Diwan is a collection of works in the instrumental style of Fez by Rabita Andalousa, a cultural troupe residing in Larache. The basic focus is on the nuba (instrumental) forms, though there's a good deal of vocal work included within the songs. The recordings were made during a concert in Italy, with surprisingly good acoustics considering. The album opens with a light instrumental prelude, and after an interlude moves into the first poetic number, "Kala Li." A very short improvisation on ud and another interlude pave the way for the poem "Ma Kuntu Hadri," which is followed by a solo vocal work that holds a rhythmic structure in the inshad. Another interlude and two more poems follow, followed again by an instrumental improvisation, this time on a masterfully played qanun. Two short nonrhythmic mawali follow, separated by an improvisation on ud. The traditional forms are ended with an insiraf borrowed from another repertoire. The album ends on a pair of urban popular pieces from the sha'abi repertoire (chaabi being the better known version of the word, as spread through Algerian pop). The vocals tend to overpower the instruments when allowed, but nonetheless the instruments are the stars of the album. The musicians do a fine job of powering their way through poem after poem, imbuing the work with emotion beyond that of the wails by use of the ud and qanun. The bowed strings tend to act only as punctuation here, but there is skill to be heard in that as well. This music is a long way removed from the Gnawa rhythms that are slowly being spread from Morocco, and perhaps closer to the Middle Eastern forms in some respects. There's a distinctly Moroccan intensity and mood to the proceedings however. For a complete picture of the music of Morocco, a compilation along the lines of the Anthology of World Music's Moroccan installation would be recommended, but for a clear picture of the emotive abilities and power of performance alone, Diwan stands out well.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg