Anthology of World Music: The Music of Islam and Sufism in Morocco
Rounder Records (

The ambiguous status of music in Islam as a religion and a culture is well displayed in this reissued installment from Alain Danielou's Anthology of Traditional Music of the World. Beginning with the mandatory call to prayer, common to all of the Islamic world, and a solo Quranic chant, the recording moves on to sounds more peculiar to Morocco. An ensemble chant from the High Atlas region, for example, shows traces of Berber influence in the interlocking percussive breathing and pentatonic modes. Straying further away from conservative orthodoxy, Sufi trance music incorporates instruments (which are forbidden inside mosques) such as the herrazi (a ceramic vase drum) and the wailing ghaita (a double-reeded oboe-like horn). One of the highlights of this CD is the full ambient village sounds captured during such a trance performance that transports you to the dusty heat of northwest Africa in your armchair. There is also a track of Gnawa ceremonial music, which clearly has deep roots in sub-Saharan Africa as evidenced by the call-and-response patterns and triple-on-duple rhythms. Although relatively short (it was transferred from two sides of an LP) with uneven recording quality (some tracks have poor high-frequency response characteristic of many old analog tapes), the album provides a diverse sampler for those seeking an introduction to the spectrum of Islamic sounds found in Morocco. - John Cho