A proposal and radio performance by Abdellah Hassak in conversation with artist-performer Ghassan El Hakim and Othman El Kheloufi, composer, saxophonist and theater director.
Hello and welcome to this third event of the 1-54 Forum.
A radio performance by ABDELLAH M. HASSAK in conversation with the artists GHASSAN EL HAKIM, comedian, director, initiator of Cabaret Cheikhat, and OTHMANE EL KHELOUFI composer, saxophonist and director, which will be translated and subtitled by MOUNA GUIDIRI.
Sonic archeologies is an invitation to experiment and question the multiple capacities of sound recording to reconstruct and recompose historical narratives, territories, experiences, or politics. This spontaneous conversation will be activated by a session of listening to sound archives, in order to be debated from their socio-political context and their production process. What do the vinyls tell us from our past ?
This live performance is part of the Forum of 1-54 Art fair, organized and curated this year by LE 18 under the theme of Crafting Wor(l)ds, for a vernacular economy or art. An invitation to explore endogenous and vernacular knowledge and traditions and its activation in our ways of thinking and doing, sharing, making new discourse and methodology in the contemporary era.
Enjoy the session!
We are going to try to have a spontaneous darija-french conversation, Mouna will translate simultaneously. The idea is to talk about the capacities of sound recordings and sound archives and how they could construct, reconstruct, recompose the Moroccan History.
Thank you Ghassan and Othmane for accepting our invitation. If you want to add something concerning your presentation… We are going to start with the first recording, performative session.
MYSTERIOUS MOROCCO – A2 –
A Love Song in Doukala
Recorded By – Camille Biver, Belgian artist who lived in Morocco and died in Mohammedia.
The song invokes different saints and describes trucks that were going then to the South, preparing for the Green March.
This song has a political dimension, it was recorded the same year as the Green March. My first question is: how could we determine the sonic or musical material as the object of anthropological, sociological or historical studies? Is this kind of “heritage” a Moroccan immaterial heritage or not? Especially that it was not driven by a cultural movement… they were rather driven and led by official institutions, ministries, SNRT or by journalists and archivists who were sent by TV channels, and also by international institutions in what we can call colonial heritage.
They didn’t really have a broad knowledge of the Moroccan cultural context and realities… they would just “pass by” and record.
Now that I listened to it again, I saw other things. I think that there is no link with the 1975 event but rather a cover of a song about a marabout, Sidi Aamer, who is the saint of Oulad Hriz, “Aita of Sidi Aamer”. We can get in the lyrics that she is talking about her visiting the mausoleum, or the room, cleaning it…
So what is interesting is that the lyrics are those of cheikhate, of Aita, but adapted to a new situation. Bouchaib EL Bidaoui sung it actually, and also Cheikha Zehhafa, Fatna belhoucine and other. Bouchaib El Bidaoui sung it in the ’50s, he was actually the one who was saying “they told me to sign and I wouldn’t sign”, which refers to King Mohamed 5 before he was sent into exile.
I have to recall that Aita music and songs can be dated as early as the 18th century but the ones we know are those of the 19th century, as Hassan I really appreciated Cheikhat. Thus, I can say that Aita songs can say positive or critical opinions about the system.
As they were talking about the colours of the flag, green and red, as a national pride, but the flag is a recent item. A lot of cheikhate changed their lyrics in the ’70s to more nationalist lyrics, as many cheikhate and people started to fear the makhzen more.
The way the lady was singing, her tone is like if she didn’t really care or was forcing herself to sing.
When I focussed on the text, I felt that the lady was singing for someone who does not understand anything in chaabi music, linking different elements.
It is normal, that’s what we call “Lbrawel”
The I followed and I discovered something interesting at at the end of the “track”: she was telling her friend: “wa baraka” (enough).
I also noted that even the “taarej” were played softly, the skin was not tight. Perhaps they didn’t even warm and prepare them. I interpret this as them not giving a lot of value to the people who were listening and recording.
So this also speaks about the relation between the person who is recording, capturing and the person who is captured. We can furthermore dig deeper into this relationship, especially that the recorded or researched is sometimes taken as an element from a zoo.
That’s actually the question: are these forms of sound archives valuable objects of studies, knowing that people who record things that are not correct about the context. The architectural dimension is also not representative…. Many things in this kind of recording are not documented and this doesn’t allow us to grasp it entirely.
