Friday, December 22, 2017

Fatima el Houaria, and 2017 blog roundup of North African women's music posts

Wow, 2017 comes to a close. Some of this year was pretty awful, at least here in the US. And our current leadership won't be doing anything to address mass gun violence, climate change, and numerous other ills.

Yet hope and light continue to shine forth here and there. The #metoo movement is bringing some long overdue attention to pernicious, pervasive male behavior. I hope that some positive culture change comes out of it.

So in honor of #metoo, here's a tape of some badass Houariyat from Marrakech. This style of music just delights me. Raucous drumming and hearty, bawdy call/response singing. This joyful music is made by women, for women, to enjoy primarily among themselves.

Wishing goodness, blessings, and fulfilling grooves to you all in the new year!

Fatima el Houaria, Vol. 2
Safi Disque cassette, ca. 2001 
1) Diggu Li L3youn Digga Roumiya
2) Douwaya Nhakoum Llah 3liya Rjaya f-Llah
3) Wa Mwaliya Ya Mwaliya
4) Farha f-Salatu 3a n-Nbi
5) Ma Khellali Ma Gal Fiya Klam L3ar 
6) A Mwi Ya Dada, Wa Ya Lalla

Get it all here.

Here also are some great 2017 posts from the music blogosphere, sharing recordings of North African women's music:

Wallahi le Zein! - Unreleased DIMI mint ABBA from the late 1990s : Rissala 
Fantastic, ecstatic, electric recording of a private concert of the late, great Mauritanian singer. And excellent notes about concerts and contexts from Matthew Lavoie, formerly of the Music Time in Africa blog.

ARAB TUNES: The Musical Heritage of Algeria : Teldja ثلجة
Deligtful compilation of tunes from the Algerian chaoui singer Teldja.

Maghreb Sharit No 6 - Moroccan Ladies of Tichkaphone and Koutoubiaphone

Latest in a continuing series of Moroccan mix tapes (produced on tape!), #6 is a compilation of songs from the Tichkaphone/Koutoubiaphone label.

Gharamophone: Reinette l’Oranaise – Ya biadi ya nas – Polyphon, c. 1934

History of the song "Ya biadi ya nas", which became well known in Morocco and Algeria, as well as its first recording, by the great Reinette l'Oranaise. Gharamophone is Chris Silver's continuation of his earlier, fine blog Jewish Maghrib Jukebox.

K7 Maghreb: Cheikha Rahma [EHA 36]

KILLER! Most of the folk song styles I've heard from northwest Algeria/northeast Morocco features the raspy gasba flutes, like you would hear on recordings by Cheikha Remitti. This tape features the Algerian singer Cheikha Rahma, performing with an awesome double-horned, double-reed instrument that I believe is called a zamar. If you visit the blogpost, you'll find a great YouTube video showing Cheikha Rahma performing with one of these groups. 


Bodega Pop: Spice Ray
Bodega Pop has returned with a great stash of cassettes recently obtained in Queens. This unusual cassette appears to be a Moroccan rai album credited to "Spice Ray" (the Moroccan rai Spice Girls?), and contains several songs that address social issues, including an opening track lamenting the death of children under bombs in Iraq.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Houssaine Kili - Great Gnawa Fusion in the Early 90s

Houssaine Kili is a singer, songwriter, and string player (bass, guitar, guinbri, mondol, lotar...), originally from Agadir, who notably collaborated with the German rock group Dissidenten for a series of albums and tours in the 1980s.

The origin of these collaborations is recounted in the notes to Kili's first solo album. Kili has released 2 solo albums, produced and recorded in Germany: Safran (1999) and Mountain to Mohamed (2001).

From what I could find online, Kili appears to have led and toured with his own band throughout the 2000s, and he did some touring with jazz pianist Omar Sosa after participating in the latter's album Sentir in 2002. I couldn't find much online trace of Kili more recent than 2009.

Although I can't fill in his more recent history, I can share a fantastic live tape that gives an idea of what he was doing between his departure from Dissidenten (1988) and the release of Safran (1999). The Safran notes state that "Kili left [Dissidenten] in 1988 and started working on a solo project", but no details of this project are given. If this tape is any indication, it's a shame that this project did not result in an album.

