Saturday, November 23, 2013

Taktouka Jbaliya with Abdelhak Lâaroussi

The last of my Jbala offerings is some relatively trad taktouka jbaliya from Abdelhak Lâaroussi. I say "relatively" because the ensemble does feature a light keyboard bass in addition to the traditional bendir, darbuka, tar, oud, viola and guinbri.

About the genre, Ahmed Aydoun writes that the name taktouka jbaliya, while commonly used, is contested and that purists still prefer the name âita jbaliya. He continues:

"This rather particular âita is placed by its practitioners under the spiritual guidance of the patron saint of the Beni Âros and the Jabal al-Âlam, the [spiritual] pole Mulay Abdessalam Ben Mshish. There is no âita in which he is not cited." (1)

I love the little guinbri. You can see it held by the gentleman at the far left in the photo above. I own one and play it when I have a chance. A violin-playing colleague dubbed it the "plinkophone" because of its distinctive "plink plink plink" timbre.

I also love the loopy 9/8 (3+2+2+2) rhythm (also heard in my previous Jbala posts). In a full performance of taktouka, the 9/8 gives way to a 5/8 section and ultimately ends up in 6/8. You can hear this progression on the Musique du Monde album "Maroc: Taktoka Jabalia", in particular on the track "Aita Jabalia". On my tape, you don't get that progression, but you do get 40 glorious minutes of non-stop 9/8

More love - the Jbala rock the brown jellaba, wearing one sleeve on and one sleeve out. What a great look! 

This tape again comes from my 2001 visit to Tangier. All the Jbala tapes I picked up were issued by companies based in Fes, which is not part of the Jbala region, but is apparently far enough north to be a center for the recording and production of Jbala music. Interestingly, I also picked up a few Riffi tapes on the same trip (coming soon to the blog), and those were all issued by companies based in Nador.

This particular tape was issued by "Disque Les Fêtes de Fes". Can anybody tell me what this logo signifies? It looks like a craftsman's hammer of some kind. I will update this post if I figure it out.

Regarding the artist Abdelhak Lâaroussi, most examples of his music that I find online are in a chaâbi mode, though with a Jbala flavor. Yala has several recent albums of his. I'm happy to be able to show a different side of his work.

Abdelhak Lâaroussi - Taktouka Jbaliya - Moulay Abdeslam (Disque Les Fêtes de Fes AF11)
excerpt from Track 1 (of 4)

Get it all here.

(1) Aydoun, Ahmed. Musiques du Maroc, Casablanca: Editions EDDIF, 1992, pp. 111,  my translation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ashura in Marrakech - Daqqa Marrakchiya

In honor of Ashura, which is celebrated this week, I'm breaking away momentarily from my series of Jbala posts to return to my beloved Marrakech.

Here's a swell tape of daqqa marrakchiya, a fantastic genre performed especially for Ashura, famously in Marrakech (though its roots are apparently in Taroudant).

It's surprisingly difficult to find video examples of it online. The only one I could find is this snippet from the streets of Marrakech, apparently from the Sidi Youssef quarter:

It's performed by large groups of men, most of them with a taârija drum, with one man on a pair of qraqeb. It starts slooooooooooooooow and heavy with looooooong poetic stanzas.  Eventually it builds in speed, the rhythms become less complex, and ends with a raucous, deafening section in good 'old 6/8.

It seems like many Moroccans use the term daqqa marrakchiya to refer to what I knew in Marrakech as dqiqiyya or tkitikat - i.e., men's perussion/party ensembles:

These groups are great fun, but should not be confused with the daqqa I'm presenting here.

Etymological excursion: I'm pretty sure the names of these percussion groups are diminutive forms of the names of other Moroccan genres: dqiqqiya being a diminutive form of daqqa, and tkitikat sounding like a diminutive form of taktouka (about which, more next week).

Back to the real daqqa: In bygone days, each neighborhood in Marrakech had its own daqqa group that would perform all night, outdoors, on the night of Ashura. The rhythm of the long, slow opening section (the âayt), is a lopsided thing. It alternates 3 bangs on the taârija with 4 bangs, and each grouping is separated by a clack of the qarqaba whose delivery is streeeeeeeetched out beyond any reasonable sense of meter. Very striking stuff - check the excerpt below for a bit from the beginning and a bit from the end of the tape.

If you like the sound of this, (and I know you do), try to find a copy of the CD La Daqqa: Tambours sacrés de Marrakech. It's a lovely 62 minute recording (one single track!), with excellent performers.

Dekka de Marrakech: Majmuât ad-daqqa al-marrakchiya under the direction of al Hajj Muhammad Baba
Excerpts from sides 1 and 2

Get it all here.

