The Rough Guide To The Music Of Morocco

San Francisco, USA – World Music Network, the label behind the Rough Guide
series, releases today The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco
Morocco is a musical wonderland, stuffed with a bewildering surfeit of sounds;
raw, sophisticated, ancient, modern, acoustic, electronic, mellow, fierce,
deeply spiritual and extravagantly hedonistic. Culturally fed by rivers flowing
in from all directions, its musical gene pool is rich and diverse, although the
unique legacy of Morocco’s own native Berber culture remains more rooted than
any imported influences. This album features two of Morocco’s musical giants,
Jil Jilala and Nass El Ghiwane, the best-loved Moroccan female group, Bnet
Marrakech, and the greatest al aita star of modern times, Fatna Bent El Houcine.
Delving into some of Morocco’s musical traditions, such as melhoun and gnawa,
The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco also features some of the more
contemporary and electronic sounds to have emerged out of this culturally rich
country.Over the past few decades, gnawa has become a worldwide musical force. Emerging
out of a distinct Afro-Moroccan culture, it adheres to the Sufi tradition of
Nass El Ghiwane did more than any other group to bring gnawa out of its
ghetto and haul it into the limelight. This group from Casablanca is probably
the most important, respected, adored and revered Moroccan combo of modern
times. Once dubbed by Martin Scorsese as ‘The Rolling Stones of North Africa
their songs combined the legacy of the ghiwane, who were traditional itinerant
musician actors, and the booming trance of the gnawa and hamadja. Although the
group’s founder died in a car crash in 1974, the remaining foursome continued to
dominate Moroccan and Maghrebi music for years to come. Parallel in outlook to
Nass El Ghiwane and equally as popular, was Jil Jilala, or ‘The Jilala
Generation’. Also from Casablanca, they instilled a new pride in Morocco’s own
musical traditions by delving into the sumptuous legacy of melhoun, gnawa, the
music of the Jilali (a religious brotherhood) and rural Berber traditions in
general, to come up with a new and utterly compelling sound. Delighting in using
new and different musical elements, the group
Nass Marrakech display another
approach to gnawa. Having collaborated with a bewildering array of global
musicians they personify a promising new breed of Moroccan groups with an open,
outward-looking attitude.

The unique legacy of Morocco’s own native Berber culture has played a huge role
in the country’s music. Al aita (‘the cry’) was born on the coastal plains
between Safi and Salé at the end of the nineteenth century and earned its name
from the scalping power of the voices (mainly female) that characterize the
music. Fatna Bent El Houcine is the greatest al aita star of modern times and
produces a wild intensity and driving rhythms. She travels with her group of
female backing vocalists, or cheikhates, and an all-male backing band. Despite
singing in Arabic, the roots of her musical style are Berber.

Bnet Marrakech are
another overtly Berber group of cheikhates from Morocco’s deep south. After
fifteen years together, ‘The Girls From Marrakech’ have emerged as one of the
best-loved Moroccan female groups at home and abroad. Performing traditional
Berber songs, they incorporate diverse influences of chaabi and gnawa music into
their fundamentally Berber mix. Delivering songs with joyous defiance, ‘Leilaa
Lill’ is a celebration of the night, and all its potential pleasures.

Newer chaabi or popular groups have a hard time shaking off the shadow of the
musical giants Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala. More recent chaabi tends to be
lighter and more geared towards fun and partying. Najm El Farah Essafi and
Mustapha Bourgogne are both examples of the funky angular soul of Moroccan pop,
fusing modern keyboards, guitars and drum machines with older instruments such
as the darbuka, bendir and violin. In recent years a huge interest in rap has
emerged and on ‘Hijra’, Dar Gnawa, two rappers from Casablanca, teamed up with
the London-based, Morocco-born DJ and producer
U-cef. This is gnawa rap at its

Mohamed Amenzou is one of the melhoun greats. Originally a popular form of
oral poetry, the melhoun tradition is still very much alive in Morocco and
Amenzou delivers the gorgeous verses of the melhoun canon with deep emotion.
Also featured on this album is
Emil Zrihan whose music is a powerful reminder of
the lesser known Jewish history in Morocco.

Buy The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.