GNAWA STEPPAS

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Bob Marley casts a long shadow. Most reggae influenced music from locales without a substantial Caribbean population takes its cues from roots reggae. In much of the world, it’s as if 1985’s Sleng Teng revolution never happened, with ‘reggae’ bands still playing cover songs from twenty or thirty years back.

On the flip side, there are hotspots – in Germany, corners of Africa, Yokohama, etc. – where the scene is shockingly up-to-date, contemporaneous, apace.

But that’s rare in Morocco, where ‘reggae fusion’ usually means rootsy cheese, or at least dubby cliches. So it’s refreshing to hear a Moroccan-Parisian take on UK steppas (i’ll take whatever i can get, patiently waiting for Stephen McGregor’s influence to go global) —

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Gnawa Njoum Experience – Kami Ni Mantara (from Boum Ba Clash)

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and to keep the weekend calm, Dr Auratheft’s recent Gnawa mix, Moulay El Hassan Essaouira: tracklist. direct mp3 (59 MB)

ALTERNATING MEADOWS

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[View of Fez medina, Vince Miller’s flickr]

The land of Jbala is usually fairly green but not necessarily fertile. It is well-watered in winter but most often furrowed. The atmosphere can become very special whenever the marine influence suddenly turns from Atlantic to Mediterranean, creating that peculiar tension of the air which newborns are particularly sensitive to. . . It is within this universe, in turn bucolic and wearisome, that the poetry of the taktoba jabala has set its great universal themes: the softness of spring, almond tree flowers, clear water, milk, honey, olive oil, and the first blush on the cheeks of a beautiful black-eyed cousin who can also hurt or burn up the soul of the bard. . .

In this greatly eroded land, almond and olive trees alternate with meager meadows. Many of the inhabitants have emigrated to Fes. The timeless economic, artistic, and religious relationship with the Arab-Andalusian capital illustrates a paradigm quoted first by Plato and later by the Moroccan historian Ibn Khaldoun: the harmony of a true civilization can only come from a deeply rooted relationship between town and country. This, although masked by a certain degree of aggressive industrialization, is powerfully illustrated by the taktoba jabalia of Laarousi Lahcen.

– album liner notes by Marc Loopuyt

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Ensemble Laarousi Lahen – Kalbha Safi Hlib – His Heart is Pure as Milk / Ajiou Alayal – Come Together (20MB)

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JABALIAATE

Jabalia, Djebalia, Djabalia, Jabalya,

is where i’m at now

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Master Musicians of Jajouka – The Middle of the Night

and from nearby hills, wearing weirder costumes

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Haji Srifi – Sellem li ala khatebti