Saturday, 11 April 2009

Rih: Folk and Blues from Morocco

This mix blends pieces from the great bands of the 1970s Moroccan new wave - Nass el Ghiwane, Jil Jilala and Lemchaheb - with folk music, spiritual music (from the Joujouka and Aissaoua confraternities) and a couple of examples of collaborations between Moroccan and non-Moroccan musicians. It's called Rih, signifying 'wind' and also 'tune', and features percussion instruments (t'bel, bendir, qarqaba), stringed instruments (banjo, hajhouj), flutes and voices. It was mixed with Ableton Live: some of the pieces run more or less complete, others are broken up into loops or fragments.

00.00 Section from Lemchaheb, El Jounoud (Hassania, EH3410)
02.46 Loop cut up from 'Etude rhythmique de mode traditionnel lent (2 gros bendirs)', from Anthologie de la musique populaire marocaine vol. II. Marrakech et le pays des Kasbahs (BAM, LD 5835)
04:20 Tanja l-alia, from Moroccan Folk Music (Lyrichord, LLST 7229)
10:24 Loop from 'Etude instrumentale avec accelèration rhythmique T'Bol et crotales de fer', from Marrakech et le pays des Kasbahs, as above
10:58 Arouech (first of 6 pieces), from Marrakech: Musique populaire de la place Djemaa el Fna (BAM, LD5811)
11:52 Jil Jilala, Lahkaya (Disques Esperance, ESP 1706)
15:32 Loop from Arraks teht a 'l Kamar, from Bachir Attar with Elliott Sharp in New York (Enemy, EFA 03514)
16:32 Rih ash-Sheikh al-Kamal, from Moroccan Sufi Mystics (Lyrichord, LLST 7238)
17:22 Jil Jilala, Naditak Falghonna (Disques Esperance, ESP 1706)
23:14 Reprise of Rih ash-Sheikh al-Kamal, as above
23:47 Abdelhamid Boujendar, Myriem (Disques Esperance, ESP 9304)
25:51 Kwaku Baah and Ganoua, Rif Zef Zef (Island, ILPS 9491)
30:00 Spoken intro, looped and overlaid, to Jil Jilala, Mazzine Ossolak (Disques Esperance, ESP 1706)
30:42 Nass el Ghiwane, Mahmouna (Azwaw, AZW 140)
39:18 Extract from Brian Jones presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka (COC 49100)
39.18 Reprise of 'Etude instrumentale avec accelèration rhythmique', as above

A few notes. Some of these pieces are essentially field recordings. The Arouech, a piece of Berber festival music, was recorded by Francois Jouffa in the early 1970s. The pieces on Marrakech et le pays des Kasbahs were recorded by Jean Mazel. The LPs on Lyrichord (Moroccan Folk Music and Moroccan Sufi Mystics) were recorded by Philip Schuyler. Tanja l-alia is an example of 'Jiblia' music from the Rif mountains in northern Morocco. Schuyler notes:
Jiblia songs are generally short (5 or 10 minutes), but under conditions of excitement songs may be strung together. A Jiblia song cycle may commence with an introductory instrumental in free rhythm by each member of the band. They then go into the first song, usually in a slow, dragging rhythm; the pace picks up; a bridge increases the tempo and leads into the next song, more spirited still; one, two or more songs may follow after succeeding bridges, after which the piece closes with a long instrumental. During this l-'ail ("the boy") gets up to dance, dressed as a woman. He is a standard feature of most Jiblia bands; an added touch is dancing with a tea tray with pot and glasses on his head.
Rih ash-Sheikh al-Kamal ('Wind/Tune of the Perfect Leader') is dedicated to Sidi Mohammed ben Aissa (1465-1524 AD), the patron saint of the Aissaoua brotherhood. From Schuyler again:
Every devotee has a certain tune which can drive him into a trance almost automatically, and another which can bring him back to consciousness as soon as he has satisfied himself dancing. And each brotherhood has certain acts the members perform when they are in a trance. The Aissaoua may drink boiling water, eat cactus or pass torches over their bodies. This rih comes from around the Meknes area. Pure and unadorned it is played in the second or third part of a hadra [meeting] when the musicians are trying to calm down the adepts and work some of them out of their trances.

The lute virtuoso Abdelhamid Boujendar (b. 1941) studied in Rabat and Versailles and at the time of this recording (1978) was Professor at the National Conservatory in Rabat. The lyrics are by the poet and songwriter Driss Alaoui (b. 1946). The LP from which the song is taken brings together the Franco-Arab work of Boujendar and Alaoui with interpretations of Moroccan popular songs by the group Nahawand (also from Rabat).

Nass el Ghiwane, Jil Jilala and Lemchaheb were themselves influenced by the Moroccan spiritual confraternities such as the gnawa and the Aissaoua, but mixed these traditional musical forms with more contemporary lyrics and instrumentation. There are also a couple of examples of collaborations between Moroccan and non-Moroccan musicians. The “gnawa-style” work of percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah (in collaboration with Abdellcada Zef Zef and Mohamed ben Hamou Saidi) is an unusual 1976 release from Island records. An excellent account of it can be found here. There is also a short loop drawn from the American composer Elliott Sharp’s 1994 collaboration with the Bachir Attar, from the Master Musicians of Joujouka, who themselves had been introduced to non-Moroccan audiences by Brian Jones in 1971.