Brahim Runs The Chaabi Down

Brahim is the first guy who hipped me to what the chaabi rhythm was all about. Without the aid of notation software it’s hard to give a visual representation of what it is, but you can think of it this way:

Brahim in Truro, MA Oct '04

Think of a bar of 12/8, meaning there are 12 eighth notes to the bar. Now divide that 12 into 4 groups of 3 notes. Imagine someone clapping on the first beat of each group of 3, four to a bar so we will end up with claps on 1, 4, 7 & 10. Now imagine the 3rd note of the group of 12 gets a high pitch (call it “tick”). Same with beat 8, another “tick”. Beats 5 & 11 get a low pitch – call it “dum”. Or “doom” if you prefer. Notice that NONE of these falls on any of the strong beats – 1, 4, 7 or 10. Now take away those downbeats and it gets interesting. The western brain (at least mine) when first presented with this rhythm without the aid of the clapped downbeats hears the low pitched accents – the “dooms” – as downbeats. Only they’re not. Thus you have the mystery of the Moroccan chaabi, which translates roughly as “popular” (there’s a whole style of music called Chaabi), which for me was like being introduced into a secret society, and i’ve always been interested in secret societies, going way back to reading Robert Anton Wilson‘s Illuminatus Trilogy. Unless you have a Moroccan around to provide the missing downbeats you’re floating in space, dude. But when the secret handshake is performed and you begin to hear what the rhythm actually is…aha, we have a whole new smoke, my ba-rutha.

We recorded a live track at a Lizard Lounge show in May of ’08 which based on this rhythm, and is part of our upcoming release Electric MoroccoLand (due late winter 2010). It was an improv (now titled Brahim Runs The Chaabi Down), and as with most of the stuff Club d’Elf does, it doesn’t adhere too formally to any one thing, so it’s not strictly a chaabi. But you can hear it in the accents that Dean plays on drums and Brahim on cajon, as well in the bass, which btw has alligator clips attached to the strings, giving it that weird, percussive sound. To hear this track go to our Myspace profile, which is probably the first time you’ve gone onto Myspace in awhile, we know. But that’s where you’ll have to go for now until I get the upgrade from WordPress and can upload mp3s here.

D'Elf w/ Vicente Lebron, Dave Fiuczynski & Micro at Lizard Lounge

Ahmed, Brahim, Aziz, Latifa & Micro in Truro, Oct '04

More fun with Moroccan music to come, as I prepare for my trip to Morocco, and then a lot more once I’m there and back. Choukran to my Moroccan peeps for opening me up to this mind-meltingly wonderful and sensual world of rhythm.



~ by delfblog on December 4, 2009.

One Response to “Brahim Runs The Chaabi Down”

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