine: Fascicule II - Musique et danses berbere du Pays Chleuh by Chottin. The full photo is a favorite of mine:

"The raïs Belaïd improvises a poem. In front of him, on the ground, his compositions are scattered. Behind him, a dancer, standing, holds a book full of other poems."

Here is some info on his life and work, translated from Mohamed Ameskane's Chansons Maghréines:
"Emblematic and essential figure of the Amazigh amarg [art song tradition], Haj Belaïd is to Moroccan Berber song what Mohamed Abdelwahab is to Arabic song. His timeless refrains have been reprised, since the thirties, by generations of Rwayes such as Rkia Damsiria, Amentag, Amouri Mbarek, by the groups Izenzaren, Ousman, Oudaden, not to mention the new scene with, among others, Amarg Fusion.

"His recordings, the documents of his fabulous destiny, and his photos are very rare. The troubadour of the Souss was born in the 19th century, between 1870 and 1875, at Anou n Adou, in the area of Tiznit. Coming from a modest family, he lost his father at an early age. Soon he would leave Koranic school, where his mother had enrolled him, to earn a crust of bread and to help his brothers. As a shepherd, he traveled the areas of Ida Obaâkil and Anzi, accompanied by his inseparable flute.

"He recounts that he dilligently frequented the Mellah of Tahala, in the Tafraoute region, where he learned music among the Judeo-Berber community of that place. The intervention of the Cheikh R'ma of Tazeroualt, the Cherif Sidi Mohamed Ousaleh, was decisive in his life and career. Haj Belaid joined his band as a flutist, was introduced to the l’outar and the ribab. Thereafter, he started his own company with Mohamed Rais Boudrâa Tazeroualti, Moulay Ali Souiri and Mbarek Boulahcen. In their company, he roamed the country like the medieval troubadours, performing for great political, religious, and business personalities. Much appreciated, his passages were run. His themes, his incomparable ribab playing, and his bewitching voice made women cry and lulled generations of music lovers.

"An author, improvising his refrains, a songwriter and performer, Haj Belaid sang on a number of themes. In "Fars", "Tadouat d’lklam", "Ribab", "Ouar laman", "Igh Istara Oudar", and "Ika isbar yan", he evokes his suffering with poetry, wandering and traveling. In “L’jouhr", "Ajdig nimi n'trga", "Adbib", "Talb," "Atbir oumlil “, it is courtly love. Feminine beauty is celebrated in very modest terms and subtle metaphors. With "Ch'rab” and “Taroudant" social criticism is put forward. Haj Belaid also played an undeniable role as a historian of everyday life, in recording events that shook the region and the innovations introduced by Western civilization, in the songs “L’makina ousatiam","Tiznit Oulbacha", and "Chifour outoumoubil." Haj Belaid also leaves us anthology pieces about his travels such as "Amoudou L’hij", describing his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1910, “Amoudou n'taliouine" visiting the Pasha Haj Thami Glaoui, and his famous "Amoudou n'bariz." The latter piece refers to a visit of King Mohammed V to Paris. Although the great Rais did not make the trip, he sings a tribute to the City of Lights:
Our sul illa ch'ka gh'lberr wala gh'waman
There are no more troubles, neither on earth nor at sea
Wanna add our iran amoudou yakka laâdourat
He who wishes to travel has no more excuses
Mkar tid ournki, lakhbar'ns lan darnigh
Although we have not been, we have news of him
Koulou matidikan our iaâwid blah ghar'lkhir
Those who have visited say only good things
"In the twilight of his life, "Al Dalail Khairat" and the ribab slung over his shoulder, the eternal wanderer consulted the doctors of the faith on the legality of making commerce of his art. After a positive response, he said, "People sell what they have; so do I." Haj Belaid only began recording in 1929. Listening to him singing, at the age of 70, "Tachirguid", "Zeroualia", "Tazeroualt" "Ouar lman", "Tagujist" and "Toumoubil”, released by Gramophone, one can only imagine the subtleties of his voice when he was young. What a pity!"
This compliation includes two types of compositions. Some pieces are unmetered, poetic declamations ("Tagzirt", "Bariz", and "Alhaj") while the others are metered and include choral refrains. Oddly, tracks 1 and 10 begin with an announcement in Arabic along the lines of "Amarg Bariz, Rais Lhaj Belaïd and his group, in the presence of Ustad Muhammad Abdel Wahab", though neither of these songs are in fact "Bariz". Apparently the great Egyptian performer and composer Muhammad Abdel Wahab was in the studio when Lhaj Belaïd recorded these sides, and was quite impressed at Belaïd's ability to improvise verses.

