The six tracks on Maroc: Confrérie des Jilala (Morocco: Jilala Confraternity) represent the contemporary sounds of what is arguably Morocco's oldest Muslim confraternity (a confraternity is essentially an organization of laymen who act on collective educational, spiritual, or charitable belief). Named after the supposedly charismatic Abdel Qader Jilani (1077-1166), the Moroccan Jilala are an itinerant group that circulate in a relatively small ensemble of five or fewer performers. Originally only a voice of scared Sufism, the Jilala have adapted their ritualized performances to fill more of a contemporary and therapeutic need among Moroccan communities. When the Jilala are called upon to perform, a kind of singing master of ceremonies (maalem) directs the happening while a couple of flautists performing on qasbas (end-blown flutes made out of reed) and a pair of drummers drumming on bendirs (circular frame drums) provide the occasions' trance-like sonic underpinnings. Though only one qasba player may be present at the ceremony, bendir players always play in pairs. The characteristic buzzing or sizzling sound of the bendir is produced by its diametrically laced double-strings. On this particular recording, the performing Jilala are from the city of Fez. They include the singer and bendir player Moqqadem Adbelkader Ben Mouiha, the qasba player Mouhib Mohamed Quessab, the qasba player Daoudi Kacem Ben Jelloum, and singer, bendir and qarqaba player El Messari Driss (the quarqaba, or quarqabat, are hand-held iron clappers that are often associated with the Ganawa). From songs of praise that emphasize Allah to invocations of protection and blessing for families and the exiled, the Jilala of Fez's performances are both poetic and mesmerizing. Christian Poché, author of the detailed booklet that accompanies the CD, delivers a wealth of information about the history of the Jilala and about their relative similarities and dissimilarities with such confraternities as the Issawa, Himadsha, and the Ganawa. In sum, Maroc: Confrérie des Jilala (Morocco: Jilala Confraternity) by the Jilala of Fez is a fascinating ethnographic document that sheds light onto Morocco's mysterious and perhaps oldest confraternity.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier