Thursday, December 24, 2015

Houssa Ahbar 97

Here's some late '90s Middle Atlas Amazigh viola-driven pop music. On the spectrum between the two Amazigh viola tapes I shared on this post last year, this falls closer to the earlier, folkier, acoustic end.

I couldn't find out much online about Houssa Ahbar (or Ahbbar, not to be confused with the prolific Houssa 46). This tape predates anything of his I found online. The j-card bills him as "The Star of Khenifra", implying that he comes from the same city as Rouicha.

Houssa appears to remain active via recordings and live performances. You can find some recent albums of his over at Interesting to compare the sound of these newer albums to the one offered here. Production values for Middle Atlas popular music have sure changed since the late '90s. No autotune, no keyboard, no lotar. Just the viola, bendir, men's and women's voices, and what sounds like a darbuka added to the percussion section.

Iconographic query: Here is the logo for the label Ain Asserdoun Disque. "Ain Asserdoun" is the name of the lovely spring up the mountain above Beni Mellal. The word "Asserdoun" means "mule" in Tamazight, and "Ain" means "spring" or, literally, "eye". So Ain Asserdoun could be translated as The Mule Spring or the Mule's Eye. So can anyone explain to me what is depicted in this logo?

Houssa Ahbar - New 97 (Ain Asserdoun Disque cassette 51)
Excerpt from Track 4 (of 6)

Get it all here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mohamed Amrrakchi - Amarg Fusion, 90s style

Here's a well-loved cassette from my first trip to Marrakech in 1992. The j-card went missing years ago, but I did manage to scribble "Mohamed Marrakchi" on the box. Preliminary googling only resulted in references to an Arabic singer in Fessi chaabi style:

This was a far cry from the Soussi Berber rrbab-driven sounds on my old tape. Some additional googling turned up a better result, using the more Berber-ish spelling "Amrrakchi":

Blogger Ourchifali, who has several posts including lyrics of Mohamed Amrrakchi as well as this great photo here tags these posts with the term "Amarg Fusion". While nowhere near as fusion-y as music from the 2000s by the actual group Amarg Fusion, the electric guitar and drum kit do give the music a bit of what, at the time, was a modern edge. I love the punchy sound added by the kit and guitar. To my ear, they complement rather than undercut the banjo and rrbab. And the melodies are insidiously catchy. Here's some video footage of Amrrakchi with this sort of ensemble:

Mohammed Amrrakchi appears to be the brother of the more well-known Houcine Amrrakchi, who was featured some time ago over at the defunct-but-not-forgotten Snap Crackle and Pop blog.

Mohamed Amrrakchi - Sawt al Ahbab cassette (1992)
Track 1 (of 6) 

Get 'em all here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mustapha Oumguil Twofer - Amazigh Album and Darija Disque

Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, et al. Wishing relief to those mourning, scared, suffering. Music blogging may not count for much in the big picture, but if it brings some smiles and spreads a little cross-cultural grooving, it's a positive activity.

Here's a pair of albums from violist Mustapha Oumguil. A prolific artist, Oumguil has recorded extensively, singing in both Moroccan Arabic (darija) and Central Atlas Tamazight. He hails from El Hajeb (between Meknes and Azrou), as reflected in the name of his cassette label, Tasjilat el Hajeb (El Hajeb Recordings).

This is music for shimmying and shaking in a Middle Atlas sort of way. Check the dancing ladies in the concert footage below - hips don't lie, and Oumghil keeps 'em gyrating all night long. Thousands of Moroccans agree, as evidenced by his appearance at the huge Mawazine festival in Rabat this year:

This is 21st century chaâbi, keyboard-heavy and auto-tuned, but with enough local flavor to keep it countrified. This can be heard in melodies themselves, especially those of the Tamazight language songs. The always-prominent bendir frame drums also keep that Middle Atlas feel prominent.

The Tamazight album comes from a CD that passed through my house earlier this week. It had no artwork, only the name of Oumguil and the title "Tarbat Ighoudan" (a song that is featured in the concert video above).  The Arabic tape is one that I picked up in Beni Mellal in 2012. If you want more Oumguil, there are loads of other Arabic albums at Yala and Amazigh albums at IzlanZik. There's even a $2 album over at Amazon! And check out this this post from last year featuring Abdelâziz Ahouzar, an artist working in a vein similar to Oumguil.