Raïs Lhaj Belaïd Volume 2 (Casa Music cassette)
01) Tagzirt pt. 1
02) Tagzirt pt. 2
03) Bariz pt. 1
04) Bariz pt. 2
05) Lmakina pt. 1

06) Lmakina pt. 2
07) Adbir Oumlil
08) Alhaj pt. 1
09) Alhaj pt. 2
10) Tadouat Da Lqlim pt. 1
11) Tadouat Da Lqlim pt. 2
12) Aka Isber Yan
13) Attaleb
14) Mqar Tla Touga Arafoud

Get it all here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya and her Âita Big Band

Here's another vintage album from âita pioneer L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya. These are some classic âita marsawiya and chaâbi tunes here, the sort you would hear typically with a small ensemble (oud, viola, derbuka, bendir) such as that of Bouchaib el Bidaoui. Hamdaouya performs them here with a larger ensemble including several violas, flute, and tar (tambourine). Interesting to hear the âita-style viola riffing with multiple violas, and the nice looooooose heterophony and prominent tambourine give these recordings an almost Arab-Andalusian âla vibe in places. And on top of that, it also manages to rock!

Some of these songs can be heard by other performers elsewhere in the Stash. "Ma Cheftou Leghzal" appears by Bouchaib el Bidaoui here. And "Elghaba" appears (in a version about 7 times faster) by Hamid Zahir and Alfarqat Almarrakchiya here. Enjoy!

L'Hajja L'Hamdaouya - TCK647
01 Errabta 1

02 Errabta 2
03 Essa'diya
04 Elghaba
05 Ma Cheftou Leghzal

Get it all here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eine Kleine Nacht-Âita - a little âita for the heart

Ramadan Mubarak, and prayers for the bereaved in Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, the relatives of those lost over the skies of Ukraine, and all those suffering around our blue warming sphere.

Another âita tape, however great, may seem a distraction in these troubled days. I'm offering it in hopes that it warms the heart and reaffirms humanity for a moment.

It's another vintage recording of Shikh El Houcine El Khouribgui, who has been featured here before, and it's on the great label Production Hicham El Atlas. Plucked new off the shelf in 2012 around Beni Mellal, it's definitely a reissue of an older recording. The tape begins by announcing "Istwanat Markikphone toukadime Shikh El Houcine el Khouribui" (Markikphone Records presents...). The great website has this image of a cassette reissue of Shikh El Houcine on Markikphone (I assume it's a reissue because the j-card reads in Arabic "the late Shikh El Houcine...):

The centerpiece of the album is the opening piece "Dami", a long form âita with a great 10/8 rhythmic cycle. The j-card lists the titles "Lli Bgha Hbibou" and "Lehsab", but neither track 2 nor 3 sound like other versions of those songs that I know. I labeled track 2 "Nghadrou Kissane" because it shares lyrics with Bouchaib el Bidaoui's track of the same name, and I left track 3 as "Lli Bgha Hbibou", cause I hear the word habibi a lot. Whatever the correct titles may be, I hope you enjoy the old scratchy groove!

Chikh L'Houcine Lakhribgui - Dami (Production Hicham Al Atlas 17)
1) Dami (excerpt below)

2) Nghadrou Kissane
3) Lli Bgha Hbibou
4) Taârida

Get it here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Moroccan Field Recordings at Pitt Rivers Museum

Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum offers online samples from ethnographic field recordings in their collection. Among these are some recordings from a 1961 Oxford University expedition to Morocco.

The Aït Hdidou are Tamazight speakers from the south-eastern High Atlas. The tribe are perhaps most well known for their participation in the Brides festival at Imilchil. Tracks 1-7 feature variously vocals only (1), vocals and drum (5-6), and vocals drum and violin (2-4). Tracks 5-6 sound like an ahaidous, the Tamazight equivalent of the Tachelhit ahwach.

Tracks 7-9 are street recordings from Rabat. Track 7 is listed as an Ait Hadiddu beggar, but I'm guessing that it actually is from Rabat and from the same date as tracks 8-9. The beggar sings in Arabic and mentions l-âwacher (the ten days preceding a holiday), as do the singers in track 9, and the catalog numbers indicate these tracks come from the same tape reel. I'm pretty sure I can hear a guinbri being thumped in the first half of track 9, suggesting that it's a Gnawi singing. He's invoking the saint Moulay Brahim, but it's not a melody I recognize. If this was indeed recorded in August 1961, the holiday referred to would be mawlid an-nabi - the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which occurred around 8/24 that year.

Track 10 is some ghaita and tbel processional music from the city of Rich - back at the eastern edges of the High Atlas.

Thanks to Phong Tran for letting me know about this! It's great that some sound archives are making old and rare field recordings available to at least sample online. There are some Moroccan recordings available in the Lomax collection, as I wrote about here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jil Jilala And His Orchestra (Live)

One more Jil Jilala tape for ya - I dubbed this from someone else's copy years ago, and I don't recall seeing any cover art. (The photo above is quite unrelated to my tape, but is pretty cool - see below for more info.)

