Album of the Day: Houssam Gania, “Mosawi Swiri”

The youngest son of legendary Moroccan singer and musician Maalem Mahmoud Gania, who sadly passed away in 2015, Houssam Gania is devoted to continuing his father’s indomitable legacy. His new album, Mosawi Swiri, finds the 23-year-old reveling in the region’s classic, indigenous sounds, and the rich cultural heritage embedded within them. Even the packaging is gloriously old-fashioned; its cover is a callback to the type of old, local cassette tapes that have since been reissued and popularized in the West, bringing Morocco’s distinct ripple of African music to a wider audience. 

Mosawi Swiri draws historic influences from Gnawa music, a style of ancient Islamic ceremonial compositions formed by the ethnic group of the same name. The rattling, tin-like percussion on songs like “Moussa Barkiyo” and “Lah Lahrbi Ya Molay” might sound unusual to Western ears, but the minimalist arrangements and Gania’s bellowing, soulful vocals reflect the music’s austere undertones. Still, when Gania and his band—which consists of his brother Hamza Gania, Mohamed Benzaid, Khalid Charbadou, and Amine Bassi—rev up, their playing is freewheeling and playful; between its hot drum loops and Gania’s neatly plucked guimbri (a three-stringed bass plucked lute), opener “Moulay Lhacham” is a pop-leaning slice of Gnawa fusion. The album might end, yes—but its studied sonic textures will remain forever immortal.

-Dean Van Nguyen

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