Mustapha Oumghil - Tarbat Ighoudan (CD, 2007)
Track 3 (of 4)


Mustapha Oumghil - Lghaleb Allah ya Bent Ennass (Tasjilat el Hajeb cassette, 2012)
01 Lghaleb Allah ya Bent Ennass
02 Tekmi Garou ou Chicha
03 Talian Ghadrouni b S7ab
04 De7hki ou Tmedghi fel Meska
05 Siri Siri Ghir Nsay
06 Zaêri

Get 'em all here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Shikh al Moutchou - Jaîdan

More of that good âita zaêriya from Shikh el Moutchou. Check here for an earlier post with some info about him (courtesy of Hammer's comments) and about the âita genre (courtesy of Ahmed Aydoun's book). And check below for a sample. Grab the whole thing to hear the bitchin' 9/8 opening track. It's on Production Hicham al Atlas, so you know it's rocks!

Shikh al Moutchou and Ibrahim - Jaîdan (Hicham al Atlas 52/10)
01 Jaîdan
02 Zaêri
03 Saken
04 Ya Chabba Ya Khumriya
05 Alawah Alawah
06 Ben Mousa Saken

Get it here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Al Hadri Hamid - Non Stop Soussiya

Here's a tape from Meknassi mâllem Hamid al-Hadri. Another tape of his, available in the Stash here, features songs from the opening Ouled Bambara section of the Gnawi lila ceremony. This tape features songs from the very end of the ceremony.

The tape opens with "Lalla Malika", part of the suite of Yellow songs/spirits from the end of the trance phase of the lila. al-Hadri then segues directly into the Soussiya 'popular' repertoire with which Gnawa typically close the night-long ceremony. (I wrote a little bit on Soussiya songs in this early blog post.) And he keeps going, non-stop, for the rest of the album, which fades out at the end of Face B.

This is a nice and unusual tape of Soussiya songs. In performance, Soussiya songs are typically given over to dancing, and are usually pretty raucous. Their light-hearted, fun nature feels like a collective sigh of relief and celebration from musicians, participants and spectators, coming after a long night of plumbing the depths and dreads of the Gnawa palette of colors, spirits and grooves. So it's unusual here that once "Lalla Malika" is finished and we move into Soussiya proper, the qraqeb metal percussion devices drop away, leaving just the guinbri, clapping and vocals. In my experience in Marrakech, the qraqeb get LOUDER during the Soussiya, since more people tend to get up and dance at that point, and they want that driving rhythm that the qraqeb provide. Maybe it's a Meknes thing for the qraqeb to drop out. Or just a quirk of this recording. At any rate, the singing is easy to hear and understand, for a change, so it's nice to get a good earful of these fun songs.

Al Hadri Hamid - Tahiri Disque 103

Excerpt from Track 2 (of 2)

Get it all here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Awad Mtougha - More of That Down Home Moroccan Fife & Drum

Here's some more of that good âwad-driven ahwach music. Âwad are the high-pitched flutes seen above, Mtougha (or Mtouga) is the area of Morocco from which this particular ahwach style appears to originate, and ahwach is the communal Berber song-dance-singing-drumming genre that differs from region to region in Tachelhit-speaking areas of Morocco.

Here's a bit of a staged performance of the Mtouga ahwach. In addition to the âwad flutes and bendir frame drums, you can see (or at least hear) the tam-tam or tbilat (pair of small kettle drums) and naqqus (struck metal idiophone). And dig the stepping, clapping, and shoulder-shimmying!

Track 5 of this tape is the same as Track 1, but slowed down just a tad. Or Track 1 is the same as Track 5, sped up a bit. They're both here, since I couldn't figure out which was the truer pitch.

Awad Mtougha (Audio Star Cassette)
Track 1 (of 5)

Get it all here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tagroupit in the House - Oudaden Live at Ksar al Andalus, Agadir

Well here's another Moroccan live album from La Voix el Maarif! This one is from the Soussi group Oudaden. Unlike our last live album from LVEM, which was recorded in Canada, this one was recorded in Morocco. According to the Arabic text on the spine and shell, this is a "live artistic soirée with Oudaden at the Ksar al Andalus in Agadir."

According to Anir at, Oudaden recorded their first album for LVEM in 1985. (Perhaps this is it? It does say "Volulme (sic) 1".) The author characterizes Oudaden's artistic direction as being different from that of earlier groups from the 1970s such as Izenzaren. That earlier style, which came to be called Tazenzaret (i.e., in the manner of Izenzaren), was characterized both by its "revolutionary" lyrics and by the novel musical compositions of Igout Abdelhadi, who incorporated non-Soussi rhythms and melodies.

