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1-54 Forum Paris 2021 | Sonic Archaeologies
Episode 319th February 2021 • 1-54 Forum • 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair
00:00:00 01:24:48

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1-54 Forum Paris

20 - 23 January and through February 2021

Curated by LE 18, Marrakech

Sonic Archaeologies

A radio performance by Abdellah Hassak in conversation with artist-performer Ghassan El Hakim, initiator of Cabaret Cheikhat, and artist Othman El Kheloufi, composer, saxophonist and theater director. 

Turning to a history of sound allows one to “de-center” history. While political history draws us to the formal places of power (capitals, royal courts, parliaments, palaces), sound history takes us to much more varied places, both strange and wonderful. Political history is centripetal; sound history is centrifugal. – David Hendy, author of the BBC Radio documentary series entitled Noise, a Human History of Sound and Listening

Sonic Archaeologies is an invitation to experiment the multiple capacities of sound recording to re-construct and re-compose the historical narratives of territories, experiences, or policies. Proposed and animated by Abdellah Hassak, this spontaneous conversation, activated by a listening session of sound archives proposes to restitute the past, through an unconventional approach.

A record, a voice, a song, a rhythm, or a sound archive can be listened to and discussed, from their socio-political context and through their sound practice, their production, and the recording context. What do recordings from the past tell us? How do they shed light on some important events of Moroccan history?

The conversation, live streamed from LE 18 in Marrakech, will further reflect on the reciprocal influences between the recordings and the sociological, historical or anthropological evolution of Morocco.

Full transcript in English here:


Laila Hida:

MYSTERIOUS MOROCCO - A2 - A Love Song in Doukala Issued :1975 Recorded By – Camille Biver, Belgian artist who lived in Morocco and died in Mohammedia. A Love song in Doukala A woman invited three friends to drink mint tea (which is made of green tea and fresh leaves of peppermint) and eat pastries (“Gazelle Horns”). After they chatterred, they started to sing. Let’s listen then we’ll discuss it together... The song invokes different saints and describes trucks that were going then to the South, preparing for the Green March. Abdellah 07:10 This song has a political dimension, it was recorded the same year as the Green March. My first question is: how could we determine the sonic or musical material as the object of anthropological, sociological or historical studies? Is this kind of “heritage” a moroccan immaterial heritage or not? Especially that it was not driven by a cultural movement… they were rather driven and led by official institutions, ministries, SNRT or by journalists and archivists who were sent by TV channels, and also by international institutions in what we can call colonial heritage. They didn’t really have a broad knowledge of the Moroccan cultural context and realities… they would just “pass by” and record. Ghassan 07:10 Now that I listened to it again, I saw other things. I think thattehre is no link with the 1975 event but rather a cover of a song about a marabout, Sidi Aamer, who is the saint of Oulad Hriz, “Aita of Sidi Aamer”. We can get in the lyrics that she is talking about her visiting the mausoleum, or the room, cleaning it... So what is interesting is that the lyrics are those of cheikhate, of Aita, but adapted to a new situation. Bouchaib EL Bidaoui sung it actually, and also Cheikha Zehhafa, Fatna belhoucine and other. Bouchaib El Bidaoui sung it in the 50s, he was actually the one who was saying “they told me to sign and I wouldn’t sign”, which refers to King Mohamed 5 before he was sent into exile. I have to recall that Aita music and songs can be dated as early as the 18th century but the ones we know are those of the 19th century, as Hassan I really appreciated Cheikhat. Thus, I can say that Aita songs can say positive or critical opinions about the system. As they were talking about the colours of the flag, green and red, as a national pride, but the flag is a recent item. A lot of cheikhate changed their lyrics in the 70s to more nationalist lyrics, as many cheikhate and people started to fear the makhzen more. Othmane 12:00 The way the lady was singing, her tone is like if she didn’t really care or was forcing herself to sing. When I focussed on the text, I felt that the lady was singing for someone who does not understand anything in chaabi music, linking different elements. Ghassan 12:00 it is normal, that’s what we call “Lbrawel” The I followed and I discovered something interesting at at the end of the “track”: she was telling her friend: “wa baraka” (enough). I also noted that even the “taarej” were played softly, the skin was not tight. Perhaps they didn’t even warm and prepare them. I interpret this as them not giving a lot of value to the people who were listening and recording. So this also speaks about the relation between the person who is recording, capturing and the person who is captured. We can furthermore dig deeper into this relationship, especially that the recorded or researched is sometimes taken as an element from a zoo. Abdellah 14:45 That’s actually the question: are these forms of sound archives valuable objects of studies, knowing that people who record things that are not correct about the context. The architectural dimension is also not representative…. Many things in this kind of recording are not documented and this doesn’t allow us to grasp it entirely. Ghassan 15:33

kind of orientalism. Abdellah:

This reminded me of propaganda, especially in the 70s, many songs were about the king. I can understand because it was a new national and usually singers and poets were close to the Monarchs, like Voltaire, Molière for example. So in Morocco, you could even become a specialist as a singer, of what we called then and even now, the “nationalist song”. It is all about praising the King. This existed in many eras and places, like in France, during WWI. Even the “Che Guevara song” could be included in this area. Every nation or people have a different register for propaganda. But I have to say that this one precisely was of… bad taste. Othmane 28:00 I wonder now how this kind of music would transform in our contemporary repertoire. I think it does exist even if it’s more indirect. This should push us to reflect on how this kind of art manifests now. Abdellah 28:23 Now we are going to listen to “the Green March Ballad”. The recording date is not specified but based on the quality, I would say that it was produced at the beginning of the 80s. It was sung by Leila, but the initiative was that of Annabel Carven, even the lyrics and the composition. She was a French artist who did not have a broad repertoire. The Finnish pianist who accompanied her was famous in the experimental jazz world. What is interesting is that the photographer who appears on the vinyl was the official photographer of Hassan II. Music also featured accordion whic was the favorite instrument of Hassan II. Listening Session - RECORD 3 A1 - La Ballade De La Marche Verte (written In Arab) Adapted By (Text) – I. Ghoulam Label: Discafa – Discafa 4500. Issued : Not dated Accordion, Written-By, Photography By [Leila] – Annabel Carven Photography By – M. Maradji Producer – Valto Laitinen jazz pianist Helsinki, Finlande Synthesiser – Valto Laitinen (pistes : A1-2. B2) Vocals – Leila (30). Abdellah 32:53

