|Date market, Marrakech|
One of my favourite sounds in the universe is the music made by the oud. I have posted music –e- oud previously in the guise of the Anouar Brahem of Tunisia. Tonight I’m highlighting an album by Majid Bekkas, oud and guembri virtuoso, guitar professor and singer, who has long been a star in his home country Morocco. Over the last few years, he has found his way into the European jazz scene through his collaborations with Archie Shepp, Louis Sclavis, Flavio Boltro and Klaus Doldinger.
Abdelmajid Bekkas was born and still lives in Salé, Morocco. He studied classical guitar and oud at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat and learnt gnawa music through the teachings of the master Ba Houmane. Gnawa emerged in the 16th century. During the conquest of Sudan, Ahmed El Mansour Dahbi set up the first trading and cultural links between Timbuktu, near Zagora where Bekkas comes from, and Marrakech. This secular music is still considered the "healer of souls" from Essaouira to Marrakech, easily understandable when you listen to the spellbinding sound of Bekkas´ voice, guembri and guitar. Like a watermark, the mystery of Africa can be felt in the background, alongside the blues. Gnawa´s intact purity is the essence of the authenticity. By claiming to be part of Africa, the mother of the blues and its numerous offspring such as funk, Bekkas is placing gnawa in its primary dimension. By opening the spectrum (including elements of contemporary western music), Bekkas attains a universal status that is nurtured by the path he travelled. (http://www.gekkobeat.com/Majid%20Bekkas-E.htm)
Gnaoua African Blues from 2001, is Sufi music pure and simple. Bekkas’ oud, guembri and guitar playing that accompanies his ‘chants’ is austere but full of spirit and emotion. Two European musicans, Marc Lelangue (guitar and chants) and Paolo Radoni (guitar) provide support but never grab the steering wheel. Opening with an overt blues (and the least interesting track) sung in English, the record then seems to scale back a notch with Mrhaba but steadily builds in intensity and feeling over the next hour.
As winter settles in down here (there is snow in the outer suburbs!) this music is warming, relaxing and uplifting. I’ll be taking it with me for a few days to the coast tomorrow (and won’t be posting for a few days) and look forward to turning the lights down, closing my eyes and letting the gorgeous sounds of Majid’s oud roll over me.
01 African Blues
09 Soudani Manayou