The tape is from a live performance, and the featured songs suggest that it dates from the late '80s/early '90s (the Baqbou period). The group is augmented by keyboard strings and horn section. (Or is it an actual horn section? Hard to tell...) A bit unusual, but not without its charm. (Hammer, if you're reading, do you know anything about this release? I noticed that these tracks were part of your Jil Jilala mega-post some time back.)

There have been other Jil Jilala fusion things, especially in the last few years. In 2007, they followed in the footsteps of fellow Moroccan folk-revival group Lemchaheb and collaborated on an album with the German rock group Dissidenten. The Lemchaheb collaboration Sahara Elektrik and the Jil Jilala collaboration Tanger Sessions share the annoying practice of renaming actual songs of the Moroccan groups with random titles in English. Here, for example is "Morock'n Roll", which is actually the well-known Jil Jilala song Leklam Lemrassa3:

More reverent (perhaps) is a 2010 collaboration with a European group called The Ghiwanyat Orchestra:


As I look back at my recent Jil Jilala posts, I see that I've presented some interesting information and shared some very good music, but didn't really cover what would be considered "The Best Of" Jil Jilala, or even the most well known of their songs. Such are the pitfalls of restricting the blog to music in my collection that's not available elsewhere. I'd urge you to check out these albums to fill in more of their groundbreaking 1970s work:

Chamaa: Early tracks, including the title cut ("The Candle"), with which Jil Jilala achieved the amazing feat of making centuries-old melhun poetry and melodies popular among 1970s Moroccan youth! Amazon or Yala.

Aghani al Khalida: Compilation of a number of their early sides, including the group's most enduring song, Leklam Lemrassa3. (These versions are, like those in my last post, very likely 1980s re-recordings of early singles.) Snap Crackle & Pop or Yala.

Laayoune Ainya: Title track is a well loved nationalist anthem commemorating the Green March of 1975. Snap Crackle & Pop shared this a while back with a nice historical summary and link to a fab vintage videoclip.

Jil Jilala - And His Orchestra - Live
01 Dakh Biya Amrek
02 Ya Men Narjak

03 Darat Bina Eddoura - Ila daq el hal
04 Hada Wa'dek Ya Meskin
05 Naditak Falghonna

Get it all here.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Guinbri in Jil Jilala before Baqbou

Early 1980's Jil Jilala personnel. 
Clockwise from top left: Moulay Tahar Asbahani, Mohamed Derhem, Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri, Hassan Miftah, Abdelkrim Elkasbaji

I know the guinbti is not the most important thing to focus on when considering the work of the venerable Moroccan band Jil Jilala. But we're pretty mgennwi here at Moroccan Tape Stash, addicted to the guinbri. So here are some notes on the use of the guinbri in Jil Jilala before Mustapha Baqbou joined the group.

Jil Jilala has had a guinbri player from its very inception in 1972. Founding member Hamid Zoughi relates that when the group was first coming together in Casablanca, they wanted to have a guinbri player join the group. So they drove to Marrakech looking for Mustapha Baqbou. Finding that he was in Essaouira, they then drove to Essaouira. But their friends in Essaouira told them to check out a different, local guinbri player, Abderrahmane Paco. They hit it off with Paco, and Paco hit the road with them to Casablanca.

I assume the earliest recordings of the group feature Paco - he's pictured on the sleeve for the single of "Lklam Lmrassa3" above - but I don't hear any guinbri on the recording. I've heard a couple times the story that Paco left Jil Jilala in the middle of a recording session, after getting into an argument about the rhythm of the song they were recording.

Of course, Paco's story continues when he joins Nass el Ghiwane. I don't know why Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri, the left-haded guinbri player who was in the initial lineup of Nass el Ghiwane, decided to leave that group for Jil Jilala, but it seemed to work out well for all. Here's a very early Nass el Ghiwane concert featuring Tahiri:

One huge difference between Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala is the instrumentation and texture they used. Nass el Ghiwane tended to use the same instrumentation on most songs: bendir, tam-tam, snitra (banjo) and guinbri (plus the gwal, while Boujmiî was still with the group). Jil Jilala, on the other hand, used many different combinations of stringed instruments and percussion in their many recordings and performances. Not to mention the presence of a female singer, Sakina Safadi, in many of their 1970s recordings.

So when Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri joined Jil Jilala, he was not a full-time guinbri player. In videos from his tenure in the group, he is usually featured playing ta'rija or bendir, as in the clip below - a live performance from Kuwait. Tahiri is the one in the light blue vest, singing the solo verses in this version of "Allah ya Moulana", a song made famous by Nass el Ghiwane.

The typical Jil Jilala song from this period features one stringed instrument (a banjo or bouzouki), and some combination of percussion instruments (bendir, ta'rija, tam-tam, or congas). Now and then, Tahiri plays the guinbri, but not very often on the recordings I've heard.