Oudaden, on the other hand, represented a return to traditional Soussi rhythms and melodies, albeit with the use of the electric guitar alongside the banjo. Oudaden also specialized in love songs. This style - love songs, traditional Soussi melodies and rhythms, with a somewhat modernized ensemble - came to be known as "Tirubba" (possibly "in the manner of a rub3a quartet"?) or "Tagroupit" (in the manner of a groupe - i.e., a modern ensemble). Oudaden group member Mohamed Jemoumekh, describes these styles as "le chaabi n tchelhit" (Berber chaâbi).

There's rather a lot of tape hiss on this one - I tried to roll off some of it in the EQ. There's loads more Oudaden over at Yala, if you want to sample some other, more hi-fi recordings of theirs.

By the way, the group name Oudaden refers to the bighorned Barbary sheep native to the Atlas mountains.

Oudaden - Live at Ksar al Andalus, Agadir (LVEM 126)
Track 2 (of 4)

Get it all here.

Like Chaâbi, Tagroupit seems to be continuing its popularity. Moroccan Tape Stash blog follower Owen Buck traveled in southern Morocco earlier this year and was treated, while dining, to a musical performance from an amateur Tachelhit group. I couldn't tell you whether the style is more tazenzaret or more tagroupit, but the great sound of banjos, drums and pentatonic melodies is undeniable. Enjoy some of this performance here:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Stati Abdelaziz - Fine Rahma Yal Gloub

Ah! This is a great album by "The Pioneer of Popular Song", Stati Abdelaziz. Always keeping it rootsy and acoustic, Stati rocks harder than many an auto-tuned viola wielding chaâbi singer half his age. (We've featured Stati in the stash previously, here.)

This album has been a favorite of mine since it came out in 2001. Memorable melodies and undeniable grooves. Somehow the cassette disappeared a few years back, and I was left with only the j-card. Then a few weeks ago, I found this cassette in the trunk of my car:

Not sure how it got there - it's not my copy. Mine was on the Moroccan label Aarbaouiphone, while this one is a French edition on SACEM. But hey, I'll take it, and I'm happy to share it here. It ain't perfect (there are a number of dropouts on Side 2), but it's great to hear it again. Hope you enjoy it.

Stati Abdelaziz - Fine Rahma Yal Gloub (Aarbaouiphone 004/01 or SACEM EV01/179 cassette)
01) Derni Hali
02) Âzibou Fel Milha
03) Fine Rahma Yal Gloub
04) Ouassalni Klamek
05) Ktir Alik Ya Galbi

Get it here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mahmoud Guinia - Soirée au Canada

Hello friends - I meant to have this up a few weeks ago, but have become caught in some writer's cramp. Rather than wait for the cramp to uncramp, I'll just share this now, without my usual ramblings. It's a live recording from a concert by the late, great Gnawi mâllem Mahmoud Guinia. Palm Wine posted a (now deleted) version of this tape a few years ago and said it was obtained in Morocco in 1978. That would seem to make it quite early in the discography (tape-ography?)

This is a different sort of live album than his Fikriphone debut, which was recorded live at a lila ceremony. Audience-performer interaction and expectations are quite different at this sit-down concert in Canada. (The announcements at the end of track 1 seem to indicate that it's some sort of folk festival or concert series.) Despite the lack of trancers (as far as I can tell), Mâllem Mahmoud delivers the goods, providing some excellent riffing during these long tunes for the assembled audience.

Yala features a shorter version of this album here. Yala's version removes a couple of warts in the performance, namely the falling down of the guinbri's bridge at the end of track 2 (the track is missing altogether) and again at the end of track 3 (the track fades out).

I've edited down track 7, which originally included a couple minutes of the same music copied and spliced to extend its length. If you want the original "extended remix", Yala's got it here.

El Maalem Mahmoud Gania - Soiree Au Canada (La Voix El Maarif 393)
01) Sheshiyat Bambara (v1)
02) Sheshiyat Bambara (v2)
03) Fulani ya Baba ya Sidi
04) Fofo Denba
05) Kommwi Baba Kommwi - Allah ya Mimoun Marhaba
06) Jilali Boualem
07) Shabakurya

Get it all here.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Master Has Set Down His Guinbri - Mâllem Mahmoud Guinia (1951-2015)

Word from Morocco today is that the great Gnawi master Mahmoud Guinia has passed on. I haven't seen this from any official news sources, but Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with posts about it, and I've seen no contradicting notices. The Gnaoua Festival has tweeted it. It appears, alas, that another great one has left us.

Mahmoud Guinia was, I believe, the first musician to become famous across Morocco as a performer of Gnawa music. Paco Abderrahmane may have been the first nationally famous Gnawa musician, but his fame came from his work with the folk/fusion/revival music of Nass el Ghiwane, not from his work in traditional Gnawa music. Though Mahmoud has engaged in fusion projects over the years, his fame was based on his work in the Gnawa ritual tradition, his many recordings of Gnawa music, and his participation at the national level representing the Gnawa tradition.

