A musician, sound artist, DJ and producer; Abdellah M. Hassak’s artistic repertoire counts various exceptional creations related to theatre plays, films, dance performances and music installations, as well as several releases – the most recent of which, with his Guedra Guedra electronic music project, is coming out this year on On The Corner Records. The Casablanca-born artist has performed extensively with Guedra Guedra around Europe and across Africa and has done several collaborations, including with the acclaimed Nyege Nyege Festival and Atlas Electronic. Now, he is performing in Berlin at CTM Festival, starting this Friday, January 24th.
Most of these pieces of information were unknown to me, as I was first introduced to Abdellah on another basis. During the early months of 2019, while preparing for a trip to Morocco, I was doing some research on the country’s vinyl market scene. A friend suggested that Abdellah would be the perfect person to talk to, and he was right.
Through his passion for record collecting, the wide spectrum of his work and artistic approach got slowly unfolded to me. Now, a year later, and for the first-ever Invisible Archives interview series, we asked Abdellah to tell us the backstory of his love for vinyl and the natural evolution that this had in the ever-changing approach to his Guedra Guedra productions.
Once you’re done, be sure to check the gallery below, with Abdellah M. Hassak’s record collection, referenced throughout the interview, and listen to the exclusive mix below.
With what kind of music did you grow up? Are there any albums/artists that played an important role in your life?
Each period of my life had different influences. I was born in the mid-80s. During that time, there was a lot of New Wave, Rock and also local Pop music with traditional Moroccan influences played on radio and TV. I was a little closer to New Wave and Synth-Boogie music at the time. What had a big influence on me, was the death of Kurt Cobain. I was 10 years old when that happened. From that moment on, I started listening to Rock as well, and then quickly shifted to Metal.
During my high school and college years, I started playing as a Bass guitarist with some local bands. I always kept an open ear for other kinds of music. Towards the last two years of the 90s, I discovered the band Aisha Kandisha’s Jarring Effects. Their album, Shabeesation, on the Moroccan label Barraka El Farnatshi, inspired me a lot and changed many of the ideas I had about my musical vision… A few years later, the album Soldier of Midian by Badawi was released under the label ROIR; an album that got me into Dub, Illbient and Experimental music.
Directly after that, I started to produce Dub under the name DUBOSMIUM. With time, I wanted to expand a little more into new kinds of music and started different projects with different names. Today, under the name Guedra Guedra, I am trying to explore the very important ethnic, social, cultural and linguistic identity that North Africa and a large part of Africa are sharing, by challenging through music, topics like; rhythm and polyrhythm, ritual practices, the practice of trance, the notion of memory and musical transmission in African nomadic society, and more. Guedra Guedra is a more low, polyrhythmic, tribal, organic and poetic, chaos project.
How did you start collecting vinyl?
In my music production, I always wanted to use organic sounds together with folk, traditional and tribal sounds. But when I started to produce, during 2002-2003, there were not many big peer-to-peer archives of music online yet, in order to be able to create new samples, and digitalising tapes was too complicated as you had to have a good cassette player. This is how I started buying and collecting vinyl so that I can sample and produce my music. With time, I started to discover lots of interesting music that was available only on vinyl. It gives me pleasure to play this music for people. Also, there are some records that I reactivate artistically, by doing radio documentaries or anthropological and sociological research on them.
Is there a specific genre or type of records that you are particularly interested in? Any examples?
In my record collection I am very open to all kinds of music; African, experimental Arabic, Funk, Boogie, Psychedelic Rock, New Wave, documentation, field recordings…I particularly like experimental records from North Africa and field recordings, especially when they are accompanied by liner notes and photographic material. For example, one of the records I like in my collection, Honor To The Arab King, is a recording that took place in the Moroccan royal palace for the 9th anniversary of the succession to the throne of King Hassan II, in March 1970. It shows the influence that the music listening in the royal palace had, in the musical programming of the public radio and television in the 70s…
Another example would be Modern Method of Arabic Spokes Moroccan; a record that documents, through voice and radiophonic discussion, the social history of Morocco in the 60s. I find this kind of records really important as they allow me and other artists to research and reflect on the evolution of Moroccan society over time. This kind of records fit my sound practices as anthropological and sociological research.
What is it that intrigues you in the process of searching and collecting vinyl?
Personally, I find the relationship between the record/object and the instant of its discovery very important. It keeps a beautiful trace of memory. Vinyl is a beautiful object for documentation, as it has long durability and is often accompanied by a written trace. To have a collection, for me also means, having a musical heritage to transmit to future generations. It has happened that I found records with enclosed letters with very touching comments, or even notes by the artist. And also sometimes, to find records that are very rarely found…I think the story behind the object, as well as its content, are the most interesting elements for me.
How is the vinyl scene in Morocco?