The tape reveals a fully realized fusion band, drawing heavily on Gnawa source material, and performing thoughtful, tight, punchy arrangements. The tape came into my hands in Marrakech in 1992, and I was told it was recorded in Germany. That seems likely, though the introductory narrration to the first song, "Marrakech", is in French, and some of Kili's banter is in English. (Sometimes it's "danke", sometimes it's "thank you".)

Strangely (and disappointingly to me), none of the material from this concert tape shows up on either of Kili's two albums which, to my ear, were good but less exciting than this live tape. Some tracks on Mountain to Mohamed come close, particularly, the fantastic "Kfaya":

Both of Kili's albums, however, aim for a broader mix of textures and Moroccan source materials than the repertoire of the focused, Gnawa-centric live performing unit. I could find barely a trace of this band or these songs online anywhere. The closest I got was a live clip of Kili in 1998 leading a band in a performance of "Ya Sandi".

While the 1998 performance retains a couple elements of the arrangement performed on my tape (particularly the short instrumental transition phrase that begins/ends some sections), it is missing many delightful features of the early 90s version: call/response and harmony from a second vocalist, intricate rhythm guitar work, middle-section breakdown, and overall propulsive rhythmic drive:

I would love to know more about this early 90s band, and about this tape:
  • Who are the musicians? The only person introduced by name is Roland Schaeffer on saxophone and guitar (and ghaita). Schaeffer was a member of Embryo, the group from which Uve Müllrich and Michael Wehmeyer broke away to form Dissidenten, and with whom Kili collaborated as well. Who is playing keyboards and drums, and who is singing the Arabic backing vocals?
  • Where and when did this concert take place? Though my copy has quite a bit of tape hiss, the overall mix is very good - it sounds like a professional soundboard recording. (I would looooove to hear a clean version of this recording, and one that fills in some of the portions missing in my tape)
  • Where else and how often did this band perform? Did they ever make studio recordings? If so, why did they never see the light of day? 
  • Why did Kili abandon these songs and arrangements when he recorded his 2 albums?
Some clips of Kili's bands in the 2000s do retain the excitement and energy of the early 90s band, for example, this great 2002 clip:

It's not easy to keep a North African fusion band going outside of France or North Africa. (Believe me, I've tried!!) It's too bad there's not more recorded music available from the talented and creative Houssaine Kili, and that he wasn't able to find sustained international success over the years. His website remains active, but contains no news or recent updates. I hope he'll resurface with something new and interesting! The most recent clip I could find of him was something very different and very nice:

Houssaine Kili Band, featuring Roland Schaeffer, 199X-XX-XX, Germany
tape obtained in marrakech in 1992
01) Marrakech (baniya)

02) Jilali
03) Ya Sandi
04) rai song (contains fade out and in)
05) Roland Schaeffer instrumental
06) Of Course One Day the Sun Will Shine (contains tape flip)
07) Ah Wlidi
08) M3a Mourad Allah
09) Negsha (incomplete - fades out)
10) Yobati
11) Jilala (encore)

Get it all here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Yes! - More Ladies of Aâtiphone!

Do not mess with these badass âouiniyat ladies, who come to you straight outta 1990s Marrakech armed with bendir-s, târija-s, and non-stop rhyming couplets, to rock you all night long. Just fire up a pot of mint tea, set out a tray and some glasses, and when the groove takes you, get up and shimmy to your heart's content.

As I've said before, everything I've ever heard on the Âatiphone imprint out of Kelaat es-Sraghna is super-great, and this tape is no exception. Enjoy!

Âouniyat Ladies of Âatiphone
Âatiphone cassette, Kelâat Es-Sraghna, 1990s
01 Wa Khay Ya Khay
02 Ara Liya Khwitmi Ha Lbalini Ya
03 Alawa Ya Mwi Lawa Ya Tawl Ezzman Âyyani

04 Hak a Rasi
05 Wa Jewwejih Ya Mwi Duwwez Hayatu Wa
06 Diri 3lach Terj3i Ha Ya Lwaqfa Fel Bab
07 Wa Rah Blani Lalla
08 Duwr a Chayfuwr

Get it all here.