Tag Archives: Moroccan music

Artist Profiles: Nass El Ghiwane

Nass El Ghiwane

With their roots in traditional Berber music and alternative theater, Nass El Ghiwane concocted an uncompromisingly radical new music with driving beats and a barely concealed political edge in the early 1970s and went onto revolutionize music and attitudes throughout the Arabic world.

Five friends from the same district, Hay Mohammadi, in Casablanca, got together to form one of Morocco’s most legendary rock bands. Original members included Omar Sayed, Boujemaa Brahim, Allal Yaala, and Larbi Batma.

Soon the group became popular in Morocco and beyond. Nass El Ghiwane influenced some of the early Rai musicians in Algeria and other bands in Tunisia and Libya. The group suffered several crisis. Boujemaa died in 1974. Then there was the illness and death of Batma in 1997. Abderrahman Kirouj (also spelled Kiruch and Kirouche), alias Paco, left the band and returned to his roots, which is Gnawa music of his hometown Essawira.

The group is still active, but only two original members remain, Omar Sayed and Allal Yaala.

Discography:

Nass El Ghiwane (Polydor, 1973)
Hommage A Boudjemaa (Cléopatre, 1975)
A Paris (Cléopatre, 1975)
Wannadi Ana / Erraghaya (Disques Espérance, 1975)
Nass El Ghiwane (Cléopatre, 1976)
Instrumental (Disques Espérance, 1976)
Narjak Ana La M’Chite / Echams Ettalâa / Daïyne Cléopatre (Plein Soleil, 1977)
Taghounja / Lebtana (Cléopatre, 1979
Zad El Hame Edition Hassania 1981
Transes (Musique Originale Du Film De Ahmed El Maanouni) (Spalax, 1981)
El Maana (Le Sens Du Mot) Azwaw (Edition Hassania, 1983)
El Gharib / Oulad El Aalam / El Oumma / Ya Sayil (Triomphe Musique, 1985)
Salama (Blue Silver, 1997)
Transe Musique Du Maroc (Night & Day, 1998)
Aalli Ou Khalli Aladin (Le Musicien, 2004)
La Légende – Volume 3 (Platinium Music, 2006)
Ghir Khoudouni (AMD, 2006)
Best of: Nass El Ghiwane (EMI France, 2008)
Double Best, remastered (Rue Stendhal, 2013)

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Artist Profiles: Said Guissi’s Aissawa

Said Guissi’s Aissawa
Said Guissi’s Aissawa – Photo by Pete Sanders

Said Guissi’s Aissawa ensemble are from the holy city of Fes. It is Morocco’s most famous and accomplished group of the many such ensembles to emerge from the centuries-old Aissawa brotherhood. The group uses trumpets and pipes to pierce through a barrage of polyphonic drumming and thus create a trance-inducing wall of sound. Healing Sufi music of the highest order. Morocco Africa

Discography:

Lala Rkeya – Art Aissawa (Tarab Productions, 2007)

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Artist Profiles: Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger

Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger

The project Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger was conceived by Jamal Ouassini with the aim of promoting and introducing to the European continent one of the most fascinating and at the same time least known aspects of Moroccan culture.

The show proposes a symbolic reconstruction of a tradition peculiar to the cities of Tanger (also known as Tangier) and Tetuan. There, in accordance with a tradition dating back thousands of years, during the three days in which a wedding is celebrated, at the house of the bride’s family the music is entrusted to a musical ensemble made up exclusively of women.

The first day of the ceremony, called ‘El Henna’, involves just the closest relations and friends of the bride. Here the performance of an instrumental and sung repertoire follows in a continuous crescendo and reaches its peak with the ‘Zagharid’, the typical cries of the Maghreb’s women, in this way accompanying the complex and refined decoration of the bride’s hands and feet with a pigment (called ‘El henna’) derived from the leaves of a plant that grows along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Morocco.

This tradition dates back to very early times, to the 7th millennium B.C., a fact confirmed by the archaeologists, who associate it with the fertility rites at Cathal Hayak, considered to be one of the earliest villages of the Neolithic period. ‘El henna’ is therefore a day of preparation for the actual ceremony itself: In this case the invitation is extended to all the acquaintances. And the music played during this second long day of celebrations includes both pieces of the Arab-Andalusian repertoire to accompany the bride’s frequent ‘changes of dress’.