The last album to feature Tahiri (prior to the 1996 reunion album), according to Smagal is from 1984, entitled "Dawiweh". I haven't found the album, but I did come across an amazing video clip of the title song. The instrumentation is an unusual, shimmery combination of 3 stringed instruments - Tahiri on guinbri, Miftah on bouzouki, and Asbahani on gnibri (something I'd never seen him play before) - plus Derhem on congas and Elkasbaji on bendir. It's a lovely piece:

Tahiri's playing is great, and very different somehow from Paco's and Mustapha Baqbou's. I suppose it's because he wasn't brought up (as far as I've heard) in the Gnawa tradition. I wonder how he learned to play guinbri back in the days before it was widely heard outside of Gnawa circles - it sometimes sounds like he's translating techniques from other stringed instruments (oud, perhaps) to the guinbri.

The only tape I have from Tahiri's tenure in Jil Jilala (whose tracks aren't up on Amazon) is this album on Edition Hassania. The catalog number suggest that it dates from the early 1980s, but many of these songs are from much earlier. (I believe that Nass el Ghiwane similarly "re-recorded their old hits" for an album on Edition Hassania around this time.) The song "Al-âr A Bouya" dates from the group's earliest days (B-side of the 45 pictured above), but is re-recorded here featuring a prominent guinbri.

Jil Jilala - Rih L-Bareh (Edition Hassania EH 1274)
01 Baba Mektoubi
02 Al-âr A Bouya

03 Goulou Lkhlili
04 Rih L-Bareh
05 Errifia
06 Jilala

Get it here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

More thoughts on Mustapha Baqbou in Jil Jilala

I've been revisiting the Jil Jilala albums featuring the Gnawi mâalem Mustapha Baqbou. It's an interesting group of recording.

Baqbou joined the group in the mid-1980s following the departure of Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri (who was originally with Nass el Ghiwane in the early '70s before Paco joined that group). Despite playing guinbri in Nass el Ghiwane, Tahiri was not a specialist in Gnawa music but rather in melhun, a stately old Moroccan sung poetry tradition. With Jil Jilala, Tahiri brought brought a modern, youthful exuberance to old melhun classics like "Chamâa" and "Lotfya", endearing these songs to a new, young audience.

After Tahiri's departure, the group, naturally, took a different direction, with the addition of Mustapha Baqbou. Baqbou had performed in the Netherlands-based folk-revival band Tiq Maya, but was also deeply rooted in the Gnawa ritual tradition. In the 1980s-90s, Mustapha appeared on at least the following albums:
  • Hada Wa'dek ya Meskine (Disques Gam GB.85.86) Moroccan Tape Stash or Yala
  • Lqalb Lmeskun (Disques Gam GB.87.88) pictured above/see below
  • Nour al Anwar (Sawt Errbi' cassette) Awesome Tapes
  • Kouna wa Kentou (Edition Sonya Disque E.S.D. 303) [c. 1993] Yala
  • La Taiesse (Edition Sonya Disque E.S.D. 500) [c. 1994] Yala or Amazon
I featured "Hada Wa'dek ya Meskine" in a recent post and I called it "the most Gnawa-influenced" Jil Jilala album. Today's offering, "Lqalb Lmeskun", is perhaps the most Ghiwani of their albums. That is, it comes closest (to my ear) to the sound and feel of Nass el Ghiwane. That ain't necessarily a bad thing - it's a great sound. But it does seem an odd direction for Jil Jilala to take so many years into the its history, and at a time when Nass el Ghiwane's style was going out of fashion. On the other hand, when you have a great Gnawi guinbri player in the group, why wouldn't you use that to its greatest effect and play up the Gnawa influence as Nass el Ghiwane did.

Apparently, these albums were not very successful commercially, and the group changed their approach for the final 3 albums listed above. The most comprehensive and concise biography I could find on the group (in English) was in a post by Smangal at Regarding this period, he writes:

"In a desperate move to salvage their name, they tried to modernize their sound a little bit by introducing a drum machine to play all their percussive sounds. As a consequence, albums La Tayess and Nour el Anouar sounded processed and mechanical, even if they had good song writing. They tried to follow the trends but failed to gain any noticeable attention, and this made Mohamed Derhem amicably leave the band in 1995."

The use of the drum machine is pretty weird. And even weirder that they would use a synthesized bass to play lines clearly designed for the guinbri, as here, in "Dib el Ghaba", a track from "La Taiesse":

Weird, but it does have a certain charm, and it clearly represents a (perhaps jarring) break from the folky/Ghiwani sound. You can hear it on the latter 3 albums listed above, as well as on Mohamed Derhem's solo album. The album Nour al Anwar in particular features some great songs.

While their albums featured these mechanical sounds, I believe their live performances always featured the organic, acoustic instruments of the ensemble. Check out this live version of Dib el Ghaba - BAQBOU'S GUINBRI RIFFING IS UNBELIEVABLY GROOVY:

My copy of Lqalb Lmeskun is a cassette dub of someone else's cassette. I don't have the album art, so am using Yala's copy of the art from the CD.