A mâllem (ritual master) from an established Gnawi family in Essaouira, Mahmoud was among the first musicians to release commercial recordings of music from the Gnawa ritual repertoire, and he remains perhaps the most prolific. His earliest cassettes were on the Fikriphone label out of Agadir. Later albums were distributed nationally on Tichkaphone out of Casablanca, and on many other labels over the years. There was no such thing as a Gnawa album before he began making them. His recorded work has run the gamut of what a Gnawa album could be - straight-up recordings live at rituals, studio recordings in a traditional vein or in a fusion vein, recordings from the "popular" side of the repertoire or from the heavy trance side. And those are just the Moroccan releases!

Here is a cassette from (I believe) the 1980s. It does not announce itself as a live album, but side A ends with applause and an announcement in French that the performers are about to take 5-10 minutes for a cigarette break. The recording may or may not be related to a "live album" released on the same label, which I will share in the near future. (Was going to up it today, but there are a few ethnomusicological thoughts pinging around my head, so I'll sort those out and share with you soon.)

Also, can I say how much I love cassettes that come in cardboard boxes! Look - you can stack it on any side and you still can read the artist's name!

Lemâalem M. Guinya (La Voix El Maarif 233)
01) Bunga Bunga Bulila
02) Soyo Soyo Kamilana
03) Sidi Mhamed ya Subaï
04) Ye Sudani a Bangara - Amara Musayi
05) Lalla Imma ya Sudani
06) Berrma Nana Soutanbi

Get it here.

[Note - The title of this post was inspired by, who posted an article earlier today entitled "Mahmoud Guinea a déposé son guembri: Adieu, Maître"]

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jilala by Request, plus Recent Interweb Goodness

By request, here are two albums of Jilala music that were previously offered at the now defunct WwW.ZizMp3.CoM. These are very nice recordings of a group from Fes. There's more Jilala music in the stash if you like this intense stuff.

S'hab el Hal - Variétés Jilalia (Mounawaates Jilalia)
Volume 1 - get it here.
Volume 2 - get it here.

Meanwhile, kind souls across the interwebs continue to share Moroccan goodies. Here are a few recent gems:

Lokman_ud launches his new blog أرشيف لقمان with a FANTASTIC cassette of Mahmoud Guinia. My copy of this went missing years ago, so it's wonderful to hear it again. The percussion is, for the most part, not metal qarqabas, but something lighter, and Mahmoud's guinbri playing here is more laid back than usual, though the riffing is just as righteous. Overall, it's got a warmer sound than your typical Gnawa music cassette. It's a delight, and you should visit this page and download it right away!

Meanwhile Tawfiq at the venerable blog Oriental Traditional Music from LPs & Cassettes dropped a lovely album of Qur'an recitation by Abderrahim Abdelmoumen, a Moroccan reciter who is also versed in Moroccan Andalusian Sufi singing. It's rare to hear Moroccan melodies and vocal stylings in Qur'an recitation, so this is a real treat. You can find it here.

Phocéephone recently shared a nice 1960's chaâbi 45 from Felix el Maghrebi. There's some info on Felix from Chris of Jewish Maghrib Jukebox here and here.

Chris recently shared a rare 78RPM recording of the Jewish liturgical chant "Adon Olam", recorded in the 1950s by Moroccan singer Judah Sebag.

And finally, Gary of Bodega Pop has been hosting a fantastic weekly radio program on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio online, called Bodega Pop Live. A few months back, he devoted an entire 3-hour program to Moroccan music, covering a LOT of styles and time periods. The program is still archived online, and you can listen here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Some Meknassi Gnawa Music, Before Ramadan Hits

As Chaâbane winds down, here's some Gnawa music for you, before Ramadan arrives.

One of two Gnawa tapes I picked up in 1999 in Meknes, this is credited to "Hamid Laguenawi" (Hamid the Gnawi). The other tape is credited to a Hamid al-Hadri, and at one point I wondered if they were the same musician. I just compared them, and they sound nothing like each other - neither the voice nor the guinbri playing. What was I thinking?

Like my other Meknassi tape, this one features songs from the Ouled Bambara suite that opens the Gnawa lila ceremony. In fact, the sequence of songs on the 2 tapes is identical from "Fangoro Fangoro" forward. This suggests to me that this is the typical order of songs in the Meknes lila. (The sequence is different in several ways from the sequence I know from Marrakech.)

