Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spot the Ghiwane!

Today, in a few hours, the obscurely famed moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane plays Utrecht!....very much out of the blue.

Yesterday I visited the local indie shop after a spell of not setting foot in it at all...quickly browsed their long list of upcoming gigs and somehow my eye fell on the name Nass el Chiwane, misspelled by one letter, and indicating a next day live show. -Awe!- Could it be? I've to work my voluntary shift tonight at the cafe, so I was nearly cursing myself for missing them. But nope! Sweet luck has destined it to be an afternoon concert.

I reckon the afternoon was chosen to draw the older immigrant crowd to the gig at a reasonable hour. They're playing together with Jedwane, who is supposed to be the king of the Chaabi music, which is an Arabic & Berber style from Morocco linked to the Algerian Raï style. *Lila Maghrebia* is the name given to this varied Moroccan afternoon. I like it when such afternoons happen; good Moroccan cuisine, fresh mint tea, relaxed atmosphere and amazing music. Plus it is a nice change to the unjust Dutch racist view on Moroccan culture. Why not experience it in this earnest way instead of holding onto false presumptions?

So, "who is Nass el Ghiwane?" most of you will think with a plussed questionmark stretched across the face. Their fame is so hidden or that you either need to have Northern African roots or be turned onto them by someone else. Let's see if I can.
Nass el Ghiwane formed in Morocco in the late 60's and play Gnawa music along with many other styles (see comments below), thus creating a modernised folk style made up of intricate rhythms, taqsims ,deep trancedental flows and socially applied poetry. The effect to me, is near hypnotising with a build up to a louder climax. They are nationally seen as the Moroccan equivalent Rolling Stones, since they had a big impact on the new Moroccan music styles. I dare even say they might better musicians than the western Rollings Stones since they master their instruments in peculiar jawdropping ways, outside of the 4/4 mindset. They could easily play after western styles...but could western bands imitate their style? The odds are not even. Moroccan psychelic folk; this is the real thing, going on for over 30 years now.

I learnt about the band years ago through Jace aka DJ/ Rupture, eclectic as ever in his musical style and knowledge, who was always bigging them up for mighty good reasons stated above. Plus he has even toured with them! His outfit Nettle being the superb occasion for it. The multi-intrumentalist Abdel Hak and Jenny Jones are the other members of the Nettle project where northern african diasporic sounds get mashed up with western noise static. Nomadic roughness. I shall refer to some insight posts Jace made about Nass' at his excellent Mudd Up! blog, More on that later.

On an ending note, it should be real special to be among an immigrant crowd of middleaged to older people since this isn't a more stylish band that the younger immigrants and their dutch-borns would go to see....or would they? Tradition is the keyword and downright virtue is all it embodies. If I can make some bootleg recordings of the gig, I will put them on here at some point.

wowza, my first youtube's gotta learn. Nass el Ghiwane video clip, streetwise moroccanly! I wonder if this is a western travel viddy or genuinely local.

To continue, here a live registration from around the early 80's. It's hypnotising at its essence.

And some audio candy! >>>

This is a composition of their *safer* Musique Du Monde album of Moroccan Gnawa.
Nass el Ghiwane - Hamdouchia

This recording sounds way older, I guess it's 60's or 70's material sensing the hiss & crackle, as I got this album downloaded without any info. In 8 minutes it slowly builds up to a psychedelic wall. Awesome.
Nass el Ghiwane - Untitled track 1


jace said...

nice post Seb. but careful-- their music isn't gnawa or berber! it draws on many elements of moroccan folksong as well as classic poetry. they pretty much pioneered the 'chaabi' style -- which basically means popular -- by creating a revolutionary fusion and hybridization of a lot of moroccan musical forms. of course, the band itself began as a theater group.
the posts concerning them are mostly on the archives of my blog, at

SebCatLitter said...

hi Jace, nice seeing you here!
Thanks for shining some better light on Nass. I always imagined they were headed to an overly Gnawa/Gnaoua route, mashed with diffrerent Moroccan styles. I reckon their album *Chants Gnawa du Maroc* tricked me into this lucid assumption, which was released as Nass el Ghiwan (oddly notice the *e* missing!). I'll hook the people here onto your archives.

On remixing Architecture in Helsinki; a carte blanche invitation or you being kidnapped? I dig the non-obvious link though. Looking forward to hear that roughed-up take hah! :)