Jil Jilala - Lqalb Lmeskun (Disques Gam GB.87.88)
01 Lqalb Lmeskun
02 El Laymin (excerpt below)

03 Massab
04 Qallat Zadi

Get it all here.
And again, if you want more pristine (though at lower bitrate) digital versions of these tunes, Yala's got 'em here

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mohamed Derhem (of Jil Jilala) - 1st (and only?) solo album

Composer, singer, percussionist, founding member of Jil Jilala, Mohamed Derhem left the group for a solo career in the mid 1990s. His intense, possessed presence onstage and his strong, impassioned singing made Derhem always appear to me as the pivotal figure in the group, though I don't know enough about the history and internal dynamics of the group to comment deeply on this point.

Derhem (at the congas here), is the vocal soloist in the second half of this song, which was featured in our previous post:

I don't remember exactly when I got this tape. It appears to date from the late 1990s or early 2000s. Sonically it shares much with Jil Jilala albums of the 1980s/90s that flirted interestingly with a mechanical rhythmic feel (like this). The main differences are the absence of group vocals and the use of synthesized horns. This horn sound was ubiquitous in 1990s Moroccan pop chaâbi and rai music, and it might have been a recipe for disaster to combine it with the nominally "folk/roots" sounds that drove Jil Jilala. Happily, though, the combination of complex rhythms, strong melodies, and Derhem's fiery vocal creates a compelling tension that, to my ear, works nicely.

A web search didn't turn up any other solo albums by Derhem after this one, though he has participated in a few one-off singles over the years, notably this collaboration with rapper Elam Jay in 2007, that also features Gnawi mâllem and Jil Jilala member Mustapha Baqbou:

Though his musical output seems to be sporadic, Derhem maintains a high profile via Moroccan television, where he has been serving as a jury member on Studio 2M, the Moroccan equivalent of American Idol.

Mohamed Derhem (ESD T.C. 1175)
01 Al Matla
02 Ahya Hadak
03 Om Al Karam

04 Danaden
05 Ana Bnadem
06 Ila Dak el Hal

The Stash has it all here.
Or, if you want more pristine (though at lower bitrate) digital versions of these tunes, Yala's got 'em here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Most Gnawa-influenced Jil Jilala Tape

This is a gorgeous album by Jil Jilala, dating, I believe, from the mid 1980s.

Jil Jilala have featured a guinbri player at various times in their history. Paco Abderrahmane and Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri were group members in the early days of the 1970s, and Mustapha Baqbou has been a member at various times since the 1980s. Despite this fact, Jil Jilala have, to my ear, have rarely drawn overt inspiration from Gnawa melodies, songs, riffs or rhythms. This is quite different from the approach of Nass el Ghiwane in their Paco years, when they drew liberally from the Gnawa repertoire.

This album seems to the be exception. I call it their most Gnawa-influenced tape, though even here the influence is mostly subtle. The title track, "Hada Wa'dek Ya Meskine" opens with some solo guinbri riffing. The song's title translates as something like "That's your lot, poor guy", and refers to the Gnawa song "Hada Wa'do Meskine" (That's his lot, poor guy), versions of which we've featured here and here. And when the rhythm shifts at 8:18, the melody also echoes that of the Gnawa original. "Ya Men Narjak" features Gnawa-styled guinbri riffing and rhythm. And the tracks on side 2 feature guinbri lines more Gnawa-ish than on other Jil Jilala albums featuring Mustapha (such as this and this at, and this at Awesome Tapes.

For some great vintage Jil Jilala, check out the posts at Snap, Crackle & Pop. And for some detailed history of the group, check Hammer's megapost at The Audiotopia.

Actually, I just found another Jil Jilala album at Yala, which does feature some very Gnawa moments.

Mastering note: I grafted the first couple measures of "Sfina", which were missing from my tape, from Yala's version.

Jil Jilala - Hada Wa'dek Ya Meskin (Disques Gam GB.85.86)
01 Hada Wa'dek Ya Meskin

02 Ya Men Narjak
03 Sfina
04 Koun m3a Allah

Get it all here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rouicha - Ayam Essghur Zina

Here's a nice album from the late, sorely-missed Rouicha. I picked this up in 2012 - The Tichkaphone catalog number seems to indicate (from my estimate) that it dates from the mid-1990s.

I particularly like the opening lotar solo on track 2 - Rouicha has such a fluid, rapid, percussive strum, it sounds almost flamenco! (Or maybe it's just that the melody sounds like the Concierto de Aranjuez...) At any rate, enjoy!

We've got more Rouicha in the stash here and here. And Yala has scads of Rouicha available for listening, though not this particular album.