Thanks, everyone, for visiting the stash. I'm not sure if I'll be posting during Ramadan, so it may be a few weeks before I'm back here. Best Wishes for a magical summer. And to those of you observing Ramadan, may it be a time of reflection, insight, and inspiration.

Hamid Laguenawi - Sawt el Ismailia 30
  1. Habib el Mal (includes Zid el Mal, Ye Lalla Ya Bungra)
  2. Bangara Bangara (includes Fangoro Fangoro, Amara Yobati, Sidi Amaro Sheshiyat Bambara, Berrma Susanbi)
  3. Yobadi (includes Yobati, Rijal Allah Wahid Allah, Jalaba Titara, Jalaba Tiktu, Ahayo)
  4. Bulila (includes Kalkani Bulila, Lâribi Lâribi)
Get it here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch

The stash abides! YOU WANT THIS TAPE. You should start downloading it now, then come back and read the blogpost.

OK? Let's continue...

This is a tape of Hamadsha songs, apparently from the mid '90s. According to the pixelated Arabic transcription on my homemade j-card (printed from my first computer using my first Arabic word processing program), this cassette was on the Fassiphone label, credited to a group called Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch. I wonder if the group includes Moqaddem Abderrahim Amrani, whose late-90s album on the same label remains one of the stash's most popular offerings.

This is a fantastic album. A short invocation and a shorter coda bookend two looooong tracks of Hamadcha songs. The opening invocation track is just weird - creepy new-agey synthesizer and what could be a guinbri but is hard to distinguish beneath the dripping layers of overdone ambience.

But it's over quickly, and you plunge straight into the organic heaviness of buzzy harraz clay goblet drums driving 10/8 rhythms under blaring ghaita oboes, group male vocals, and the celebratory zgharit ululations of the attendant womenfolk. This is unrushed, unrelenting, insistent stuff. You know it's building toward something frenzied, but it takes it's sweet time. By the end of side 1, you get a sense of where it's going.

Side 2, however, does not continue this progression. In performance, Side 2's long suite of songs would probably precede Side 1's suite: The ghaitas are absent, the songs feature passages of solo singing in addition to the group vocals, the lyrics seem directed to the Hamadcha's eponym (Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch) and the final song of Side 2 is the opening song of side 1. I thought about reversing the running order of the tracks, but I'm kind of digging the way Side 2's songs follow the Side 1's songs. After 20 minutes of ghaitas blaring, their absence leaves sonic space for the vocals to become starkly prominent and memorable. And the opening invocation and closing "coda" of ghaitas seem deliberately placed. So I left the running order as-is, while naming the 2 long tracks "Part 1" and "Part A" to honor the ambiguity.

I had no recollection of having a copy of this. I found it while looking for some good Gnawa music to offer up before Chaabane turns into Ramadan. It was tucked away on the flip side of a Gnawa tape I dubbed years ago. Hope you enjoy it!

Ta'ifa al Hamdouchia - Qubbat Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch (Fassiphone cassette)
1) intro 1:10
2) Hmadcha (pt. 1) 19:55
3) Hmadcha (pt. A) 19:57
4) coda 0:56

Get it here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lemchaheb - Not the Village Green Preservation Society but rather the Jefferson Airplane of Moroccan Folk Revival Groups

First off, let me say that in fact there is no good reason to think of Lemchaheb as the Jefferson Airplane of Moroccan folk revival groups. Further, as Hawgblog pointed out some time ago,
"compar[ing] artists who are relatively unknown in the West to Western artists, with the aim of helping Western readers make sense of said artists [gives] results [that] are frequently ridiculous"
On the other hand, sometimes these comparisons are so purposefully ridiculous as to be awesome! Hammer at the (too long silent) Audiotopia blog titled a number of posts in this fashion, many of which pop up on the blog's homepage as among his most popular posts. (The classic "Sadoun Jaber: Iraq's Pat Boone? - سـعـدون جـابـر." is my favorite!)

With regard to Morocco's folk revival groups, a comparison with classic rock bands has long been invoked by Western writers. "The Beatles of Morocco" most often refers to Nass el Ghiwane, though Google also reveals instances of Jil Jilala being so dubbed. "The Moroccan Rolling Stones" also refers most often to Nass el Ghiwane, though one can also find the term applied to Jil Jilala. Ridiculous? Ridiculously awesome? Or actually worthy of merit?