There is an instrumental version, and also versions in english and french.

ntly oral in Morocco. Ghassan:

This specific disc is a broad communication about “the cause” that had to look like a national cause then. Othmane 38:14 I have an impression , which I share with a Ghassan, it wasn’t kept in the Moroccan archive. No one would know it. I think that even people who used to play got ashamed and stopped... It’s kind of an attempt to make a track’s life longer. Like in the case of Djs who would be remixing, recalling different songs or tracks, which is interesting. Here, I think this was a failed attempt, though. When I tried to listen to the text, I felt that there is some forced rhythmic. The singer sounded like she was forcing the lyrics on the music. What caught my attention too was the voice of the singer. At the beginning, it sounds a bit naive, but after you understand that she may have an incredible vocal training, maybe of jazz. Notes are clean, precise. Moreover, to find someone who can sing in Classical Arabic, French and English then was difficult.

d a lot of work then. Ghassan:

Modern Method of Spoken Moroccan Arabic A – RECORD 2 – Lesson 7

- JEWELLERY -Jewellery. All women wear bracelets and rings. the poorest wear them in copper or silver. the richest wear gold. Women from the countryside wrap their clothes and hook them with silver “khlala” (fibule). Fibules are sometimes décorated with pearls. They hang Fatima’s hand (khmissa) on their chest as a protection from bad eye. In the city, they use golden Fatima’s hands. Earrings are usually made of gold, sometimes decorated with precious stones, only women wear them. “khit arrouh’ (the soul’s thread = a headpiece jewellery) is made of gold, it is sometimes decorated with stones, women from the city wear it on their forehead, especially for special occasions and feasts.

Why didn’t you wear your jewellery today?

My neighbour asked me to borrow them.

Did you rent it or not?

No, it was for free

Which jewellery did you lend her?

Khit Rouh, bracelets, rings, earrings and Fatima’s hand.

Was she invited to a wedding or a baptem?

She is celebrating her brother’s wedding.

And what about your bare hands?

I have this silver bracelet.

I have been told that you wear jewellery as a protection from bad eye, is it true?

Not all jewellery, only fatima’s hand.

May God guard you and protect you from bad eye.


This reminds us of the problem of the categories, the colonial postcard.

ctices that we lost. Abdellah:

I am not saying that it doesn’t exist in the other styles. The problem is that when we don’t respect a music or a musical style, it doesn’t enter to the official structures, so it lacks the pedagogy process. So if you want to learn bendir or guembri, you wouldn’t find it in the music conservatories. This brings us back to how we could work on our heritage. Many people just do it in a mimetic way, or play it as it is. In my case, I try to avoid this trap, I try rather to understand the mechanisms, how music is composed. I try then to use these rhythms in patterns to create something else. Today there is an urgency to rethink the transmission between generations, we need to go beyond the master-apprentice channel. Ghassan 69:48 I am not going to agree with you Othmane. I prefer it to be conserved as it is. I don’t want to have more architecture. That’s what I use, improvisation. I find it powerful, it’s like freestyle rap. Aita is like a poem with 50000 verses, an the more verses you know the more you can create. It belongs to all of us. The lyrics are the same, sometimes even the melody. So, yes we need to know the techniques, but I like the “wild” dimension of this kind of music. We should use it more in schools, this is what makes us move all together. If I go back to the recording we are discussing, I noted that there was an attempt of transition that didn’t work. It’s actually a technique in Aita. Othmane 72:56 I am not saying that we should change the practices. There must be people who guard them. I am talking about the transmission, it’s our start, basis to create other things. If there are no precedent rules, there won’t be any rules to “break”. It’s really about the transmission pedagogy. Abdellah 74:43 I met an old man once who talked to me about the importance of development and looking towards the future. So this will be the last song, from the same album as the first one. 75:00 After the ladies drank tea, one of them took the glasses and started to sing and she put her daughter in front of her so she could sing with her. It’s kind of a transmission. I would like everybody to try to listen and guess what the lyrics are. Fatima’s song It is Fatima who is represented on the picture, with Camille Biver and Georgette Noguet. She sings a song from her home country: the Glaoua country. The song evokes a fine hand, serving tea and making golden bracelets cling. Ghassan 79:46 It actually sound like Amazigh from Souss. Abdellah Do you any last words to say? Ghassan

Here we have only one line, the daughter could maybe keep on playing for hours. This touches me a lot. It’s an old transmission. There is joy, something that we have maybe inherited from very old ancestors.

we used to listen to. Othmane:




Listening Session - RECORD 6

MYSTERIOUS MOROCCO - A2 - Fatima’s song


Han tayyab Atay, haaa l’berrad ila manmout nbeda bih

هن طيب اتاي, ها لبراد إلى منموت نبدا بيه

I will prepare tea, here is the teapot if I


It sounds more like amazigh, from souss,

Awid atay, alberrad immi