Perhaps this has also to do with the recorder’s approach. It reminded me of a movie of Tony Gatlief, and a scene where we could see people going into transe and at some point there is a sound boom that appeared and he didn’t remove it, preferring to keep this raw aspect. This was also an approach that was used by Paul Bowles… It looks for me like if they stole the moment.
In many houses there are percussion instruments, so we can take them at any moment, without preparing. So I guess that the person who was recording was looking for this kind of intimate situation.
Even the title… Mysterious Morocco, which means maybe some music that were not exported, not known. So we can say there is some kind of orientalism.
So now we are going to listen to another vinyl, that was recorded in 1971, in another context. He tried to record the Throne feast. At the end of the text where he explained the event, he insists on the “aacha al malik” chants (long live the king)
Ibrahim Amttoudi Band – Honor To The Arab King – A1 – Long Live
(King Hassan II and The Prince Sidi Mohammed)
Recorded live in Morocco, March 1970
Recorded By – Z. Kikano
Music is initially an artistic creation but it has also a political power, it pushes people to blieve in a concept, ideology, idea or can even lead them to act in a way. It is used in revolutions, economy, politics…
So the question here is: what the relation between music and politic, and what would be the difference between the expression in a creative way and in a political way. And to what extent can the sound or music gain importance in politics.
So now we listened to an archive to start a reflection on certain dimensions.
For me, this music doesn’t have a political taint, it’s just a “birthday song”. It’s pretty interesting to see that there is a whole song/disc about a birthday. And then I wondered if in Morocco we did have this birthday culture. When I was younger we didn’t really celebrate birthdays. Even now, I don’t remember my family and friends’ birthdays.
That’s what’s interesting then: to call a birthday, that of the king, the “youth feast”, with lights decorating the streets etc. This is an incredible idea, creating all the conditions for peoples to feel the festive aspect.
Concerning the form, there is no big elaboration, no music modulation, it’s rather of a “sandwich music”, made rapidly. The text is pretty funny with words like “Morocco is joyful, singing in every city, congratulating El Hassan singing with tender voices”.
I don’t understand how Moroccans who listened then to Malhoun, read poetry, could accept this kind of texts… I supposed that people listened without giving importance to lyrics.
This reminded me of propaganda, especially in the ’70s, many songs were about the king. I can understand because it was a new national and usually singers and poets were close to the Monarchs, like Voltaire, Molière for example.
So in Morocco, you could even become a specialist as a singer, of what we called then and even now, the “nationalist song”.
It is all about praising the King. This existed in many eras and places, like in France, during WWI. Even the “Che Guevara song” could be included in this area. Every nation or people have a different register for propaganda. But I have to say that this one precisely was of… bad taste.
I wonder now how this kind of music would transform in our contemporary repertoire. I think it does exist even if it’s more indirect. This should push us to reflect on how this kind of art manifests now.
Now we are going to listen to “the Green March Ballad”. The recording date is not specified but based on the quality, I would say that it was produced at the beginning of the ’80s.
It was sung by Leila, but the initiative was that of Annabel Carven, even the lyrics and the composition. She was a French artist who did not have a broad repertoire. The Finnish pianist who accompanied her was famous in the experimental jazz world. What is interesting is that the photographer who appears on the vinyl was the official photographer of Hassan II. Music also featured accordion which was the favorite instrument of Hassan II.
A1 – La Ballade De La Marche Verte (written In Arab)
Adapted By (Text) – I. Ghoulam
Label: Discafa – Discafa 45001
Issued : Not dated
Accordion, Written-By, Photography By [Leila] – Annabel Carven
Photography By – M. Maradji
Producer – Valto Laitinen jazz pianist Helsinki, Finlande
Synthesizer – Valto Laitinen (pistes : A1-2. B2)
Vocals – Leila (30)
There is an instrumental version, and also versions in English and French. So the question here is how the mobilisation of people around a territory is used in music.
Also, how is it used to control ears but also to control knowledge and identity transmission, especially that this transmission is dominantly oral in Morocco.
There is always this control of what people would listen to, think or do. I don’t know this song, and I think it didn’t work and maybe it wasn’t made to “work”, maybe it was a gift. I looked for the singer and didn’t find anything.
If I go back to the ’70s, you would find this kind of songs broadcasted in the national radio. It is still the case now: the songs that are transmitted in the radio are silly. Initially, songs were made to transmit information.
