Music of Morocco: Recorded by Paul Bowles

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COMPOSERS: Paul Bowles
LABELS: Dust-To-Digital
ALBUM TITLE: Music of Morocco
PERFORMER: Recorded by Paul Bowles


The American record label Dust-To-Digital won critical acclaim with Longing for the Past, its treasury of archive recordings from South-East Asia, and it’s no surprise that this new box should be up for a Grammy. But Dust-To-Digital’s secret is not just beautiful presentation (this time the notes come in a leather-bound book) – it’s the sheer unexpectedness of the musical content. In 1959 the American composer, poet and novelist Paul Bowles (author of The Sheltering Sky) criss-crossed Morocco making recordings of traditional music for the Library of Congress. But we have had to wait until now for a generous selection of those recordings to be edited and published by the ethnomusicologist Philip Schuyler, complete with Bowles’s own photos and notes.

Much of this music was already disappearing when it was recorded; Bowles described his project as ‘a fight against time’. The mastering of the tapes is so good that the gnawa choruses, synagogue chants and self-accompanied bards have a salty immediacy: a fascinating soundworld.


Michael Church