The climax of the event occurs in the late evening when the percussion and dancing unite in a continuous crescendo that announces the arrival of the bridegroom and his relations, who ‘abduct’ the bride at the end of the day. During the third, conclusive day of this ancient ceremony, ‘ESbah’ (The Morning), the orchestra moves to the bride’s new abode and accompanies her awakening.

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Artist Profiles: Omar Metioui

Omar Metioui

Omar Metioui was born in Tanger (Tangier), Morocco, in 1962. He studied Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Brussels. In 1973 he studied Western European musical notation, Andalusian chant and lute at the Conservatory of Music and Dance of Tanger. Between 1976 and 1980 he was the lute player and singer at the Andalusian Music Main Orchestra of Tanger.

In the year 1987 he became become First Lute player of the Orchestra of the Conservatory of Tanger under the direction of the Professor Zaitouni, carrying out up to 1.993 several tours for different European countries and of the Arab world.

In those years he also recorded three nubas under the direction of the Ministry of Cultural Matters of Morocco and the Maison des Cultures du Monde of Paris.

Through the Ministry of Culture he played several concerts in 1995, together with the Renaissance choir Juan of Triana.

He has received important awards along his career, as that of Arab Andalusian Music of Rabat. In the year 1994 he began to transcribe Nubas for the center of Musical Documentation of Andalusia.

His recordings include several albums with the group Ibn Baya and a few more with his ensemble or as a soloist (“Masterpieces of Arab-Andalusian Chant”, “Omar Metioui”, “Andalusi Lute and Ritual Sufi Andalusian”, all with Sony).

Omar Metioui has an ensemble. It’s group of Arab musicians group specialized in the interpretation of Arab-Andalusian Music (Hispano-Arab Music from Centuries IX to the XIV), directed by the Master Omar Metioui. It is without a doubt the best group from Morocco that visits regularly the Iberian Peninsula to perform the exotic musical result of combining medieval compositions of Al-Andalus and North African influences.

Musicians: Omar Metioui – Arab Lute and voice; Ahmed Al-Gazi – Rebab and Viola; Said Belcadi – Darbuka and voice’ Abderraja Hassani – Kemanja; Sidi Abdeslam Amrani – Tar, voice.

Discography:

Música Andalusí: Núba Al-Istihlál (Sony Classical, 1995)
Música Andalusí: Núba Al-Máya (Sony Classical, 1997)
Tres Culturas (Pneuma, 1998)
Al Ála Al-Andalusiyya (Pneuma, 1999)
Misticismo, Música Sufí Andalusí (Pneuma, 2000)
La Fuente Del Amor Secreto (Pneuma, 2002)
Música Andalusí: Sufíes De Al-Andalus (Pneuma, 2005)
Música Andalusí: Cantos De La Noche (Pneuma, 2006)
Dhikr y Sama’: Musica Sufi Andalusi (Karonte, 2009)
Ritual Sufi-Andalusf: Al-Shushtari (1212-1269) (Pneuma, 2013)

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Artist Profiles: Nass Marrakech

Nass Marrakech

Abdeljalil Kodssi, Moulay M’Hamed Ennaji (a.k.a. “Sheriff”), Abdelkebir Bensaloum and Mohamed Bechar formed Nass Marrakech in 1991. All are members of Gnawa families or have intimate ties with the Gnawa community, and Abdelkebir is considered the youngest Gnawa maestro in Morocco.

Although they strived to preserve the traditions of their ancestors, Nass Marrakech were also modern Moroccan musicians, open and receptive to new musical experiences. Abdeljalil, for example, had toured with Don Cherry, and various other members of Nass Marrakech had worked with the Casablanca School of Jazz. They were all equally knowledgeable about Gnawa music and popular Moroccan sounds.

On “Sabil ‘a ‘Salaam,” Nass Marrakech skillfully blended traditional pieces with new songs that connected with contemporary audiences. “An a, An ta” (“You and me”) spoke about equality of rights. “Salaam Aleikum” addressed the need for peace, while “Allah” reflected an ecological idea of God. Traditional songs included “Yo Mala,” a song which has existed for over 900 years and is performed in the ancient bambara language.

Nass Marrakech’s sound mixed West African drums (jembes, sabar) with mandolin, Indian tabla, sentir (3-stringed bass lute) and the omnipresent karkabas (metallic castanets) to create a solid musical landscape over which the voices perform the traditional “call and response.”

