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Thursday, February 5, 2004

Review - The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco

Artist: Various Artists

Posted on Thu, Feb 5, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Arabs, Jews, Berbers, Andalusians, Sufis, sub-Saharan Africans and miscellaneous remnants of colonialism all inform "native" Moroccan culture. Therefore, it's not surprising that the country's music takes so many different forms. This excellent collection -- like many "Rough Guide" compilations -- goes far in connecting the various dots. But -- like many "Rough Guide" compilations -- you get the feeling that it hasn't gone far enough. Most of the 11 tracks alternate between traditionalist forms and radio pop, with little in between. (And yes, the obligatory "see, there's rap in this country too" track is included.) But, given the inherent diversity in Morocco's traditional music (and even in its pop music), track selection complaints are minor. Overall, the collection evokes the country's rich musical heritage. It starts gently enough with somewhat easygoing numbers like the radio chaabi pop of Najm el Farah Essafi, but by the time the near-seven minutes of Bnet Marrakech's zone-out gnawa trance track ("Leilaa Lill") drills its way into your brainpan, any pretense of easy listening is dismissed. Similarly, tracks by Hassan Hakmoun and Jil Jilala are dense, beautiful and intense. Teamed up with the other, wide-ranging tracks on the collection, another excellent, if imperfect, musical snapshot of a country's musical heritage is captured by the "Rough Guide" folks.

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