Saturday, July 9, 2016

Inerzaf - The Classic Line-up with Hamid and Lahcen

best guess personnel, clockwise from top center: Lahcen Bizenkad - lead vocal, bendir; Mohamed Abdelghani - guitar, vocal; Hassan Batch - tam tam, vocal; Boubker Ouchtain - bendir, vocal; Hamid Baih (Hamid Inerzaf) - banjo, vocal.

Today's tape comes to you courtesy of Mr Tear, curator of the Snap, Crackle & Pop blog and host of the The Junk Shop radio program. It's a good one, too - a vintage tape from the group Inerzaf (or Inrzaf). Thanks, Mr T!

Inerzaf ("Wedding Guests") came together in the early-to-mid-1980s in the area of Agadir. Like tagroupit contemporaries Oudaden and Ait Lâati, Inerzaf were inspired by the wave of 70s groups like Izenzaren, Archach and Ousman, but drew more heavily on Soussi Berber musical sources, such as the amarg/rwayes tradition. And like Oudaden and Ait Lâati, Inerzaf used the distinctive combination of electric guitar and banjo.

The most renowned version of the group seems to be the one including both composer/singer/bendir player Lahcen Bizenkad and banjoist Hamid Baih. A highlight of this line-up is Hamid's virtuosic banjo playing, which is universally praised in online video comments. This version of the group was together from the mid/late 80s to around 1995. They are pictured on the j-card above and are featured in the live video embedded below:

All members of the group remained active after they split in the mid-1990s. Hamid and Lahcen both lead groups to this day, and the others have done so over the years as well. All of them use the name Inerzaf, and formations often feature more than one member of the earlier group (e.g., Inerzaf Hamid, Inerzaf Lahcen Bizenkad, Inerzaf Boubker, Inerzaf Brothers, Inerzaf Family...)

Inrzaf (انرزاف) Nassiriphone cassette NP183
A1) Ahinou Madrigh Zine - احنو مدويغ الزين - Iskert Lehouz Uwuday - إسكرت الحوز ؤوداي
A2) Allah Allah Ijra Ghikad - الله الله إجرا غكاد

B1) Yan Kirn Zine - يان كرن الزين
B2) Aoulinou Sber Idagh - اولينو صبر يداغ
B3) Samhatagh Nsemhek - صمحتغ نصمحك
B4) Oufighd Ameksa - الفغد أمكسا

Get it all here.

Sources: My info about Inerzaf comes primarily from three online musician biographies here, here, and here. Apologies for any errors or omissions.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yes Please, I'd Like Mine With Drum Kit and Electric Guitar - Noujoum el Haouz

Ramadan Mubarak to all, and Happy Father's Day!

This is some of the best music ever!

I recently inherited a box full of cassettes with no j-cards. The second cassette I popped in is an album by the AWESOME electric-guitar-drum-kit-and-shikhat group Noujoum al Houz, who were featured in one of the earliest posts on this blog, almost exactly five years ago!

The music of this group remains one of my favorite Moroccan sounds of all time. I've not heard another group doing quite what these folks did back in the late 80s/early 90s. The songs and singing are straight-up âita and women's chaâbi styles. The accompaniment just happens to replace the viola with an electric guitar and to move the bendir-taârija continuum of interlocking rhythms to a drum kit.

Having a guitar take the riffing melodic lead role (usually played by a viola or an oud) - is something I've not heard elsewhere in Moroccan chaâbi. Most electric guitars one hears in chaâbi (and one rarely hears them any more) are relegated to strumming rhythmic patterns and playing chords along with melodies that never used chords before (like in this old Orchestre Asri cassette, h/t Snap Crackle & Pop). This chordal support function in chaâbi was taken over by keyboards by the early 90s. One was more likely to hear melodic picking of electric guitars in Berber music (Moulay Ahmed Elhassani, Mohammed Amrrakchi), or in some of the Ghiwanesque folk revival groups (Oudaden, early Tagada).

As for the drum kit, well it does remain in chaâbi music, but it's never as in-your-face as you'll hear here. (And I mean "in-your-face" in a good way!) In most chaâbi music, the drum kit seems to play a supporting role in the overall texture of the ensemble. It doesn't drive the rhythm section, but rather provides support to the darbuka and bendirs (like dig this Daoudia live clip - you can barely hear the drum kit behind the bendirs, qarqabas, and darbuka, and it never does any fills.) But for a minute in the 80s and early 90s, the drum kit took a fantastic role in a few chaâbi recordings, stepping to the front of the mix, tumbling and accenting in a really exciting way. (In addition to these Noujoum el Haouz recordings, I'm thinking also of these bitchin' Mahmoud Guinia recordings and this excellent anonymous chaâbi tape.)

Today I'm offering a twofer. One is the newly-found cassette on the Kawakib label.

The second, let's call it a bonus album, is the actual tape that matches this j-card that I uploaded with my original post 5 years ago:

I never uploaded the actual tape that goes with this j-card because it is severely damaged. Over half of side A is barely audible due to some magnetic weirdness. Bits of side B suffer from this as well. Don't download this until you've heard the other tapes. If, like me, you can't get enough of them, you will happily sit through the magnetic weirdness in order to spend a few more minutes with this fantastic group.