Although the music of these groups did not particularly sound like the Beatles or the Stones, there are a number of reasons why comparisons of folk revival bands with counterculture Euro-American groups make some actual historical sense. Philip Schuyler (1) notes the influence of Euro-American counterculture on Moroccan youth culture when these groups came into existence (early 1970s), as well as the use of group names rather than names of individual star performers. These groups' stage presentation (individual musicians at individual microphones, spread out across the front of a stage) seems modeled on that of rock bands. And even Nass el Ghiwane's combination of banjo, Gnawa guinbri, and drums hearkens to the bass-guitar-drums power trios of the Who or Led Zeppelin. Furthermore, Schuyler notes, groups like Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala drew on the music of the brotherhoods (e.g., Gnawa, Jilala, Aissawa). Such brotherhoods have at times "served as the focus for protest and resistance to the government", thus becoming countercultural role models of sorts.

It's one thing to note actual historical influences from Western artists on non-Western artists, or parallels with similar musico-historical contexts. Such observations can be interesting and illuminating. It's quite a different thing to claim that the zeitgeist or oevre of one artist is equivalent to that of another artist from a Western canonical tradition.

What does it mean to say that Jil Jilala and/or Nass el Ghiwane ARE the Beatles and/or Rolling Stones of Morocco? It assumes an agreement about the salient characteristics and impacts of the Beatles and Stones. It also assumes that those characteristics are so iconic and universal as to set a standard by which Moroccan artists can be measured.

So what is it about Nass el Ghiwane/Jil Jilala that makes the comparison with the Beatles/Stones so attractive? Each are the two most popular groups of their respective traditions, working within youth-oriented popular culture. Both sets of groups broke the mold and redefined what a performing ensemble could be, influencing everything that came in their wake. Do we really need to use the Beatles and Stones as archetypes to make this observation? Does doing so, in fact, serve to belittle the value of NG or JJ, or Moroccan music? or Moroccan culture? I mean, if I told you Bob Marley was the Beatles of Reggae, I'm doing a disservice to Bob Marley and to reggae, and possibly insulting your musical knowledge at the same time, right?

The other dumb thing about using the Beatles/Stones metaphor is that it invites additional and worse metaphors for other musicians within the tradition. What of Lemchaheb, for example? When one speaks of only one band, it's Nass el Ghiwane. If one speaks of two, it's NG and Jil Jilala. If one speaks of three, it's NG, JJ and Lemchaheb (unless one includes the Soussi/Tachelhit/Berber groups). If we are to stick with our first-wave-of-British-Invasion-rock-bands metaphor, then I think we'd have to propose Lemchaheb as The Kinks of Morocco.

Wait - perhaps there is some merit in that comparison! Lemchaheb arose slightly later than Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala, as the Kinks arose slightly after the Beatles and Stones.  Few would argue that the Kinks or Lemchaheb were more influential or mold-breaking than the Beatles/Stones or NG/JJ. Yet there is something singular and distinct about the Kinks and Lemchaheb that let them flourish as creative forces within a newly established genre.

The most comprehensive information in English about Lemchaheb seems to be this biography by Imad Abbadi (who appears to be the author of several very good Amazon reviews of Moroccan music in the early 2000's). The author points out that, unlike JJ and NG, Lemchaheb did not draw on folk and religious sources for their compositions. From a purely musical point of view, I'd also add that Lemchaheb drew on non-Moroccan sources more liberally than JJ and NG (use of non-Moroccan instruments like bouzouki, some use of polyphony/chords here and there, and collaboration with the German rock band Dissidenten.)

But to buy into Lemchaheb being the Kinks, one has to first buy into Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala being the Beatles and/or the Rolling Stones, and really, I don't want to go there. There are so many elements of each group's story that do NOT hold up to comparison. I mean, did NG or JJ have a prancing lead singer? Did one group break up early and the other continue on for decades? Did either sing a lot of love songs? Do class differences exist and are they relevant? Is one group clearly more blues/roots-oriented and the other more pop-oriented? Is NG's Boudjemâa the Brian Jones of Moroccan folk revival bands, or the John Lennon? And on the flip side, did the Beatles or Stones come together in a theatre troupe? Did they ever swap bass players? Did either have a female member?

