Thursday, June 9, 2011

Moanin' Marrakech Blues: Majid Bekkas

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. (

Majid Bekkas

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.


         Track Listing:
         01 African Blues
02 Mrhaba
03 Hamdouchi
04 Youbadi
05 Balini
06 Daymallah
07 Sandiye
08 Galou
09 Soudani Manayou
10 Mawama

Listen here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ajnabi,

The Royal Opera House is currently preparing to stage Voices Across The World, this year’s annual summer celebration of traditional and contemporary music from a variety of global cultures that will take place on 31st of July.

Twelve singers will perform unplugged, either a cappella or with minimal accompaniment in the Paul Hamlyn Hall between 2pm and 6.30 pm followed by a thrilling improvised session with electronic artist Andrew McDonnell in Linbury Studio at 7 pm.

We are very interested in attracting both old and new audiences, and particularly interesting is the focus on different singing traditions and the uniqueness of the human voice, which we would love audiences to experience.

We think this could be of an interest to your readers. You can find more information about the production on our website:

Would it be possible for us to leave a comment on your website inviting audiences to this show, or will you be covering the upcoming production yourself?

Kind regards,


Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7010 8561