Hocine Slaoui – Yal Cahla

slaouiSince October’s Lili L’Abassi piece was so popular, I thought I’d post more classic, driving popular music from North Africa – this time, from Morocco.

Hocine Slaoui (more commonly spelled Houcine Slaoui) can be credited with helping to invent Moroccan popular music, acting as a bridge between earlier Moroccan chaabi and more contemporary sounds, despite actively recording only a short time. He was born in 1918 as Houcine Ben Bouchaïb in the city of Salé –  the pronounciation of the city’s name gave him the new last name of “Slaoui.” An oud player with a crack group of accompanying musicians, Slaoui began his recording career for Pathé in the years after World War II, recording upwards of 30-40 songs for the company from ca. 1948-1950 (possibly in Paris). He then mysteriously passed away in 1951. His 78s were huge sellers in the Maghreb, and his name was probably as well known as Mohammed Abdel Wahab or Farid El-Attrache – perhaps because he deliberately gave his songs mass appeal by intermingling all manner of styles. That said, they now turn up infrequently. There is next to nothing written about Slaoui in English, and there appear to be no available CDs, at least in the West, that contain his work.

Along with Slaoui on oud, you’ll hear percussion, qanun, and his chorus – even a little ululating!  This one really moves, like everything else I’ve found by the artist. The title “Yal Cahla,”  is a rather poor English transliteration of something that might be better spelled “Ya l’kHla,” which is a reference to a black-skinned woman. The song, according to reader Tim, is filled with possibly ironic stereotypes of blacks (see the comments below).

Hocine Slaoui – Yal Cahla

Technical Notes
Label: Pathé
Issue Number: PV 202
Matrix Number: CPT 7871-1P (M-127784)

(Thanks to the Alkadhis for help with translation!)

7 thoughts on “Hocine Slaoui – Yal Cahla

  1. Hello – great resource you have here! In this song, “L-Kahla” refers not to a woman with kohl on her eyes, but rather to a black-skinned woman. The rhythmic impulse in the recording is provided by what sound like qarqaba, the iron percussion instruments used by the Moroccan Gnawa (descendants of black slaves), and the lyrics are full of stereotypes of blacks that would make us blush. Slaoui was a black man himself, and other songs of his take an ironic stance (e.g. L-Mirikan), so I’m sure there is some ironic reappropriation of stereotypes going on here.

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