Various Artists

Dances and Trances: Sufi Rites and Berber Music from Taroudannt, Morocco

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A collection of rites from the various sects of Sufism and the syncretized Berber religions around Taroudannt, recorded during various public ceremonies in the mid-'90s. The album opens with a morning adhan from the region, much less melodic and stylized than the Arabic forms that have become well-known. There is ornamentation to be sure, but it's a sharper, more forceful adhan here, interspersed with rooster crowing here and there (this is rural Morocco, after all). A few guerrera pieces follow, giving some long passages of shouted call and response, all under a thick blanket of incessant metallic rhythms on the nakous blocks. Another adhan follows, followed itself by a series of songs from street performers in the main squares of Taroudannt. Here, there's some noticeable influence from other regions, including the use of an oud in an Egyptian setting. Finally, the album finishes on a hadra from a sect associated with the well-known Hamadsha group, with bits of self-mutilation coinciding with the frenzied singing and dancing. The recording quality isn't of studio fidelity by any means, but then again the idea here was to present the full sound spectrum surrounding the music performances. For perhaps a more in-depth look at Sufist rites, one should perhaps look elsewhere (the Anthology of World Music installment on Rounder being a good choice). For a nice, if relatively narrow, look at the music of Taroudannt, an often-overlooked city in the grand scale of Islamic culture, this album is an excellent choice.

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