I've been able to find no information online about the group or its leader, Lâyyadi Abdeljalil. I'm guessing they were a purely Marrakchi phenomenon, since both of the labels they appeared on, Sawt el Mounadi and al Kawakib, were based in Marrakech. Hope to find out more about them some day. In the meantime, enjoy!!

Noujoum el Haouz (نجوم الحوز) - Sawt el Kawakib cassette (ca. 1990)
1) Daouli Ghzali
2) A Moul L3aoud A Wlidi
3) Track 03
4) Sayh Ya Bu Derbala (see YouTube clip above)
5) Ayma Sabri Llah
6) Track 06
7) Suwwelu Moul Dar

Get it all here.

Noujoum el Haouz (نجوم الحوز) - Tansiq ou Tanshit Lâyyadi Abdeljalil (تنسيق و تنشيط العيادي عبد الجليل)
Sawt el Mounadi (صوت المنادي) cassette, ca. 1993

01) Dami
      Alf Lila Ou Lila
      Husa ya Husa
      Waye Wa Houara
02) Ila Bghiti Temchi Ghir Sir
      Ezzine oul Jamal
      Lilwajed Lmra Zwina

This tape has major audio problems on side 1 (the first 13 minutes), and a few on side 2 as well. But the music is so good, I'm uploading the whole thing anyway.

Get it all here.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tagada & Louz Tagada - Venerable Viola-Driven Folk Revivalists

The group Tagada arose in the 1970s alongside other Arabophone "folk revival" groups like Nass el Ghiwane, Jil Jilala, and Lemchaheb. When I first heard Tagada in the 1990s, they struck me as a bit apart from those groups. Where NG and JJ riffed on traditional songs and genres to create new and memorable original songs and styles, Tagada's repertoire sounded to me like straight-up folk material, delivered in a manner faithful to some kind of earlier, more rustic aesthetic.

Tagada's folk sources come primarily from the âita repertoire. Here's some early Tagada from the '70s. With the banjo (which they later abandoned), this recording has a very Ghiwani vibe, similar to Nass el Ghiwane's aita-based classic L-Hassada:

I haven't found much of this early Tagada available online. I would LOOOOVE to hear what THIS version of the group sounds like:

Oh joy, I found some - here's an amazing vintage 9 minute video clip, with electric guitar, even!

According to group member Dekhouche Ahmed Roudani, Tagada, like Nass el Ghiwane, came out of the theatre troupe of Tayeb Saddiki. Troupe members Omar Sayed, Boujemâa H'gour, and Larbi Batma split from Saddiki's group after the production of the play "Al Harraz" to form Nass el Ghiwane, while the future Tagada members remained with Saddiki's group for the next production, "Maqamat Badii Ezzaman al Hamadani" (1971).

In the Tagada I remember from the early 90s, the viola had eclipsed the banjo/guitar as the primary melodic instrument in the ensemble. This amounted basically to a stripped-down folk-chaâbi sound: viola and percussion (sometimes with a plucked banjo or oud) with âita-derived call/response and group singing, without the modern sheen of keyboards or guitars and without the sexy seduction of female shikhat singers.

Tagada usually performs dressed in jellaba robes. This is similar to what would be worn by traditional male folk or popular percussion ensembles like âbidat errma or tkitiqat groups, and in contrast to both the 70s folk revival look (either with groovy vests or the outlaw cowboy look of the album cover above) and the well-dressed-chaâbi-orchestra-lead-singer-with-a-suit-and-tie look. Despite their use of traditional dress and musical sources, one non-traditional practice does stand out - Mohamed Louz's unusual drum configurations: neither the double pair of tamtams (in the "Yahli" clip above) nor the conga/bongo combination (in the "Rgibaoua" clip) are traditional for Moroccan folk music - these appear to be Louz's own idiosyncratic configurations.

The only Tagada-related tape in my collection dates to 1995. I always thought it was by the regular Tagada group, but now that I'm taking a closer look at it, I see that it reads Majmo3at Louz Tagada (Ensemble Louz Tagada). The photo on the j-card features prominent photos of Louz (bottom right) and the violinist (bottom left) who were both previously with Tagada. According to Izza Genini in the film "Tambours Battant", Mohamed Louz split from Tagada in the early 1990s, though he reunited with them for a live session in the film:

Inasmuch as I can tell from YouTube videos, Louz's Tagada group and the regular Tagada group are both quite active still today. The regular Tagada had an insidiously catchy hit back in the late '90s or early 2000's with "Ach Kayn Ach Kayn", which remains a crowd-pleaser:

Sadly, Tagada's longtime violinist Mustapha Mounafie (seen above) passed away in November 2015. Hear more of the regular Tagada ensemble at Ournia.

Majmoat Louz Tagada - Sawt Ennachat cassette (1995)
1) Lalla Rkiya
2) Atay Ya Loulid

3) Saêfni ya Rasi
4) Derriya Kouni Mra

Get it all here.