Nass El Ghiwane

Formed in the late 60s, this Moroccan group’s repertoire contained self-composed poetry in the Melhoun style set to venerated musical forms, such as Sufi chants and Zaouias litanies. The band members sing and play various string and percussion instruments, including guembri, lute, bendir, derbouka, daadou’, ta’rija and tbila. Strikingly in post-colonial Morocco, the lyrics explored contemporary political chicanery and injustice.

The founders of Nass El Ghiwane were Laarbi Batma (b. 1948, Oulad Bouziri, Chaouia, Morocco, d. 1998), Boujemaa Hagour, Omar Essayed and Allal Yaala, all of which had experience in music or theatre. Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri was added to the line-up in the early 70s and Mahmoud Essaadi replaced Tahiri when he quit to form Jil Jilala, although he too would soon join that group. A strong if musically different replacement came with Abderrahmane ‘Paco’ Kirouj. Hagour died in 1974, the group continuing with Batma, Essayad, Yaala and Kirouj in their most stable line-up. The group was the subject of a documentary film, Al Hal (1981). In 1993 Kirouj left to be replaced by Redouane Arif. Laarbi died in 1998 from lung cancer and was replaced by his younger brother, Rachid Batma; later another brother, Hamid Batma, replaced Arif. In the mid-00s, Kirouj was paralysed and unable to continue but the band played on.

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