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Attarazat Addahabia & Faradjallah
Al Hadaoui Clyde Macfarlane , July 31st, 2019 09:50

Habibi Funk re-issue a 1973 album of Moroccan gwana music with dizzying effects, finds Clyde Macfarlane

Re-connecting American blues music with its West African ancestry has become a well trodden path. The infectious beats of John Lee Hooker’s guitar licks are clearly present in the work of the legendary Ali Farka Touré, who began his musical education in traditional ceremonies on the banks of the Niger. Kel Tamasheq rock bands like Tinariwen and Tamikrest have since made blues’ African roots less obvious, with both citing a teenage love of Dire Straits as a key influence. This makes the melodies on German label Habibi Funk’s latest offering – a 1973 album from Moroccan band Attarazat Addahabia & Faradjallah- – all the rarer, with band leader Abdelakabir Faradjallah keen to give the listener a heady immersion in a traditional guitar-driven music he introduces as gwana.

From the opening track, Al Hadaoui whips up a relentless pace. Hypnotic drumming patterns, castanet clacks and a militant-tight female backing choir compete with funky guitars, while the overriding gwana force evokes a deep spiritual awakening. As Faradjallah explains, gwana brings together a history of music, dance and poetry that has been used since pre-Islamic times to drive out evil. It was brought to and honed in the Sahara by black sub-Saharan slaves, which could shed light on Al Hadaoui’s distinctly West African feel.

Bringing together fourteen of Faradjallah’s family members, Attarazat Addahabia became one of the first rock bands to sing in Arabic. The majority of Al Hadaoui showcases the band in full party mode, with gwana being enhanced by the same electric guitar creativity that was sweeping the world in the early 70s. But it’s when the tracks switch into pure gwana that Al Hadaoui is at its best. The female backing vocals carry huge power, echoing Faradjallah’s lead in shrill call-and-response cries. Regardless of its influence on West African music – and by extension, all blues music – there’s an excitement in the dizzying, franticly wild percussion that highlights something distinctly human; this is the kind of trance music that anyone with a pulse can tap into.