Hassan Erraji – Awal Mara

Hassan Erraji – Awal Mara

With a steadfast love for music and an incredibly strong feeling for continuing to diverge and explore new grounds, Hassan Erraji has returned with a new album of brightly innovative sounds. The Moroccan musician assembles a grand arrangement of instrumentalists and vocalists to deliver a world of color on Awal Mara. Directly translating to “love at first sight,” even the title track drives the music to a fever pitch. The chiming claps, spinning wind instruments and clamoring voices bounce around the dancing walls and Erraji is an intriguing craftsmen as the music swells with a creative mastermind behind everything.

For Awal Mara, Erraji enlisted the help of producer Dave Creffield (Kaiser Chiefs) to flesh out the sounds that Erraji was dreaming up at the time. Many of the songs are built around a fashionably linear melody that skips and leaps in different octaves and Erraji utilizes this to counter the melodies with vocal harmonies that ascend in all kinds of directions. “Saraha” showcases the multi-instrumentalist’s ability at featuring various different sounds while still maintaining a focus on the overall scope. Whether it’s a ney flute, qanun, the violin or even an Arabic lute, the melody remains a strong constant. And on “Haili Ayouma,” Erraji hones in on a vivid string melody to bask in. In this scenario, Erraji’s voice sounds fragile as he beckons, “Oh Dear, Where Has My Love Gone”; knowing exactly when to release the instruments and in turn, letting his voice shine, everything is a winning combination.

While the songs are sung in Erraji’s native tongue, there are a few instrumentals offered as softening changes of pace. “Douka Dance” sounds almost entirely out of place as it closes out the album but in other regards, “Samitat Ajam” offers a stunning flute and string collaboration that serves as a terrific transition. Either way, Erraji supports his music with fitting touches as everything is always pointed and well-adjusted. The sheer vocal manner in which the words are sung provides a new experience and on “Malak,” Erraji eradicates a minor shift with the help of spinning vocals. The music evokes dancing and thus Erraji ensures that the music is swift and cunning.

Although the sounds on Awal Mara are surely worldly, they are never other-worldly and the common theme prevails with Erraji’s ear for melody. The sounds of gnawa music, including alhadra and malhoun, remain a forever influence for the Moroccan musician as he continues to perfect his craft. Even many years in the running, a refreshing new outlook on music’s capabilities is always welcome, especially when it’s this finely crafted.

“Haili Ayouma” by Hassan Erraji

World Village