Rouicha Mohamed - Tichkaphone TCK 1241
Ayam Essghur Zina ( أيام الصغر زينة)

01 Ayam Essghur Zina
02 Suwwelt Rasi Lyoum (excerpt below)
03 Feen Tghib Lahbib
04 Khellit Sammu7 Same7ni

Get it here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Groupe Iâachaken (ft. Omar Sayed) Vol. 2&3 - Who's Gonna Pull the Cart?

Two more lovely tapes today from Groupe Iâachaken. Like their first album, Iâachaken's second and third albums feature the participation of Nass el Ghiwane's Omar Sayed. I wish I could decode the image of the donkey cart on the 2 accompanying j-cards. On 1993's Magarn Ifassen, Omar Sayed is pulling the entire group, who sits on the cart. On 1994's Mani Nhra, the roles are reversed, and Groupe Iâachaken is pulling him, though apparently Omar achieves this turnaround by dangling a television in front of them. Make of it what you will...

These albums were released on Edition Sonya Disque, a label out of Casablanca whose tapes I first saw in 1993 and who released a lot of music in the '90s and beyond. Nass el Ghiwane released albums on the label and Paco released solo albums on it. Najat Aatabou put out some albums with the label as well.

Magarn Ifassen features qarqaba on several tracks, ramping up the group's generally laid-back feel a bit. The last tune on Mani Nhra, unlike anything else by the group, features ambient keyboard accompanying Omar Sayed's opening mawwal . It's a strange combination - the folk-revival acoustic instruments with the modern sheen of a synthesizer, but it works nicely here. (Much better than it does on a bizarre Nass el-Ghiwane tape I have...). And Omar's mawwal is an interesting one - the vocal ornamentations sound Indian in places. Quite lovely.

By the way, it's nice to hear Omar singing and reciting in Tachelhit. Nass el Ghiwane had never recorded a song in Berber.  News stories last summer indicated that a new album would soon be released, featuring their first-ever song in Berber. However, I've seen no further information about the album. Has anybody heard any news about the album's delay?

From the j-card of Magarn Ifassen:
Lyrics: Lamghari Hamid
Music: Farouq Saîd
Arrangement: Omar Sayed

Groupe Iâachaken - Magarn Ifassen (Edition Sonya Disque 325)
01) Magarn Ifassen (ft. Omar Sayed)
02) Gar Amoudi
03) Tifawin
04) Timila
   Get it here.

Groupe Iâachaken - Mani Nhra (E.S.D. 490)
01) Mani Nhra (ft. Omar Sayed)
02) Our Nsendem Yan
03) Issegueassn
04) Illi Hna (ft. Omar Sayed)
    Get it here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Groupe Iâachaken ft. Omar Sayed

The group Iâachaken was a Nass-el-Ghiwane-style folk revival band in the early 1990s. I don't think they ever achieved the notoriety of other groups who worked in this style and sung in Tachelhit, such as Izenzaren or Oudaden (whom you can check out over at Snap Crackle & Pop), but they did release at least 3 lovely albums.

I saw Iâachaken perform live in June 1992 at the Palais Badiî, Marrakech, as part of the Festival Maroc Arts 92. Their song "Arnsghal" wiggled its way into my head, so I sought out this tape. It's one of the catchiest songs I've heard!

Omar Sayed of Nass el Ghiwane (pictured floating above the band in the j-card photo) had some relationship with the group. The first tune on the tape features him reciting poetry and performing a mawwal (lyric-less vocal improvisation). Subsequent albums from Iâachaken also mention and picture him. I think he may have served as a producer or musical director. I've got a couple other tapes of the group, which I'll try to share soon.

By the way, I wonder if there were groups working in the Ghiwane style that sang in the Riffi or Middle Atlas Berber dialects (Tariffit and Tamazight). I've only ever heard groups singing in Tachelhit. Please comment if you know of any!

The guinbri player from Iâachaken, Radouane Raifak (lower left on the j-card), later joined Nass el Ghiwane after the 1995 departure of Paco Abderrahmane.

Said Iâachaken (top left in the group photo) appears to have remained active as well, releasing an album in 2008, which you can hear over at Yala.

And finally, the hook from "Arnasghal" was so stuck in my head back in the day that I wrote some English lyrics to sing to it. This evolution was continued by my dear friend and musical co-conspirator Raul Rothblatt, who arranged and transformed the tune, and added it to the repertoire of his Afro-Hungarian fusion band Dallam-Dougou in New York as "On My Way (Oy Yoy Yoy)", which you can hear on the group's album New Destiny. From guinbri and banjo to cello and balafon!

