Various Artists

Moroccan Gypsies

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On this album of basic Moroccan gypsy music, two ethnic groups are represented, one by Ben Souda's Issawi ensemble and another by Sidi Mimoun's Gnawa group. The Issawi portions are heavily dominated by the mizmars' piercing sounds, backed by a heavy dose of tabl drumming as a foundation. It's a thoroughly rhythmic experience, punctuated by the horns, clapping, and occasional vocal outbursts. The Gnawa portions are more relaxed, with the omnipresent gnbri and qaraqeb keeping time and providing a steady melody in the bass. The vocals in both portions are largely call and response, with a clear-voiced leader and a deeper chorus finishing the verses. While the mizmars and qaraqebs might make these musics somewhat grating to the uninitiated, there is a good deal of musicality inherent that makes up for any possible instrumentation problems. Anyone can find some favor in the rumbling tabl beats layed out in Ben Souda's pieces, and though the Gnawa performers might not be up to the virtuosity of a Brahim el Belkani, they're certainly not amateurs, either. At the mid-price level, this isn't a bad item for an introduction to Moroccan traditional music. Deeper excursions into the available albums of the genres are always suggested as a supplement.

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