In the cheikhat universe, there is a famous song about a battle that happened next to Marrakech. No Moroccan archive talks about it. I only found it in the French archive. The songs usually hold a message but also hold lies.
In the US, this happened also. The values that are transmitted are not those of real music. I really blame the music industry that have broken the real value of music, nowadays we don’t really listen, even our neurons don’t get excited. This specific disc is a broad communication about “the cause” that had to look like a national cause then.
I have an impression , which I share with a Ghassan, it wasn’t kept in the Moroccan archive. No one would know it. I think that even people who used to play got ashamed and stopped… It’s kind of an attempt to make a track’s life longer. Like in the case of DJs who would be remixing, recalling different songs or tracks, which is interesting.
Here, I think this was a failed attempt, though. When I tried to listen to the text, I felt that there is some forced rhythmic. The singer sounded like she was forcing the lyrics on the music.
What caught my attention too was the voice of the singer. At the beginning, it sounds a bit naive, but after you understand that she may have an incredible vocal training, maybe of jazz.
Notes are clean, precise.
Moreover, to find someone who can sing in Classical Arabic, French and English then was difficult. So why did she use her voice this way? Perhaps that she didn’t have other opportunities…
This is the question: what are the different scenarios that lead to the recording of this or that track? How did these people gather and collaborate? With a very talented pianist? Especially that it involved a lot of work then.
If I go back to each song, we had Taarej for the first track, the second, an entire orchestra and the last one a more international set-up.
So this would make us think about the different “ressources”, social composition of Morocco then. Some people only had taarej and this Morocco, for me, is strong, ancestral. In the group I play with, it’s prohibited to play with “new” instruments.
Again I link this to the political message, to the fact that Morocco was a new, young Nation, people still had Taarej hidden under beds. So this was maybe an attempt to modernise the Moroccan culture.
Now we are going to listen to a track where there is no synthesiser, no instrument, only the voice. It is built like a dictionary, about different dimensions of Moroccan society, in order to clarify pronunciation of Moroccan darija.
Modern Method of Spoken Moroccan Arabic
A – RECORD 2 – Lesson 7
– JEWELLERY –
Jewellery. All women wear bracelets and rings. the poorest wear them in copper or silver. the richest wear gold. Women from the countryside wrap their clothes and hook them with silver “khlala” (fibule). Fibules are sometimes décorated with pearls. They hang Fatima’s hand (khmissa) on their chest as a protection from bad eye. In the city, they use golden Fatima’s hands. Earrings are usually made of gold, sometimes decorated with precious stones, only women wear them. “khit arrouh’ (the soul’s thread = a headpiece jewellery) is made of gold, it is sometimes decorated with stones, women from the city wear it on their forehead, especially for special occasions and feasts.
Why didn’t you wear your jewellery today?
My neighbour asked me to borrow them.
Did you rent it or not?
No, it was for free
Which jewellery did you lend her?
Khit Rouh, bracelets, rings, earrings and Fatima’s hand.
Was she invited to a wedding or a baptem?
She is celebrating her brother’s wedding.
And what about your bare hands?
I have this silver bracelet.
I have been told that you wear jewellery as a protection from bad eye, is it true?
Not all jewellery, only fatima’s hand.
May God guard you and protect you from bad eye.
The question I asked myself was: what is the archive that we can use for anthropological, sociological studies.
For example this one, that refers to a woman who gave here jewellery to a woman from perhaps an inferior social class.
I think that yes, we can use this kind of archive. The other question is: who wrote this text, why, for whom? And also did the text really reflect the realities?
The way they were reading the text made me smile. I could hear that they were comedians, maybe they already did radio-theater, so they give a lot of importance to diction, to everything, every letter put in its place. So there is kind of a monotony that is created, which makes it less lively.
I experienced situations with this comedians or professionals who had the same training. It’s interesting to stop at the words, were they the “real” words that were used by people then or was there an attempt to standardise darija.
It’s true that this was made to leave a trace of sociological practices but, again, for whom was it made.
When you check the Vinyl, you can see that it was produced by “EURAFRIQUE”, in Tangiers. There is a sense of archive or catalogue. You could find similar recordings in Gallica, the French national digital library. These recordings covered social practices of Moroccan people, the way they used to talk.
This reminded me of a cheikha, Brika, who was also acting in theatre. It was a style then, to really articulate, this was especially strong in the ’50s. I think that Darija was a city language. People in the countryside used to speak their dialects.