Groupe Iâachaken (featuring Omar Sayed) - مجموعة إعشاقن بمشاركة عمر السيد
01) Han Tsemer Louqt (ft. Omar Sayed)
02) Taghit
03) snippet
04) Arnsghal
05) Mata Khda Ijraan

Get it here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Daleks vs Gnawa in the Time Vortex (apologies to Muluk el Hwa)

Daleks battle Gnawa folk revivalists Muluk el Hawa for galactic domination on the battlefield of audio tape in the late '80s or early '90s. Although Daleks get the final word in the fade-out of side 2, Gnawa, by expressing their devotion to the Prophet and calling on the saints, avoid extermination and ultimately win out. Gnawa go on to get their own festival in Essaouira in 1998. Daleks must wait until 2005 to re-invade world consciousness with the return of Doctor Who to the BBC airwaves. Yes, Gnawa and Daleks both live to battle another day.

Which is to say, this is a very nice tape of traditional Gnawa songs by the band Muluk el Hwa, but it happens to be marred (or enhanced, depending on your taste) by the dissolving out of and into 1:35 of strange, beautiful and menacing audio distortion at the beginning of side 1 and the end of side 2.

Enjoy.  Enjoy.  E...  Ex..  EXTERMINATE!!

Muluk el Hwa (SL384)
01 Âli (=Yomala)
02 Laghmami (=Baba Lghmami -> Siyaf)
03 Zid el Mal
04 Allah Allah Moulana (=Khali Mbara Meskin)
05 Ahayo (excerpt below)

06 Baniya (=Ouled Bambara -> Baniya)

Get it all here.

And if you need more Dalek sounds:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tamazight Twofer - Middle Atlas Violas

We love dem scratchy violas here at Moroccan Tape Stash! Usually, we like 'em served them up with some shikhat in old-school âita fashion. But great fiddlin' exists in Berber traditions as well. Here are two tapes of viola-driven ensembles, picked up in Beni Mellal 20 years apart.

Prelude spiel and questions about the viola in Moroccan ensembles: The European viola seems to have existed in North Africa for many many years. A couple of centuries, I'd guess. I don't know if it replaced indigenous bowed instruments in folk performance, or if it carved out its own place. Two Moroccan "art music" traditions - Arab-Andalusian âla and Soussi Berber amarg (music/song of the rwayes) - feature indigenous bowed instruments, both called rrbab, but completely different in construction and sound. The lone rebab in Arab Andalusian orchestras was joined (some would say overwhelmed) years ago by an entire section of violas. (I personally like the sound of the string section in that music.) The Soussi rrbab, on the other hand, seems to have retained its place as the sole bowed instrument in Tachelhit music traditions - even modern synth pop like this.

I don't know of any indigenous fiddles out of the Middle Atlas Berber (Tamazight) areas. If they did exist, they seem to have been completely replaced by the European viola. The iconic indigenous stringed instrument for the area is the plucked lotar, most famously played by Rouicha. The rhythmic instrument of choice in the region is the bendir, heard in everything from communal ahaidous song/dance performances to izlan sung poetry to the latest synth-pop. Yet violas do abound...

Our first tape is from Mohamed Alqat (or Mohamed Qat), on the label Edition al Khair out of Beni Mellal (j-card picture above). I picked this up in Beni Mellal in 1992. The ensemble sounds like viola, oud, and a pair of bendir-s.

The use of the oud, that most Arab of instruments, seems representative of the relative fluidity between Middle Atlas Arab and Berber musical styles and traditions. Many performers in the region double in Arab and Berber music. Rouicha and Najat Aatabou both became national starts through recordings in Arabic. Even Hadda Ouakki, perhaps the most famous "traditional" Tamazight singer in Morocco, grew up performing both Berber song and Arabic âita.

This tape has a very country feel to it, and is not too far removed from âita zaêriya of the neighboring regions.

The one videoclip I found of Mohamed Qat features an ensemble with both viola and lotar:

Alqat Muhammad wal Majmuâa (Édition al Khair 55)
Track 1 (excerpt) of 4
Get it all here.

Today's second tape is from Abdelâziz Ahouzar. Yala's biography page says he's from the area of Khenifra and has been active since the 1980's. I picked up this tape in Beni Mellal in 2012.

Both tapes feature Tamazight song with men and women alternating sung verses/refrains, violas leading the ensembles, and prominent bendir. The similarity ends there, however.

Ahouzar's music has a very urban, chaâbi feel to it. Indeed, Ahouzar's catalogue, lots of which you can hear over at Yala Ournia, contains Arabic chaâbi albums in addition to offerings in Tamazight. Ahouzar's viola riffs and instrumental bridges are right out of the chaâbi playbook.

Although the bendir-s are prominently featured in the mix, Ahouzar's rhythm section features a drum kit and/or darbuka as well, adding some chaâbi propulsion. And the keyboard bass and comping give this tape a very chaâbi texture.

Some differences between the two tapes stem from the 20-year difference between them. The faux-live-audience heard at the beginning of tracks 1-4 is something that started appearing in chaâbi recordings about 10 years ago - I first remember hearing these in Daoudi's recordings. And of course, the auto-tuned voices throughout the tape give this a contemporary flavor too. I like the way it sounds on this album - the high-pitched women's auto-tuned quarter tone pitches on track 2 are fantastic!

