Saturday, November 26, 2011
Rhythms of Morocco ... and Then Some
Forget for a moment, if you will, April 28 of earlier this year. That is when 15 people at relaxing at the Argana cafe were blasted in pieces while 19 others were injured. Forget that the threat of terrorism against U.S. targets in Morocco remains high. At least the music's cool ... or so one would want you to think while listening to Chalf Hassan's Rhythms of Morocco. I don't only listen to abrasive, nihilistic music. Shocking, I know. Sometimes I prefer something lighter, more worldly. This is not what I had in mind. Granted, the eleven tracks on the disc are lighthearted fare that would cause any Westerns listening to it in lands both foreign and domestic to consider themselves part of an authentic ethnic experience the likes of which can only be found on the Travel Channel and in movies, but the music is actually too flighty for my decidedly more aggressive tastes. These songs are traditional Moroccan maqams played on both modern and traditional instruments, which may be part of the problem. While you can tell these are old songs, they just sound too modern. Take, for example, "Aita Jilaliya," which translates into "Spiritual Call." The history behind the song is that when ladies would organize a spiritual "party" at night, they would try to connect through their chosen spirit through song, dance and dress. The song should sound old. Instead, I picture George Clooney wandering the streets of Rabat-Sale while asking citizens in stunted Moroccan Arabic if they know where he can find an "American in black." In other words: too modern. When I hear traditional songs, I like to hear them played on traditional instruments, not a mixture of old and new. Playing these things on the instruments they were intended for keeps the magic in the music. Let's face it, nobody likes "Jumpin' Jack Flash" played by an orchestra. It doesn't sound right. That is the case with this release, too. It lacks magic ... and that is something that should never be lacking from Moroccan music. Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Yes, this CD was sent to me to review. And, yes, if you click on a link I may earn some cash, which I shall use to buy far better music than this stuff.