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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Moroccan-Hungarian Musician Saïd Chalaban Releases New EP 'Jarama'

By Stevie Connor. Photo Credit:

The 2018 documentary film Échos du Sahara allowed Moroccan-Hungarian musician and Chalaban founder Saïd Tichiti the opportunity to return to Morocco, where he reconnected with friends and his Saharan musical roots.

It was a long adventure that started in Budapest and ended in Laayoun, Dakhla, and Saïd’s birthplace Guelmim, often referred to as the “Gate of the Desert.” It would also prove to be the source of inspiration for this EP, dedicated to the ancestral traditions of the Hassani and the Gnawa.

This part of Sahara between southern Morocco and Mauritania is dominated by the culture of the Hassani: Arab Bedouin tribes whose presence in the region dates back to the 11th century. The Gnawa are descendants of slaves brought to Morocco from sub-Saharan Africa around the same time. This EP is a reflection of the spirit of the Hassani and the crossroads where Moroccan culture meets its Sub-Saharan and African roots.

Hassani concerts are spaces where new poems and songs are born. Hassani songs are neither defined by one theme nor limited in length. They are open musical happenings where musicians set the tones and poets create rhyming lyrics on the spot.

In Saïd Chalaban’s new project Jarama, ancient Gnawa, Shaabi (Egyptian working-class music) and Hassani songs meet Western styles such as dub, funk and psychedelic rock.

By evoking the aesthetics of these modern styles and leaving spaces for improvisation and experimentation, Saïd stretches ancient desert traditions to new horizons.

He is accompanied on this mission by the outstanding Hungarian members of Chalaban.

The Songs

1. Jarama

In some Western African languages and dialects, Jarama means “Thank you.” A man says Jarama/Thank you to his lover instead of blaming her. He forgives her and chooses positivity over negativity.

2. Ya Weylou

A song about jealousy.

3. Ya Lolayli

A Hassani interpretation of the well-known “Ya Leyli” (“Oh my night”), using Arabic vocal improvisations (Mawwal). The Hassani are very known for their hospitality, as evidenced by the first verse: “We are even prepared to put up a tent (house) for anyone who visits us.”

4. Fulani

This song is a symbol of the Gnawas' attachment to their Sub-Saharan ancestors. The Fulani are one of West Africa’s largest ethnic groups, widely spread across the Sahara and the Sahel.


Saïd Tichiti: vocal, guembri, lute, percussion

Mészáros Ádám: electric guitar

Kálmán András: keyboards and piano

Koroknay András: bass guitar

Krecsmáry Zsolt: drums

Special guest: Amine Naami (vocal)

The project was recorded, mixed, and mastered in Einz Studio, Budapest by Koroknay András, in November 2023.



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