ECO ON CASA
Umberto Eco on Casablanca:
But now let us forget how the film was made and see what it has to show us. It opens in a place already magical in itself — Morocco, the Exotic — and begins with a hint of Arab music that fades into “La Marseillaise.” Then as we enter Rick’s Place we hear Gershwin. Africa France, America. At once a tangle of Eternal Archetypes comes into play. These are situations that have presided over stories throughout the ages. But usually to make a good story a single archetypal situation is enough. More than enough. Unhappy Love, for example, or Flight. But Casablanca is not satisfied with that: It uses them all. The city is the setting for a Passage, the passage to the Promised Land (or a Northwest Passage if you like). But to make the passage one must submit to a test, the Wait (“they wait and wait and wait,” says the off-screen voice at the beginning). The passage from the waiting room to the Promised Land requires a Magic Key, the visa. It is around the winning of this Key that passions are unleashed…
GNAWA: INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH KAPCHAN
The great thing about Nass el Ghiwane and Jil Jilala also—they had a Gnawi, someone who knew the music in each of those groups—was that it connected to this trance aesthetic. Trance has become one of the signature aesthetics of Moroccan music, as far as I’m concerned. Not malhun necessarily, not Andalusian classical music, but popular music has this element in it.
- interview with Deborah Kapchan on gnawa music in Morocco
NEW NASS EL GHIWANE BOOK
L’histoire extraordinaire du groupe musical marocain Nass el Ghiwane, depuis sa création en 1970 jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Le récit d’Omar Sayed, l’un des membres fondateurs et le gardien de la continuité, accompagné de témoignages originaux, de textes de chansons et d’exposés, mettent en lumière ce qui a contribué à faire de Nass el Ghiwane une formation culte. Le son réinventé et les subtiles paroles poétiques et frondeuses de Nass el Ghiwane, qui en font des pionniers et des symboles forts d’une prise de parole artistique audacieuse, ont traversé les générations et les frontières.
KHALED: ON FLAMENCO, RAI, NASS EL GHIWANE
“Oran is an Andalusian town,” confirms Khaled. “We’re opposite Almeria and back in the day, rai had more to do with flamenco than anything else. I was born in La Calera, which is the name for the old port. It’s Spanish. Everyone speaks Spanish, all the older people at least…except me ha ha ha. And the old people used to say, including my father, that flamenco is a ‘cry of love’. There were taboos in our society and only flamenco said those words of love. There was even the dance of the Toreador…it was an erotic dance. Well that’s rai.”
So flamenco was the only means in town to say things straight, at least until the blunt plain speaking sounds of Nass El Ghiwane crossed over the border from Morocco and hit the youth of Algeria, including Khaled, like a tornado. This epoch making invasion occurred in the early 1970s just before the conflict in the Western Sahara brought Moroccan-Algerian relations to a bitter low. Khaled remembers the authorities rounding up truckloads of Moroccans living in Oran, including some of his close school friends, stripping them of their goods and property, and shipping them back over the border. “Oran was full of Moroccans. I grew up Moroccan. Although I was only small, I remember the shame and the hatred of those times,” says Khaled. “It still upsets me today. I can’t get it out of my head. I’ve even said as much to the King of Morocco, who’s a friend.” With his newly formed group, Noujoum El Khams (‘The Five Stars’), Khaled would play Nass El Ghiwane songs at weddings, even though Moroccan music was frowned on for a time. “With Nass El Ghiwane, for once, we had a group that were committed to singing about the reality of what was going on,” remembers Khaled. “They weren’t scared. They were the business as far as I was concerned. I had this small accordion, and when I played at weddings I would play with Noujoum El Khams, but after midnight I would take my accordion and sing rai. And that’s how I was discovered by this cassette producer who invited me to make a record. My challenge, when I went into the studio, was to bring together three cultures: the rai of Cheikha Remitti, the reality lyrics of Nass El Ghiwane that broke the taboos and the sax and trumpet of Bellemou Messaoud.