Khardala/Beldia: Chefchaouen's Holy Smokes

A 3 track africa album (27m 34s) — released July 19th 2019 on Tresno Records

Khardala/Beldia: Chefchaouen's Holy Smokes, is the title of Tresno Records' fourth instalment.

While working on the last chapter of the Sriti series (a three-hearted sound documentary about some of Java's most representative musics) and investigating on Sufism and its pivotal role in the preservation of ancient forms of art in certain areas of the world, Ldgu has flown to Morocco, managing to collect precious recordings in the old city of Chefchaouen.

The ethnomusicological approach used here is that which marks Tresno's creed: getting involved with unforewarned local musicians in order to witness performances that must be as spontaneous as possible.

This output is all about Gnawa: Moroccans' true, centennial sound.

Originated centuries ago among those slaves who, from the Sub-Saharian belt were taken north, towards Maghreb, Gnawa is still considered nowadays to be one of the purest, oldest and untouched forms of African music.

Rooted in animism and usually displayed in private ceremonies called lila, its features mirror those of many trance musics: circular, reiterated melodies and rhythm patterns slowly become more intricate, so that the listener loses track of time.

The opener is usually a prayer/calling, dedicated to the close ones or to spiritual leaders (you can hear the name of Mahmoud Guinia at the beginning of Youbadi); a central part then follows and this is when the function of the ritual is unfolded.

Abrupt, sudden tempo changes, will finally indicate that the closing is about to approach.

Prayers, healing poetry, myths that tell how hard is to live and find nourishment in the desert, coded formulas… This is what Gnawa has been passing down so far, hinged on an extremely strong oral tradition.

Back home, in Italy, I ask my Moroccan neighbour to help me with the translation of the lyrics, so I give him a pen-drive and when he returns it to me, after a while, he says:

"I've asked my grandpa 'cause I wasn't able to understand their tongue, it's ancient and it has always sounded a bit weird to me".

Massive is indeed the presence of the Tamazight and Bambara languages, other aspects that make us clearly understand how much this music owns to countries like Mali and Niger, where an uncountable number of people were made slaves.

"Only thing he could tell me was this: while these words express old stories and tell about the past, they have the power to foresee the events".

And so, instantly, everything was clear: I saw this infinite army of elegant, smiling and whirling shamans playing and singing like bluesmen, slapping those thick strings Larry Graham-style, their proud gazes pregnant with knowledge cast into space.

Towards a distant, but already sensed future.

Saha koyo


LENGTH: 27'33''

01. Alwali Ya Moulay Ahmed

02. Youbadi

03. Toura Toura / La Illaha Illa Allah / Boulila

Sabir Aslah: leading vocals, sintir (guembri)

Morad Raissouni: backing vocals, garagab (qraqeb), clapping

Mohamed El Habti: backing vocals, lighters, tea pouring, clapping

Ldgu: clapping, field recordings.

Cover photo by Ldgu.

Recorded in Chefchaouen, December 2018.

Mixed and mastered by Ldgu.

2019, Tresno Records

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