So, rather than assert and stand by the Kinks analogy (to which there is some merit but which rests on an uncomfortable set of assumptions about the importance and universality of the first wave of British Invasion rock bands), I will instead propose that Lemchaheb are the Jefferson Airplane of Moroccan folk revival groups, for the following spurious and superficial reasons:
  • This 1980 Lemchaheb album steals the design and background photo from the Airplane's 1968 album "Crown of Creation"
  • The 1980 all-male Lemchaheb bears some resemblance (at least in terms of hair) to the 1980 all-male Jefferson Starship
  • Each group included a female singer in a past and future incarnation
  • Each group made excellent use of group vocals (dig the very end of Talit El Haramain for some contrapuntal vocal lines)
  • There are some (perhaps unintentional) psychedelic elements to the Lemchaheb album:
    • The track "El Jounoud" (The Soldiers) opens with gunshot and bomb sound effects. (Crown of Creation came out during the Vietnam War, though it wouldn't be until the next studio album "Volunteers" that the Airplane would get explicitly political. I don't know what the context of "El Jounoud". "Talit El Haramain", though, is about Palestine.)
    • OMG, there is an Indian sitar section at the end of "El Jounoud"! I don't think the Airplane ever actually used a sitar, but the aroma of sitars sort of permeates the whole psychedelic era...
    •  There is some tripped out decay on the bouzouk - dig the opening to "Ya Latif"
I hope you enjoy this fine Lemchaheb album more than my convoluted musings. Thanks to Nathan Salsburg for another swell tape rip!

Lemchaheb - "Succes 80" (EH 1143)
1) El Jounoud
2) Ya Latif
3) Talit El Harmaïn
4) Aji Netsamhou

Get it here.
(1) Schulyer, Philip D., "A Folk Revival in Morocco", in Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East, ed. Donna Lee Bowen and Evelyn A. Early. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Najat Aâtabou - Lillah Ya S'haba (1986)

Here's one more old Najat Aâtabou tape for ya. This is the last one I own with her old line-up of oud and bendir-s. I wish I knew the name of the left-handed oud player who appears in the early Najat video clips I see online. I assume he's the same one who plays on these early-mid 1980's albums of hers. He always sounds great. Can anyone identify him?

I don't have a j-card for this tape, but the cassette shell is from Edition Hassania. "Ditih" and "Wardat Lejnane" appear on the out-of-print CD "The Voice of the Atlas", whose notes indicate that the songs date from 1986 or 1987. The song "Lillah ya S'haba" also appears on Najat's orchestral album, but I prefer this stripped-down version, which builds and builds 'til it bursts out into a joyous ululation-filled climax.

The version in this video is similar. Not quite as raucous as on the album. But it does feature a boat onstage, (at around 9:45 and forward) which is pretty awesome:

Side 2 of my tape is of sub-par audio quality, but Najat shines through nonetheless.

Najat Aâtabou - Lillah Ya S'haba (1986)
1) Lillah Ya S'haba
2) Ditih
3) Ana Mzawga Fik A Hnaya
4) Wardate Lejnane

Get it here.

PS - I've been working on a Lemchaheb post, but got caught up in a forest of metaphors, from which I'm still trying to extricate myself. Soon, incha'Llah.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Najat Aâtabou - Live in Paris and in Tamazight

Here's a live album from Najat Aâtabou released around 1985, not long after she first burst onto the Moroccan music scene. She's in fine form here, performing in Paris at The Olympia with oud, bendir-s, a darbuka and the backup singing of the male band members.

The album opens with an evocative (orientalist?) intro featuring audio snippets of a Middle Atlas ahaidous communal dance (one wonders if there was video at the concert as well) with a spoken narration extolling the bounties of Moroccan traditional music, before introducing Najat herself.

Tracks 3 and 4 are sung in her native Central Atlas Tamazight dialect, while the others are sung in darija (Moroccan Arabic). I've become obsessed in particular with Track 4, "Nikkine Admough" or "Ad 3mough Izri". Here's a different live performance, longer than the one on the album. The moment where the band stops and Najat continues singing a capella breaks my heart:

According to this interview and performance from Moroccan TV, the lyrics are about a woman who was separated from her lover because of travel. Upon her return she finds that he has died, and she cries at his grave. (A kind soul has also translated some of the lyrics from Tamazight to French in the comments.)

Another native speaker of Central Atlas Tamazight who found success using Arabic lyrics with Berber musical forms was Mohamed Rouicha. However, Rouicha recorded some entire albums in Tamazight, whereas I don't think Najat ever released an album in Tamazight. I have found only a few live performance clips on YouTube from her early days where she performs songs in Tamazight. Conveniently, they are all linked from this page at I'd love to be proved wrong, though - does anyone know if she ever made studio recordings in Tamazight?

Najat Aâtabou at L'Olympia (EH1280)
1) intro
2) La Tbkich (= El Mektab)
3) Mani Lâhad
4) Nikkine Admongh
5) J'en ai Marre
6) 1, 2, 3

Get it here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Najat Aâtabou - Koun Mâaya (1985)

It's been a while since I posted any Najat - long overdue, now that I think about it.