Discography:

Sabil ‘A ‘Salaam (Alula, 2000)
Bouderbala, with Omar Sosa & Jorge Pardo (World Village, 2001)
Dal vivo a “Suoni Migranti” (Suoni Migranti/ Materiali Sonori, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Majid Bekkas

Majid Bekkas

Majid Bekkas was born and still lives in Sale, Morocco. He learned Gnawa music through the teachings of the master Ba Houmane.

Bekkas includes elements of contemporary western music in Gnawa music and has worked jazz musicians such as Peter Brotzmann, Archie Shepp, Flavio Boltro, Louis Sclavis, Joachim Kühn, and Ramon Lopez.

His song “Daymallah” represents Morocco on the award-winning CD compilation Desert Blues 2.

In his Afro-Oriental Jazz Trio he plays with reed player Manuel Hermia and percussionist Khalid Kouhen.

Discography:

Soudaniyé (1991)
African Gnaoua Blues ‎(Igloo Records, 2002)
La Cité Invisible – Rencontre À Casablanca ‎(Nord Sud, 2003)
Mogador ‎(Igloo Records, 2004)
Kalimba (Act Records, 2007)
Out of The Desert (Act Records, 2009)
Passport to Morocco, avec Klaus Doldinger (Wea, 2009)
The Art of Baroque, Jazz, Dance & World Music (Keytone Records, 2009)
African Jazz ‘n Bar ‎(Hippo Records, 2009)
Makenba (Igloo Records, 2010)
Les Amants De Juliette & Majid Bekkas ‎(Quoi de Neuf Docteur, 2010)
Makenba ‎(Igloo Records, 2010)
In All, Marula (Morgenland Records, 2010)
Chalaba (Act Records)
Mabrouk (Bee Jazz, 2011)
Vodoo Sense (Act Records, 2014)
Al qantara ‎(Igloo Records, 2013)
Laafou (2015)

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Artist Profiles: M’alem Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd

M’alem Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd – Photo courtesy of The New School for Jazz

M’alem Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd is a Master healer Gnawa musician born in 1947 in the Kasbah of Tanger, Morocco. The Gnawa are a group of Black healer musicians of Morocco who are well-known for their purification ceremonies, their abilities to treat psychic disorders and other maladies, just by using the sheer, magnificent spiritual power of Gnawa music and rhythms. M’alem Abdellah has been playing this music since he was a very young boy and has perfected this skill until he became qualified to be a Master or M’alem. To be M’alem is considered a very honorable calling. M’alem Abdellah has played with Randy Weston, a U.S. jazz artist, and his African rhythms musicians in England, in Montreal, Canada and in Montreux, Switzerland.

M’alem Abdellah formed his own group in 1980 and called it Dar Gnawa “because it was an old dream for me.” The group has toured Portugal, Spain and all of Morocco. This is a very big honor to Dar Gnawa because there are many more groups of Gnawa in Morocco. Dar Gnawa also participates annually in “Moros y Cristianos,” parade in Concetaina, eastern Spain. In 1994, M’alem Abdellah and two other members of Dar Gnawa participated in the “Spirit of Africa” tour with Randy Weston & African Rhythms and with blues man, Johnny Copeland and other Gnawa musicians from Marrakesh, Morocco.

The connection between Randy and M’alem Abdellah began in 1967. Abdellah recalls, “With him I played a lot of his and our music. We performed in his ‘African Rhythms Club’ in Tanger (Morocco) with many jazz musicians from all over the planet. This wonderful experience came to its summit in 1972 when we played together in the First “Festival du Jazz in Tangier“. In 1992 Randy and Abdellah had the opportunity to realize an old dream, starting the search for the eldest masters “Malems” of various Moroccan cities.

Discography:

The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians Of Morocco Featuring Randy Weston (Verve World, 1994)
Spirit! The Power Of Music, with Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet And The Gnawa Master Musicians Of Morocco (Gitanes Jazz Productions, 2000)

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Artist Profiles: Master Musicians of Jajouka

Master Musicians of Jajouka

The Master Musicians of Jajouka are an all-male group from Jajouka, a small village in the foothills of the Rif Mountains about a hundred kilometers south of Tangier, Morocco.

