[2] Dimi Mint Abba & Khalifa Ould Eide – Moorish Music from Mauritania

19 Apr

After the familiarity of the first recording, this second of the one thousand recordings is in a way a sort of make or break moment for this venture.  If I can’t see the worth in the first “difficult” entry on the list, it is possible I may not go much further on the word of Tom Moon.

On the other hand, this could be exactly the sort of thing that whatever it is I am doing here is all about.  Moorish Music is an album I would absolutely never have come across in the normal course of my life – I do not seek out World music of any kind, let alone Islamic religious chanting.

So I am very curious what it is that I am going to hear here.

Album Cover (photo credit Amazon.com)

Album Cover (photo credit Amazon.com)

Without a background in African music beyond what Paul Simon shared on Graceland, I am searching for a touchstone, some recognizable ground to stand on as a starting point, a frame of reference.

It comes surprisingly quickly.

After a moment or two of rapid, rhythmic work from a guitar-like instrument, the voice and percussion kicks in.  I am instantly reminded of the best kind of blues – improvisational yet structured, feeling rather than intellect expressed in song.  This makes the keening vocals – wailing across the scale, trilling and ululating – not so alien as I might have feared.

While the purely rhythmic guitar underscoring, the irregular handclaps and other percussion instruments are unfamiliar to my untutored ears, the call and response vocals give another recognizable element to latch onto.

The whole is unexpectedly hypnotic and enthralling.

After repeated plays, the pattern of each song becomes familiar – the mournful voice and guitar opening setting the scene, followed eventually by percussion kicking into a more upbeat and driving tempo which shifts gears again to a whirl of joyful sound, keeping the listener on his toes until the final button.

The subject matter has the potential to be troublesome for a self-professed Atheist, but the lyrics in the helpful liner notes describe personal passion and universal themes.

(This leads me to wonder, when was the last time I spent any time listening to an album with the liner notes open in front of me?  It has been far too long, though it was a fact of life at least through my University years in the mid-90s.)

It turns out that one third of the lyrics are calls to worship, one third are near-secular poetry of boy meets girl, and one third political songs like Art’s Plume, which touts the power of art over war.  Often more than one of these themes occurs within a single track.  There is nothing offensive to my (admittedly thick-skinned) sensibilities, and in fact some beautiful sentiments expressed.

In the end, the question to be asked here is less, “Could I have lived my entire life without hearing this music?” and more “Am I enjoying it?”  The answer is quite emphatic.

“Yes.  Very much so.”

Despite the odd looks I am getting at my desk in our open plan office at work.

Without “1,000 Recordings” I obviously would never have discovered Khalifa and Dimi and the rest of their family, their  instinctive and innovative rhythms and vocals, their ancient yet fresh sound.  I would have missed out on the opportunity to lose myself for a time in something truly new to me, only to find that it is not so unknowable as I might have feared.

Owned before blogging?  No.  (0 of 2.  0%)
Heard before blogging?  No.  (1 of 2.  50%)
Recommend?  Well worth a listen.  (2 of 2.  100%)

Next Week:  The Muhal Richard Abrams Orchestra – Blu Blu Blu

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7 Responses to “[2] Dimi Mint Abba & Khalifa Ould Eide – Moorish Music from Mauritania”

  1. Indo Zane April 19, 2013 at 12:19 PM #

    Loving this! I thought your ABBA review was spot on, but it wasn’t going to make me go listen to ABBA, I know ABBA and that’s that. However, here’s an album I don’t know and now I want to hear it! Will have to check it out this week 🙂

  2. nycavri June 8, 2013 at 5:53 PM #

    Did you check it out? What did you think?

  3. Jugular June 30, 2013 at 4:51 PM #

    I checked it out. It was nice enough though a whole album of it was possibly a little much. The language barrier is significant in songs such as these where (my impression is that) the lyrics are very poetic and very much the core of what these songs are. Much more in the vein of our own folk songs and the like which intend to call to mind historic events, landscapes, experiences or universal sentiments. Quite in contrast to ABBA’s lyrics which are mostly drivel but catchy and fun to sing along to.

    A partial success for me.

  4. nycavri December 2, 2014 at 8:09 AM #

    Reblogged this on . . . To Hear Before I Blog and commented:

    Throughout December I am going to revisit the first months of this journey, taking time at the end of this year to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve heard.


  1. The Muhal Richard Abrams Orchestra – Blu Blu Blu | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - April 26, 2013

    […] that, much like with Moorish Music from Mauritania, I should just see where my ears take me . . […]

  2. [5] AC/DC – Back In Black | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - May 10, 2013

    […] just like that – after the cheesy pop and exotic world albums, the experimental jazz and mediocre gospel – we’re in my wheelhouse for the first […]

  3. [13] Mahmoud Ahmed – Ere Mela Mela | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - July 5, 2013

    […] music from Ethiopia” I’m picturing the alien soundscapes and wailing vocals of Moorish Music, the syncopated complexity of King Sunny Ade. So it is an understatement to say that I am surprised […]

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