Saturday, February 5, 2011
(V/A) Musique & Chansons Traditionnelles D'Algerie (Disques Festival, 1979)
"Ibn Khaldoun, one of the most noted Arabian historians, claims: before Islamic times, Arabians have excelled at poetry and improvisation. Their music consisted not so much of songs to entertain their camels, but was in fact an expression of these pastors' strong passions.“
Unrequited love, heroic battles or panegyrics to the Prince constitute the grounds for inspiration that varies according to every singer's imagination (see Side 2, Bands 2 and 3). Before Islam, popular music was divided into kalamal-jedd (serious lyrics) and kalamal-hazel (frivolous lyrics). Today, still, and despite the condemnation of pagan songs by the Prophet, music is divided into two distinct categories: popular music (folk music one would say now) and Andalusian or Classical music.
The Arabian people, led by General Tarak Ibnou Ziad (who has given his name to Gibraltar – Mount Tarak or Djebel Tarak) have conquered Spain to finally settle in Andalusia. Arabian music, originally from the Middle East, has mixed with Spanish popular music and infused it with the Berber pentatonic scale. It was in Cordoba that Abdourrahman Ibnou Nafâa, nicknamed Ziriad, founded the first academy of Andalusian music. Occidental music has developed a symphonic composition which finds its most complete expression in an orchestra with a wide variety of instruments. Arabian music, on the other side, is vocal and melodic. Singing and the human voice take the central place here. The instruments merely play an auxiliary role. The influence of the Cordoba school extends to Seville, Toledo, Valencia and Grenada. When the Arabs left Spain, Andalusian music spread through North Africa. Thus, Tunis and Annaba have adopted the tradition of Seville, leading to malouf. Algiers and Tlemcen have remained faithful to Grenada with its more structured melodies called nouba. The term nouba means sequence in the musical language, for it translates to „substitute“ or „replacement“. Thus, the expression „it's your nouba“ is synonymous with „it's your turn“. In the Kitabul-Aghani (the Book of Songs), nouba denotes a concert program and its plural, noubat, designates a group of musicians. The nouba of Constantine follows that of Annaba in the modes employed and that of Algiers and Tlemcen for the rhythmic composition. The nouba comprises nine vocal and instrumental pieces, namely: the slow prelude where the singer vocalises, followed by a more cheerful instrumental prelude succeeded by an instrumental overture – the touchia – executed in 4/4 time and by a monotonous chant on the same rhythm called m'saddar; then follows the insiraf whose rhythm is 5/8 and finally the Khlass in 6/8. Each instrumental or vocal movement uses, upon finishing, a rhythmic acceleration called m’saraf which serves as a preparation for the beginning of the following piece. The Algerian nouba, despite its many names and elements, really has no more than three different rhythms. Contemporary instrumental music comprises three parts. The istikhbar (trial) is an entry in which the musician expresses his mood. The koursi, played in 2/4 time, is a musical overture and finally the thoulathi, a series of stanzas repeated three times.
To achieve that certain resonance in their music, the Arabian people utilize very characteristic instruments, although in Algeria, unlike in the Orient, the orchestra uses occidental instruments as well (see Side 2, Band 1, in which you can hear an accordion). The lute (or Oud), prince of all instruments, is the symbol of traditional Arabian music. It has five double strings. The first three are made of nylon (which has replaced the traditional animal gut strings), the two others are metal. Four double strings are tuned to fourths, quints and octaves; the final one to a sixth.
On the adjacent photo, the lute is accompanied by tamburas, which are an African influence and which comprise a small round resonator to which five strings are attached. The second instrument of Classical Music is the kanoun (literally: the ruler, a term originating in Greece), a trapezoidal zither with 71 metal strings grouped in threes. Popular music has been passed on thanks to the prodigious memory of a few singers of traditional compositions. This popular music closely associates lyrics and songs. The melody serves solely as a medium for the lyric. This is perhaps what makes us perceive it as monotonous. In dances, as well, it is the rhythm that takes the role of the lyrics (see Side 1, Band 3; Side 2, Bands 2 and 3).
The zorna is one of the most widespread instruments of popular music. Carved from jujube wood, its length varies from 30 to 40 centimeters. It is usually accompanied by a tabla, a drum that is played with sticks. The tabla is covered with goat skin on two sides. Its diameter varies from 40 to 60 centimeters (see the photo taken at a marriage in Tlemcen). Expression of joy or melancholy, laughter and tears, enthusiasm or disappointments is the raison d’être of popular music whose songs are always in Arabian dialect for better understanding among the general populace (see Side 2, Bands 4 and 5). It is an art of the people in which words and music merge into a single expression.
-Pierre d‘Ursel (Translated by Christoph *Many thanks!)
A quality French LP of Algerian field recordings by Pierre d'Ursel, circa 1979. Not much appears to have been written about this album.By the way, I think that's my ultimate dream lady sitting there on the left. Wow. 320 vinyl rip by yours truly. Enjoy.
Download Link: (V/A) Musique & Chansons Traditionnelles D'Algerie (Disques Festival, 1979)
Disques Festival- distributed by Musidisc Europe. FLD 738. MU 218.