Described by William S. Burroughs as “a 4000 year old rock’n’roll band,” they are born into a unique family of musicians who have received royal patronage for centuries. Exempt from all work except making music, the Master Musicians have done nothing else since birth. They are taught from a very early age by their Master Musician family to play an ancient music that is unlike any other.

Two of the great influences on the Beat Generation, Brion Gysin, the painter and inventor, and Paul Bowles, the writer and composer, first heard the wild music of Jajouka at a festival in the summer of 1950. Gysin was entranced and determined to hear the music regularly, for the rest of his life. These were the days of the Inter-Zone, when Tangier was an international city, where anything could and did happen. In this adventurous climate, Gysin opened the now-legendary restaurant, The 1001 Nights, in the kasbah of Tangier, hiring the Jajouka musicians as the house band. However, it wasn’t until after 1968 when Gysin brought his close friend Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones to Jajouka, that the sacred music was brought widely to the attention of the Western world.

The Jajoukans musically recreated festival music from their most important religious holiday and Jones eagerly recorded seven hours of the captivating, complicated sounds. It was this festival that led Gysin to believe that there were connections between the ancient rites of Pan, the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, and the local tradition in Jajouka of a young boy dressing as Bou Jeloud, the Goat God, Father of Skins, and dancing madly, whipping the villagers into a frenzy, and ensuring the health of the village for the coming year.

Jones drowned a month after returning from Morocco and the album he recorded, Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, was released two years later, in 1971. Jones had manipulated the recordings, using various psychedelic sound treatments, that were somewhat popular at the time, yet which left the music lacking its original haunting, penetrating authenticity.

The release of “Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka” was very influential and led to scores of people visiting the village in the following years, including Ornette Coleman, the saxophone player, who recorded a track for his album “Dancing In Your Head” in the village. In 1995, the album was reissued on Point Records with extra tracks left intact, representational of the original sound.

The music of Jajouka has always been highly respected and sought after by those living in the region. The Master Musicians were the Royal Court musicians for seven kings of Morocco prior to Morocco’s occupation by France and Spain. Villagers come to Jajouka on pilgrimage, to visit the shrine of the holy man Sidi Ahmed Sheikh, who brought Islam to the valley centuries ago. It is said that this holy man plowed his field with a team of Berber lions, a feat which inspired the special Jajouka insignia, a lion created through the calligraphic weaving of sacred text from the Qu’ran. Sidi Ahmed Sheikh also had the power to heal mental illnesses and he blessed the music of Jajouka with this same healing power and to this day, the Master Musicians along with the Holy Man in the village heal the mental illnesses of the people sent from surrounding villages.

The Attar family, the keepers of the sacred music, are also the founding family of the village. They possess baraka, or the blessing of Allah, which gives them the power to heal, and the endurance required to play some of the most intense and complex music around. This family, though under tremendous financial strain, still carries on the traditional rites to this day.

Master Musicians of Jajouka

The music of Jajouka uses a number of traditional instruments, including the ghaita (the Arabic version of the oboe), the lira (a bamboo flute), and the guimbri (a three stringed lute), along with double-headed Moroccan drums. The music is composed of several fairly simple parts, which are then intricately woven together in a way foreign to most Western ears, so that the resolution of individual phrases and sections can be difficult for outsiders to discern. The music can be extended indefinitely, and many performances last for days at a time, with some musicians taking breaks and others stepping in to take their place.

In 1980 the Master Musicians of Jajouka began a series of European tours, but lost momentum with the death of their chief and band leader, Hadj Abdessalam Attar, in 1982. One of his younger sons, Bachir Attar, now fronts a rejuvenated group from Jajouka and the surrounding hills. As a kind of ambassador of Jajouka, Attar frequently journeys from his homeland to Paris, London and New York, working to get the music from Jajouka out to the world, composing new songs, and collaborating with other musicians, such as Deborah Harry, saxophonist Ornette Coleman, Maceo Parker, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and The Rolling Stones, with whom The Master Musicians of Jajouka also recorded in 1989 in Tangier, an event well documented in Paul Bowles’ diary with the title “Days: A Tangier Journal.”

Bachir Attar’s latest collaboration combines the ancient sounds of the Master Musicians with composer, producer, DJ, club promoter, and tabla player, Talvin Singh. The album “Searching for the Passions” will be released under the Point Music Label (Decca Music Group) in the Spring of 2000.

