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.