Here's an oldie, circa 1985, when she was still using the basic ensemble of oud and bendir-s. The song "Koun Mâaya" (Be With Me) was the title track, and lyrics were featured on the j-card. The song features some sort of bass oud, or someone playing an octave down.

My fave tune, though, is the rocking "Tikka Ghalia" (Trust is Expensive), Here's a fab live version:

Najat Aâtabou - Koun Mâaya (EH 1300, 1985)
1) Koun Mâaya
2) Tikka Ghalia
3) Ach Ngoul Lih
4) Ha Nta Chouf

Get it here.

PS - it appears that Divshare has been down for several weeks, so all my embedded audio tracks are dead. Hopefully they'll come back online eventually, but who knows.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Raïs Aberrahmane Aznkd

More goodies from the Nathan Salsburg stash. I can find no information whatsoever online about this smiling, right-handed, lotar-wielding musician. The closest I found was a number of links to a seemingly younger Mohamed Aznkd, who is a left-handed, banjo-wielding musician.

There is some rapid-fire lotar picking going on here!

Al Raïs Abderrahmane Aznkd (Sawt el Andalous cassette S.A. 05)
1) Madrigh Asmoun
2) Arja f-Llah Arnaala
3) Aralaagh Aryaala
4) Gaaraa Hbib Allah
5) Allah Yâawen Nslemdyoun
6) Ajdaâ Igaan Oumleel
7) A Rabi

Get it all here.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

3 Rwayes 3: Demsiria / Ihihi / Atigui

It's Easter Sunday here in Northern California, and we've got some much-needed rain!

Here's another swell tape from Nathan Salsburg's collection. The first rwayes supergroup? According to the author of this post, "Moulay Hmad Ihihi had the idea of putting out the first album combining a number of singers." This album, dating from 1981, features these three rwayes:
  • Raïssa Rkia Demsiria (الرايسة رقية الدمسيرية) who was already well known by this time, having had her first hit in 1968 with "A Taxi Ghilla Radio"
  • Raïs Moulay Hmad Ihihi (مولاي أحمد احيحي) - veteran singer, composer and player of the lotar (not the big pear-shaped, low-pitched lotar used by Middle Atlas musicians like Rouicha, but the round-bodied, high-pitched lotar used by Soussi musicians.
  • Raïs Aârab Atigui (الرايس أعراب اتيكي), singer and rrbab player for whom this cassette was his first (and some say finest) release.
Memorable melodies and traditional textures make this a lovely addition to the stash. I'm not sure whether the lead vocals on tracks 3, 5, and 6 are by Ihihi or Atigui - any help would be appreciated!

Demsiria - Moulay Hmad - Aârab (Edition Hassania EH 1167) (1981)
1) Ark Tella Tarikta (vocal Raïssa Rkia Demsiria)
2) Afis Aygigel (vocal Raïs Aârab Atigui)
3) ???
4) Mata z-Zmanad (vocal Raïssa Rkia Demsiria)
5) Taghaous Aidba Bens
6) Arniyat Isella Lhem

Get it all here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Izmaz [Yeah!!]

Hello Dear Blogosphere - hope you've all been well! Sorry for the absence - ah, where does the time go? Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose, so a fond hello from me...

Sharing here the first of a few tape rips that were sent to me by the esteemed Nathan Salsburg, music producer, guitarist, and curator of one of the greatest tape stashes on the planet - the Alan Lomax archive! If you haven't lost yourself perusing the hours and hours of field recordings generously made available online at the Association for Cultural Equity, do yourself a favor - head over there and dig into a real treasure trove! [I wrote about the Moroccan collection some time ago here.] Continuaing kudos to Nathan and the good folks at ACE for making this all available!

Today's offering is a cassette from the wonderful band Izmaz. I was first introduced to Izmaz via Mr Tear's postings (and Hammer's exhaustive notes) over at the recently retired Snap, Crackle & Pop blog here and here. (Though the blog has left the building, the links appear to be live, so grab 'em while you can!) There's a wonderfully laid back yet somehow also intense quality to Izmaz that sets them apart, to my ear, from their contemporaries on the Moroccan folk revival scene (Nass El Ghiwane, Jil Jilala, Izenzaren...) Extrapolating from Hammer's discographical information, this tape would appear to date from the early 1980s. And the j-card states that it was recorded in Paris. This album features the rrbab (horesehair fiddle) more prominently than on either of the two albums shared at Snap, Crackle & Pop.

Izmaz (Chariti - Phone cassette C.P. 27)
01 Wahli Wahla Annite
02 Amaa Kmyaghen
03 Iwaa Ourreed Ghiyid Igazaal
04 Imnayen

Get it all here.