Regarded by Jagger as “one of the most musically inspiring groups still left on the planet,” legend has it if they ever stop playing the world will come to an end. So, in the words of the late William S. Burroughs, “listen to the music, the primordial sounds. Listen with your whole body, let the music penetrate you and move you, and you will connect with the oldest music on earth.”

Bachir Attar is the son of the late Hadj Abdesalam Attar, who was the undisputed leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka. He has inherited that role and is now responsible for the preservation of an endangered musical tradition, a tradition now virtually non-existent in the Western world, where time and money take precedent over ritual and meaning. This responsibility includes the care of the entire Attar family, which easily numbers several hundred. Unfortunately, due to modern constraints and impoverished conditions, the band itself has quickly diminished in size, the simple reason being that many of the potential musicians move away from the village to attend school in the city instead of learning the complex music of the ancestors. Bachir Attar has known since birth that he is the one with the baraka, the one to carry on the tradition, and so he devotes his life to securing performances for the musicians and documenting the rich and fascinating history of his family.

Discography:

Brian Jones Plays With The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka (Rolling Stones Records, 1971)
The Primal Energy That Is The Music And Ritual Of Jajouka, Morocco (Adelphi Records, 1974)
Tribe Ahl Serif: Master Musicians Of Jajouka ‎(Musical Heritage Society, 1975)
Apocalypse Across The Sky (Axiom, 1992)
Jajouka Between The Mountains (Real World Records, 1995)
Master Musicians Of Jajouka (Point Music, 2000)
Boujeloud’s Cave – 1974 ‎(2002)
Live Volume 1 ‎(Jajouka Records, 2009)
The Source ‎(Le Son Du Maquis, 2010)
The Road to Jajouka (Howe Records, 2013)
Apocalypse Live ‎(M.O.D. Technologies, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Najat Aatabu

Najat Aatabu

The emotionally charged voice of Najat Aatabu (Also spelled Aatabou, in French) is one of the strongest and most thrilling in popular Moroccan music, known as chaabi. On stage, her voice and presence are electrifyingsome of her movements derive from jedba exorcism/trance ritual from Northern Africa. Her dynamic performances and forthright views take her straight to the heart of the Moroccan public and have made her a star.

As a teenager, she liked to sing songs in Berber and Arabic. Her parents were not very pleased because they believed that being a singer was not a reputable profession for a woman. Najat Aatabu decided to move from her hometown, Khemisset, to Casablanca, where she got a record deal. with the Hassania label.

She receives inspiration from thousands of Moroccan women who write letters to her and she replies singing. Her lyrics are witty and she combines words from Arabic and Tamazight (Berber).

Discography:

The Voice of the Atlas (Globe Style, 1991)
Country Girls & City Women (Rounder, 1997)
Najat Aâtabou (La Fa Mi, 1998)
La Diva marocaine (La Fa Mi, 2001)

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Artist Profiles: Gnawa Halwa

Gnawa Halwa

The members of Gnawa Halwa were born and still live in the heart of their Gnawi brotherhood in Marrakesh. Day to day life within this traditional brotherhood is interspersed with their European tours. The Gnawa Halwa are sought after musicians (collaborating with Randy Weston, Bill Laswell, Gnawa Diffusion) and are capable of sharing the warmth of African traditions with their public.

Gnawa Halwa have taken part in various international festivals: Montreux Festival, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, New Morning, Paris, UFA Fabrik, Berlin, Afrika Festival, Wurzburg, not forgetting Amsterdam, Den Haag, Madrid, Zagreb, Palermo, Frankfurt

One of the group’s projects is Gnawa Impulse. Berlin scene meets Gnawa tradition. Ritual breakbeats and virtual trance. With their intensive vocals and rhythms the Gnawa musicians, playing nightly rituals, are able to bring varied audiences to trance, a state of open-mindedness, sometimes hypnotic then ecstatic.

In September 1998 the traditional Moroccan Gawa musicians Abdenbi Binizi, Samir Zgarhi and Majid Karadi met Jan-Claudius Rase and David Beck, both multi-instrumentalists of German origin.

Abdenbi Binizi – solo voice, percussion and drum

Kamal Ifir – voice, sintir (three-string bass lute) and dance

Samir Zgarhi – voice, karkabas (metal castanets) and dance

Discography:

Rhabouine (Melodie, 1997)

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