Moorish Music From Mauritania

Khalifa Ould Eide

World Circuit, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Fun fact: in early 2023, this reviewer contracted COVID-19. And while, for the most part, I felt pretty good, something inside the darker part of my brain decided that it was finally time to start paging through my copy of Tom Moon’s book 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. The second disc listed in its pages – just after Abba’s Gold – was Moorish Music From Mauritania.

Mauritania? Can’t say I’m very familiar with either the country or the style of music that comes from it. But, the only one learns is by diving in headfirst – and, thus, I checked out this 1990 effort from Khalifa Ould Eide & Dimi Mint Abba.

And – as I’ve learned in my previous excursions into world music, it matters not whether one understands a single word that is sung or what instruments are used, the marriage of instrument and voice into something so pure can be a magical experience. This CD is such an example. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 One will hopefully forgive me for not going into depth about the instrumentation and music itself, as I simply don’t have the technical knowledge of it. Instead, this musical journey proves to be an emotional one, and the transportation to a new sonic landscape lies therein.

The husband-wife duo (with backing from Abba’s daughters) celebrate their Islamic faith and Mauritanian and African roots over the course of these 11 songs. Often, the vocals sound as if they could have been calls to prayer issued from atop the minaret of a mosque; the sheer power and beauty of the human voice takes center stage, with minimal instrumental backing. It is a style that Western ears might not be 100 percent used to, but if viewed as a form of African folk music, it suddenly will come together.

Granted, this style of music might not be for everyone, and it could take time to adjust one’s ears to the style and delivery of songs like “Independence,” “Art’s Plume” (which is astonishingly beautiful) and “Yar Allahoo”. But, opening one’s mind and ears can prove to unearth a musical treasure trove within the 68 minutes allotted on this CD – and, honestly, much of it feels like it passes in mere moments. I couldn’t find a single track that I’d have called even mildly disappointing – and while I can’t necessarily say this disc would become part of my regular revolving playlist, it – like Sur Sudha’s Images Of Nepal – is one that I will gladly revisit at times when my spirit needs a good boost.

To the best of my knowledge and research, Eide never released another album, and Abba has only ventured back to the recording studios one time, with 1992’s Music And Songs Of Mauritania. That, honestly, seems like a shame, as the music and lyrical traditions of Mauritania deserve to not only be heard, but preserved. If anything, one should be thankful that such an album as Moorish Music From Mauritania exists, and these songs have been captured for all time. It’s a musical excursion that is well worth the trip.

Rating: A

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© 2023 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of World Circuit, and is used for informational purposes only.