The people here were from the North.
I thought they were Imazighen. This reminds us of the problem of the categories, the colonial postcard. On YouTube, there are videos, by Gaumont and Pathé, about life in Morocco in the ’20s and the ’50s. You can even hear the voice of the person behind camera, so you can hear interactions between people. And I discovered that then, everybody was speaking the Malhoun language, at least in the city. So this makes me wonder about our contemporary darija, a lot of words disappeared. Linguistic memory that we are losing.
Again here, the ’50s mean that decolonisation was starting, so the coloniser looked in a different way to Moroccan people, in a more educational way, building the nation. I think this kind of vinyls recall many practices that we lost.
There is even a part in the recording where they describe the “urban Moroccan man” and the “rural Moroccan man”
Music Of Morocco – A5 – Unknown Artist – Haouzia Music
Recorded by: Liner Notes – Christopher Wanklyn
Style: Field Recording
This track was recorded in a weird way, you could hear that the person who is recording didn’t really know how the singing was structured. For me this shows that he didn’t give an importance to the methodology of the music, its rhythmic. Especially that he did say it was an improvisation and he could understand and document it better just by observing the ladies who were singing.
This rises a question about pedagogies of transmission.
When we talk about styles like Andaloussi, or Malhoun, they are coded, recognized officially.
When we talk about other styles, like Gnawa, Aita, there is no recognition, maybe not even respect. Then the only transmission channel is through the relationship between the master and the apprentice.
I am not saying that it doesn’t exist in the other styles. The problem is that when we don’t respect a music or a musical style, it doesn’t enter to the official structures, so it lacks the pedagogy process.
So if you want to learn bendir or guembri, you wouldn’t find it in the music conservatories. This brings us back to how we could work on our heritage. Many people just do it in a mimetic way, or play it as it is.
In my case, I try to avoid this trap, I try rather to understand the mechanisms, how music is composed. I try then to use these rhythms in patterns to create something else. Today there is an urgency to rethink the transmission between generations, we need to go beyond the master-apprentice channel.
I am not going to agree with you Othmane. I prefer it to be conserved as it is. I don’t want to have more architecture. That’s what I use, improvisation. I find it powerful, it’s like freestyle rap. Aita is like a poem with 50000 verses, and the more verses you know the more you can create. It belongs to all of us. The lyrics are the same, sometimes even the melody.
So, yes we need to know the techniques, but I like the “wild” dimension of this kind of music.
We should use it more in schools, this is what makes us move all together.
If I go back to the recording we are discussing, I noted that there was an attempt of transition that didn’t work. It’s actually a technique in Aita.
I am not saying that we should change the practices. There must be people who guard them. I am talking about the transmission, it’s our start, basis to create other things. If there are no precedent rules, there won’t be any rules to “break”. It’s really about the transmission pedagogy.
I met an old man once who talked to me about the importance of development and looking towards the future. So this will be the last song, from the same album as the first one.
After the ladies drank tea, one of them took the glasses and started to sing and she put her daughter in front of her so she could sing with her. It’s kind of a transmission. I would like everybody to try to listen and guess what the lyrics are.
MYSTERIOUS MOROCCO – A2 – Fatima’s song
Han tayyab Atay, haaa l’berrad ila manmout nbeda bih
هن طيب اتاي, ها لبراد إلى منموت نبدا بيه
I will prepare tea, here is the teapot if I
It sounds more like amazigh, from souss,
Awid atay, alberrad immi
It actually sound like Amazigh from Souss
Do you any last words to say?
Here we have only one line, the daughter could maybe keep on playing for hours. This touches me a lot. It’s an old transmission. There is joy, something that we have maybe inherited from very old ancestors.
In Aita also there is this form of “following”, there is no problem if there is a “gap” as we don’t follow a partition.
That’s why I was saying it should be kept this way, it’s music of senses.
I think we should research more. I hope we can continue. I would like to invite you to my podcasts, to listen to other gems. I think it would help us know ourselves more, through the music we used to listen to.
I think this framework, using recordings as a pretext to discuss different socio-political dimensions and dig deeper, connect ideas.
I thank Abdellah, Ghassan and Othmane, who also work on our heritage. The 1-54 Forum is still going, you can check the programme on its page or ours “LE 18”.
To listen to previous 1-54 Forum events, head to any major podcast platform of your choice or below.