Discographic note: This album of Ahouzar, as well as most of those featured at Yala, are released on a label called Ahouzar Phone, out of Azrou. Is this Abdelâziz' own label? Why is there a picture of a lion's face in the company logo? I don't know, but would love to find out.

Here's Abdelaziz Ahouzar at the gynormous Mawazine festival in Rabat, 2010. Like the clip of Mohamed Qat above, the ensemble here features a lotar:

Amazon has an mp3 album of Ahouzar - a steal at $2.99. Plus there's loads of his stuff over at Yala Ournia.

Ahouzar Phone présente Abdelâziz Ahouzar (Ahouzar Phone 38/11)
01 Ibeddel Wawaal
02 Isouri Yâdil Ughrib
03 Ilinou Ilinou (excerpt below)

04 Merched Ihdi Moulana
05 Haidous

Get it all here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Brothers Batma (file under Massnawa?)

Massnawa was one of the more successful groups that followed in the wake of Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala. According to their biography at Yala Ournia, they formed in 1980 and gained initial successes in 1981 with the songs "Âoudi Lazrqaq" and "Hemmady".

Brothers Rachid (j-card upper left) and Hamid Batma (upper right) were original members of the group Massnawa, both leaving after 1989. Both eventually joined Nass el Ghiwane - Rachid in the late 1990s, replacing his late brother Larbi on tam-tam and vocals, and Hamid a few years later, playing guinbri in Paco's spot.

Today's album is credited to "The Batma Brothers: Rachid al-Massnawi and Hamid", thus making explicit reference to the former's association with the group Massnawa. The lyrics and music on the album are written by another Batma brother, the late Mohammed, longtime member of the group Lemchaheb. I believe Mohammed is pictured in the photo at bottom left on the j-card.

Further, the j-card makes reference to the Massnawa songs "Moussem Essiyda", Âoudi Lazrqaq" and "Hemmady. I can't quite figure out what is meant by these references - perhaps it means that Batma was the author of these songs as well?

The title track is called "Rjou' Hammadi" - the return of Hammadi, and the final line of the j-card reads "for you, part 2". I assume that this means the title track is meant as a continuation of the story told in the original "Hemmady" track.

These are nice long tracks, rooted in âita melodies and forms, with deep poetic resonances. What I've heard by Massnawa is similar in nature - you can hear lots of good Massnawa over at Yala Ournia.

Al Ikhwan Batma - Rjou' Hammadi
1) Rjou' Hammadi
2) Baba Khyar

3) Khelli flousek fjibek
4) Darit âlik

Get it all here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

More Riffi Riffs - Mimoun Ousaid

Our final Riffi tape post is an album by Mimoun Ousaid, who is based in Nador. He has been composing, performing, and recording since the early 1970's. Many photos and videoclips on the web feature him playing an oud, though I don't hear any oud on this cassette. (A large black bird is pictured in the top right corner of the j-card, and it looks  flying away with the oud... symbolic?) Many interviewees in this odd promotional documentary testify to the beauty and quality of his lyrics.

Texturally, this album features a palate of musical timbres that, to my ear, sounds closer to mainstream North African orchestrated popular music than the other Riffi tapes I posted. Synthesized sounds include strings, qanun (zither), and accordion.

Rhythmically, Track 1 is the only piece whose rhythm sounds like the standard Riffi rhythm heard on my other Riffi tapes. The other songs map to typical Maghrebi 2/4 and 6/8 structures, except for track 4, which has a Middle Eastern 2/4 feel.

Note that the cassette shell and j-card use Spanish instead of the French seen on most Moroccan cassettes - a legacy of the Spanish colonial presence in northern Morocco.

And once again,  cassette company logos!

Disco Melilla Présenta Mimon Osaid (2000)
1) Temsaman Jari Doura
2) Arahad Enhara w Tjar Tiwousha
3) Hjegh Timour

4) Asber Yahanjar
5) Men Zidham Zemaregh
6) Urzough Ghesâd Inou

Get it all here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Riffi Beat - Najmat Errif

Here's some more Riffi song. I originally thought this tape, from Y2K, was an anonymous Riffi album - the title "Najmat Errif" could be translated as "the Star of the Rif". But now I wonder if, in fact, the singer's name is Najma.

The singer in this video clip may be the same artist. The extreme auto-tune makes it difficult to say. The woman pictured on the j-card above (who I always thought was another model) does bear some resemblance to the singer in the video:

Unlike the synth-pop of the video, the 8 songs of this tape use the simple, traditional instrumentation of bendir, gasba (flute), handclapping and vocals. Most of the tunes (including the excerpt below) use the same Riffi rhythm that dominated my last post. But there are a couple of tunes with different, intriguing rhythms featured here. Hope you enjoy!

Atlas Music Présente Najmat Errif
Excerpt of Track 3 (of 8)

Get it all here.