There are more and newer vinyl collectors with their own taste and interest in music. I think most of them are often interested in Rock, Metal, Hip Hop and Jazz. There are also some others that are more into rare things. When it comes to record stores; unfortunately, the last biggest record store in Casablanca, Gam Boujemma’s Disques Gam, is now closed. It was linked to the Moroccan label of the same name, that released countless records in the 1970s. Gam Boujemma shared his vision and passion with his costumers for almost half a century. One of the newest record stores in the scene is People’s Choice Records by a friend of mine, who has invested a lot to make it happen. There are also some private sellers as well, and small flea markets. The latter one is what I like best, as it often allows me to discover new beautiful music and groups that I don’t know.
You have been contributing to the Moroccan vinyl scene as well with your own event series. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It has been over than three years now that I am organising Les Apéros Vinyles in Casablanca, a colourful event with a variety of record styles; from Spiritual Jazz to Afrofunk, Afrosynth, Funk, Boogie, Zulu Disco, Disco Arab, Italo-disco, New Wave, Ambient…It takes place in an underground bar in Casablanca in which we have the opportunity to invite great vinyl collectors and record labels to play, as for example, Habibi Funk, Radio Martiko and many others. It has evolved into a place for all the curious listeners and vinyl lovers of the city.
How about your best record finding? Which one was it?
It is hard to tell, every time there was a new better one – as long as the music is beautiful, the artwork is beautiful, and the musician is beautiful. For example, a record that I really like is Tuareg by SHUKA, an 80s Moroccan band with a Rock, Pop, and a touch of traditional, Moroccan sound.
Another album would be The Ballad of the Green March by LEILA. Its compositions tell the story of the historic glory of the Green March revolution in a different musical way than the one we used to listen to in our childhood. This is a more psychedelic version with a synthesizer, accordion and voice. Lyrics are in French, English and Arabic, vocals by Leila, and music composition by Annabel Carven and Valto Laitinen.
Other Arabic records I like are albums by artists like Abdou El Omari, Omar El Shariyi, Rahbani Brothers…Or African records such as Charly Kingson’s album, Born In Africa.
If you would have to pick one Moroccan production that you feel that the world needs to know, which one would it be?
Right now, I’m doing a little research on a kind of music that I listened to a lot on the radio during my childhood. It sounds a bit like Boogie, with a touch of Rai and traditional Moroccan music. It is a type of music that I enormously like but unfortunately, it was rarely produced on vinyl – mainly on tapes. One of the only existing vinyl I think, is by the group Les Frères Bouchenak, the album’s name is Bouchenak – Raï Y. The copy I have was autographed by Reda Bouchenak, one of the group brothers!
I remember once you were telling me about a very provocative album cover you found, can you tell us a bit about that record?
It is a record by Armand Elmaleh or Lemal, also known as; Jauk, the white Gnaoui, Jauk Armal or Jauk Elmaleh. He is a great artist, musician, percussionist, and teacher from Morocco. In 1985, he was named one of the “100 Best Percussionists In The World” by the Swiss/Esthonian Paiste. The name Jauk means orchestra, company, clan or group in Berber languages, and it represents a sense of community and collectivity. He is an artist with a musical process that I highly admire, someone who deeply inspired me here in Morocco, and with whom I work a lot and listen to carefully. Jauk has been extremely innovative and ahead of his time, being one of the first artists who succeeded in producing a fusion between “world” and jazz music, and especially by using the Moroccan rhythm and melody.
One of the records I like a lot in my collection is his album Gnawa Blues, the cover of which you can see below. I find it magnificent. Unfortunately, when the album was released during the 80s, the label was obliged to remove all the records from the marketplace and destroy them, after receiving pressure from several religious organizations in France that were enraged by its cover. Jauk managed nevertheless to keep some copies, one of which, he gave to me. This is one of the records that I keep with me all the time. Most of my sets start with one of its titles, Ballade Bleu Méditerrannée. We can destroy the object, but the creation of memory is eternal.
Did your passion for collecting vinyl influence your work as a producer and DJ?
I believe the kind of records from my collection that mainly influenced my work in Guedra Guedra are field recordings of African music. The act of leaving the studio to take the risk of confronting the unpredictable, the uncontrollable, even sometimes, the fragile, keeps I think more real documentation of a given musical and social situation.
This kind of recordings, allow me to better understand the musical practice of a region or a country. Studio recordings often denature the traditional musical practice, as this music was made to be played in a group, in a space, in a specific context and social environment. Those musical recordings immortalize a moment of a unique and sensitive point in the life of those we don’t know, of social practice, in times and places that we might ignore.
On the Guedra Guedra project, I spend a lot of time re-listening, archiving and analyzing this kind of records and music to think and reflect on my new productions.
Guedra Guedra will perform at “Elastic Collision”, as part of CTM Festival, on Friday 24 January at Berghain’s Panorama Bar. More info here.