Bab El West: Douar

It Takes a Village

Listening Post 140. The concept of Bab El West’s first full-length album was born in Brittany when Habib Farroukh spotted a road sign for the town of Douarnenez. The Moroccan-born singer-composer and two French-born band mates compared notes and discovered that “douar” has almost the same meaning in Breton (land or domain) as in Arabic and Berber (village). Thus emerged the enchanting, imaginary hometown-homeland of their music, at the crossroads of Maghrebi folk, gnawa, soul, Afrobeat and pop/rock, and where Africa’s Bab El West (Western Gate) faces the mirror portal of France. The core band was Farroukh, drummer Marc Dupont and bassist Clément Vallin (both from Brittany), later joined by blues-rock guitarist Hamza Bencheriff and qanun artist Nidal Jaoua. Douar luxuriously exhibits Farrouk’s songs—sung in Moroccan and standard Arabic, with a sprinkling of Berber words and verses—of home and exile, nature and culture, love and freedom. Touria honors Touria Chaoui, Morocco’s first woman pilot, murdered at 19, whose “eternal wings protect us” (video 1). Ha-Menina, evokes the peaks and valley towns of the Atlas Mountains (video 2). A folk rhythm colors Mumtaz (Super), telling the wanderer to remember home (video 3). Among the most captivating tracks are two with jaunty folk-jazz arcs: Dib (Wolf), about a man rejected—whether by a woman or country is not clear—and the love song Bezzaf (It’s Too Much). Before Farroukh left Morocco, his father quoted a proverb as a parting piece of wisdom: “When an old man dies, its as if a library burns to the ground.” The lesson stayed with the young émigré, and Douar turned out to be the ideal place to begin building a repository of stories and music that—given a few more albums of the same outstanding caliber—may illuminate long after artist and edifice have passed from the scene. (Big Banana Music)

 

Touria: I put out the candle/I was sleepy
The sheet was cold/Shivers wake me up
Tears flow alone/Cold and then burning

Heavy heart/Night sweats/I relight the candle
She was right there/outside my window
Touria was dragging the moon 

Oh Oh Oh Touria
Your name is engraved in my heart
How you cry, my eyes have dried
Oh Oh Oh Touria
Tonight garlands illuminate you
Your eternal wings protect us”

 

Ha-Menina: “The crescent moon crosses the city/Following you from the time you left home
You have forgotten your memories here/You even took my wings with you
When the sand is thirsty, rain is useless
Look through the filter/Do not cry, the better to see

Ha menina, you allowed me to overcome my fears
Ha menina, a big thank you, my hand always reaches out to you

Get out of this body, from the height of Toubkal
I see you far away, but you feel ready
I go back to Tighdouine and Sidi Rahal
Put aside my dreams/Convince yourself to come back, too
Return to the valley/Avoid the traps of darkness”

 

Mumtaz: “Look up and hope/May your remedy be in your quest
Look up, the horizon is clear/The road is unique, the roads stop
First day of winter/Spring is already paying off its debt

Don’t give up the wellspring/To go and drink at the fountains of others
The land may belong to you/But not its soul
Its eyes are moving away/Your tears are flooding
The rooster will sing its rebirth/She will know where to find her essence
The land may belong to you/But not its soul”

 

 

 


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