PS - I love the blue Sawt al Haouz cassette shell:

Not forgetting the logo featuring the Koutoubia:

And the Doctor Who-ish psychedelic j-card design. Nuff said.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ghaita Jbaliya - The Northern Oboes

More sounds from northern Morocco this week. It's Ghaita Jbaliya:
  • ghaita = oboe (shawm, double reed instrument...)
  • Jbaliya = of the Jbala people/region
Oboe and drum ensembles are found all over North Africa - it's a perfect ensemble for outdoors, where the shrill piercing tones of the ghaita (or zorna in Algeria and further east) announce the presence of festivities. The typical accompanying drum is the tbel barrel drum, as shown below. (The bendir pictured on the j-card above seems to be a mistake.)

The Stash has previously featured some ghaita music in a post on Aissawa music here. Ghaita and tbel groups can be found all over Morocco, and the particular music played depends on the surrounding regional traditions. Thus ghaita jbaliya features melodies and rhythms particular to the Jbala region. Dig, for example the characteristic 9/8 rhythmic pattern that opens track 1 (embedded at bottom of page).

Though ghaita jbaliya is a regional folk tradition, it was, curiously, one of the first Moroccan musical genres to be exported and consumed in the West, courtesy of the Master Musicians of Jajouka and the Bryon Gysin/Brian Jones/Rolling Stones connection. (See Philip Schuyler's article "Joujouka/Jajouka/Zahjoukah. Moroccan Music and Euro-American Imagination" for the definitive analysis of that story/phenomenon.)

By the way, if you've wondered about the images of rifle-wielding turbaned horesmen seen on this cassette and others (e.g., here, here, and here), that's a representation of tborida (also called "fantasia"). It's a type of performance that takes place at tribal gatherings (moussem-s), and sometimes at very big weddings or other social gatherings. In my understanding, it stands as a symbol for Moroccan Arab rural-ness.

And lastly, I love the cassette imprint of "Sawt Bouhlal" (the voice of Bouhlal) - Bouhlal is a mountain in the region of Al Hoceima (n the Jbala region, of course).

Mnuâat Ghaita Jbaliya (Sawt Bouhlal 004)
excerpt of Track 1 (of 4)

Get it here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Northern Soul - Hajji Srifi

My stash is stocked mainly with tapes from central Morocco - Marrakech, Beni Mellal and Rabat being the primary triangle points of my Moroccan travels. However, I do have a handful of tapes from northern Morocco. The last time I was there was in 2001, and I tried to pick up things that were unavailable further south. I know much less about the northern artists and traditions than I do about the central and southern ones, so I relied on friendly tape vendors to steer me toward what the north has to offer. I'll do what I can to provide some context for these tapes.

I'll start with a nice tape from the artist Hajji Srifi. According to, he was born in the 1940s, has been recording since as early as the 1970s, and is based in the area of Al Hoceima, on the Mediterranean coast.

The music on this tape sounds to me like chaâbi with a northern, specifically Jbala flair. The term "Jbala" can refer to either the mountainous region of northwest Morocco or to people of the Arabic-speaking tribes of that region.

Most tracks on this tape (except track 6) fit into the basic 6/8 groove structure found across Morocco. And the prominence in the mix of keyboard, violin and percussion set it within a typical chaâbi soundscape. However, a Jbala tinge can be heard through a few sonic markers drawn from a couple of Jbala musical genres: Taqtouqa Jbaliya and Ghaita Jbaliya (more on these in the next few posts).

In the title track (embedded toward the bottom of this post), for example, the opening keyboard timbre mimics that of a ghaita (oboe), such as one would hear in the ghaita jbaliya genre (made famous outside of Morocco by the Master Musicians of Jajouka). The vocal melody of this track reminds me of the mode and contour of taqtouqa jbaliya melodies (see YouTube video below, starting around 2:04).

Elsewhere on the tape, other Jbala signifiers can be heard. The oud and small guinbri (or gnibri) used in taqtouqa jbaliya can be heard here and there. (Listen to the very very beginning of track 4 to hear the high-pitched little guinbri.) And something about Hajji's style of vocal vibrato seems typically Jbala to me. See especially the intro to track 6 to hear this vocal quality. Track 6 finishes out the album in the loopy 9/8 taqtuqa rhythm.

As you can see from the video above, Hajji Srifi performs not only in chaâbi-style but also in more traditional modes (and costumes) than this tape and his suit-and-tie photo alone might suggest. has a large number of his more recent albums streaming and downloadable here. Some are more traditional sounding, others incorporate the trappings of modern chaâbi, But all of them are rooted in that Jbala sound. Moroccan Tape Stash gives a big thumbs to this great sound, and thanks those tape vendors in Tangier for doing me right!

Hajji Srifi - Ghab L-Hbib Âliya (Fassiphone 216)
01) Ghab L-Hbib Âliya

02) Allah Allah Lefki
03) L-Hbib Lli Âsherna
04) Ma Bqat Tiqa
05) Anta Bghiti N'tfarqou
06) Toubou Lillah Toubou

Get it here.