Morocco III

The mid-1960s through the early 1970s were a revolutionary time for music worldwide. Americans are acutely aware of the role of the Beatles and various San Francisco hippie bands had on our culture, as the Baby Boomers have made it their life goal to bludgeon younger generations with their self-important hype. They are nearly as bad as the so-called Greatest Generation and their rambling about how they saved the world from Hitler and the Japs. Unfortunately, the Boomers' endless self-centeredness has occluded other music movements which happened at the same time. Fortunately, as the Boomers drop dead, we are learning and hearing more and more of the sound revolution different parts of the world were undergoing.

These movements tend to have three things in common. First, first they took the established music forms of their region and mixed them with other local genres, as well as included sounds, structures and instruments from outside their culture. Second, the lyrics tended to be more social and/or political than prior musical styles. And, third, the change in sound upset traditionalists and established artists, while the lyrics pissed off the establishment.

Latin America was particularly fruitful for revolutionary sounds. In Brasil, the Tropicalia movement lead by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and others, took over the country's music scene. A bit earlier, Violetta Para's work in Chile lead to La Nueva Cancion, an avant-garde, Leftist folk music which spread throughout Latin America, inspiring other movements. One such movement was Nueva Trova out of Cuba. Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez, working in the mind-blowing Grupo de Experimentation Sonora del ICAIC, were central in Nueva Trova, another genre which was to cross borders, inspiring even more offshoots.

Latin sounds in the United States also underwent a revolution. In New York, the salsa scene was shaken up by Willie Colon and a handful of other young musicians. Incorporating avant jazz sounds and soul in their music and playing it without any consideration for crossover success, Colon and cohorts were lambasted by their elders as being too brash, too disrespectful, and too uncompromising (though to be fair some salsa veterans like Tito Puente immediately recognized the younger generation's importance). A few years later, West Coast Latinos merged salsa, funk and rock, while peppering their songs with Chicano pride and politicial lyrics.

In Eastern Europe, various bands were creating unusual rock sounds, with edgy lyrics, and paying dearly for it with imprisonment, repression, and exile. Most famous of these bands is Czechoslovakia's Plastic People of the Underground. The Caribbean heard calypso, already politically charged, morph from ska to reggae. In Central Africa, Highlife was evolving and Afrobeat was coming to life with Fela. Morocco and North Africa underwent a similar revolution.

The popular music of North Africa is called Chaabi (also spelled Shaabi). Pinpointing where and when Chaabi started is difficult, mostly due to the fact that the term encompasses a number of sounds and is the result of different fusions of styles. In this way, the term Chaabi is a lot like Salsa in Latin music, it is a catchall. However what most people seem to agree on is that the first wave of Chaabi came from Egypt - Cairo is the Nashville of the North African music industry - and that the sounds that dominated Chaabi in the 1950s and 1960s are a popular mix of various North African and Arab music. In Morocco, the dominant current in Chaabi was called Al'aita, originating from the Atlantic coast, with songs about love, loss, and other life experiences.

Come the 1970s, Moroccan Chaabi was to undergo a revolution not unlike that experienced by the world's other popular music. This "Second Wave" introduced electric instruments, as well as the sounds of Berber music, Highlife, rock & roll and other Western styles. And, as with other revolutionary genres, the lyrics became more socially aware and political. Heading this revolution were three bands: Nass el Ghiwane, Lemchaheb, and Jil Jilala. Nass el Ghiwane (see last post) was the most politically radical of the three bands. Lembaheb was to become the most well known, touring and working with artists in Europe and having a more "Western" sound. Jil Jilala, though, is the best.

Jil Jalala evolved from a Sufi theater group in Marrakesh. Hanging out in the Jamaa el Fna, they were exposed to plenty of folk sounds, most prominently Gnawa music, which itself is a fusion of different styles. The Gnawa influence results in Jil Jalala's songs bordering on trance-like and thus a bit more psychedelic sounding than their contemporaries (though this is easier to hear in long form than in their short songs). Jil Jilala were also one of the only Moraccan Chaabi band at the time to have a female member. Over the years, the group has lost and changed members, and has broken up and reformed. Since 2006 they have remained active.

Here are a couple songs from a 1974 single by the band. Both of these are great songs, but "Dada Oumie" is especially so.

Jil Jilala
Rifia b/w Dada Oumie 7" (Polydor, 1974)

These Moroccan posts have been truly fantastic. Thanks.
Thanks. There are more to come and they will be posted sooner than they have been! Please pass the word on them, as traffic has been down. --SS

there are certain egyptian influences on the moroccan cha'abi, but it's really amazing how these two genres are far from each other.

the classical arabic (egyptian) music, is.... classical, it's aesthetics are more western, it is based more on written parts and less on improvisations. and when being played it is always taken as "high art".

cha'abi is "hafla" which means party. it is more tribal, more mind losing, and coming way more from the stomach than the intelect. moroccan music is trance based and that it usually where it goes, the first notable thing on cha'abi music is the rhythm that is being used on 90% of the songs in this genre, the famouse "Malfuf", a berberic trance rhythm that may have been used as part of their traditional trance ceramonies (that was what today "shrink" is today) the malfuf is simple a-simetric rhythm which seems to be imposible to understand by western ears (due to the reversable parts of the "dum" and "tak" of the darbuka. malfuf leads to trance and by that i mean a real physical trance state (if you'd ever experianced one)

the cha'abi evenings are usually being made in small "hamaras" which is the equivalent for a small bar in the arabic world. hamaras is the place when u find small time hustlers, ex-drug dillers, criminals and music lovers. the hamaras are where the party is going on, and when there is a cha'bi evening that means that if it's a good band it's usually will be at least 8 hours of music, with lots of whiskey, beer, hash, and insanity. i've been playing tens of times in this kind of places and i have never seen any people who can party harder.

David Ha'melech
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