Saturday, November 4, 2023

Aziza El Menkassia - Special Gnawa II emoluV

I had asked the tape seller if he had any Gnawa tapes. He pulled down this one, popped it in the deck for me, and pushed play. I thought to myself this seems to me like anti-Gnawa. I wanted the warm, woody, resonant rumble of the sintir and call & response vocals of full-throated baritones. What I got was some crazy electro-drum-and-synth driving home the perpetual Moroccan chaabi 6/8 beat, and a young lady leading the call and response vocals. And yet the j-card read "Special Gnawa" and had pictures of Gnawa musicians on it, so I grabbed it, figuring it would at least be interesting to figure out what about this music signified "Gnawa".
Now after many years of thinking and inking about Gnawa music, I return to this tape. What does my Gnawacized (mguennoui) ear tell me about this tape with the benefit of hindsight (hind-hearing? hind-audition?) Well, one of these songs would be heard during the trance part of the Gnawa lila ceremony, namely "Jilali Dawi Hali". (Type that title into the search bar on this blog and you'll find at least 4 Gnawa tapes that feature the song.) Many of the other songs can be heard at the end of lila ceremonies when Gnawa musicians play the fun popular songs they call chaabi or more specifically Soussia. Despite the Gnawi connotations of this album's songs, the musical arrangements aren't particularly Gnawa-inflected. They are, however, unusual. 
There's not much information about Aziza El Meknassia online, but the good folks over at Moroccan Tapes have shared another tape from this artist. Their description of the unusual rhythmic texture heard in Aziza's recordings is worth quoting here:
"One of her signatures that one can hear across most of her records is a unique way of arranging the typical Chaabi rhythm... [The] driving hi-hat and tam-tam give us a double-time 12/8 feel, while the kick and snare create a half-time 4/4 feel, almost like a rock backbeat (if you hear it the wrong way)."
Hope you enjoy it!

Aziza El Meknassia عزيزة المكناسية
Special Gnawa - Volume II

Voix Bab Mansour cassette 38 صوت باب منصور

01 Al Mwima Lhbiba الميمة لحبيبة
02 Ribou Ya Douk Lejbal ريبو يا دوك لجبال
     Ana Lli Dert Khairi Ou Ma Ouella Liya انا لي درت خيري وما ولا ليا

03 Chailah شايلاه
     Qalbi Derni
     Ana Zayra Moulay Ibrahim
     Lalla Chafia
04 Marrakech مراكش
     Laman Wahia Laman
     Jilali Dawi Hali
     Touria Laghzal

320 | FLAC