What tropicalia is to Brazil, the 1970s pop drawn from the Gnawa tradition is to Morocco. One of the two big bands dating from the 1970s that led the movement was Nass El Ghiwane (link to their blog, in French).
"American film director Martin Scorcese once referred to them as The Rolling Stones of Africa. Their music merges the traditional music of Morocco with modern subjects. ... Nass el Ghiwane was formed in the late 60's by four young men from the poor district of Hay el Mohammadi in industrial Casablanca. ... Nass el Ghiwane specialized in writing colloquial poetry about topics related to the social and political climate, and arranging its music in the Moroccan tradition. ... In a time where the only music available was middle-eastern pop music that sang about love, Nass el Ghiwane had prepared something new for Morocco: they mixed the Sufi chants and litanies of Zaouias ... with the elegant colloquial poetry of Melhoun adding to it the ancient rhythms of the Berbers and the healing dances of the mystical Gnawas. Morocco has just had its independence from the French and its population, still uncertain of what the future is hiding, was shocked and moved by the texts of Nass el Ghiwane: corruption, injustice and degradation of society. They were the first Moroccan band to mix such a diverse and rich heritage and to speak their minds even about the most forbidden subjects, public discussion of which may have led to imprisonment at that time." (See their Wikipedia entry for more.)
This record is from 1972, two years before the death of Boujemaa Hagour, who is described often as the leader or main initial creative force in the group. Every time I spoke with a Moroccan music shop owner about this group, the owner would point him out in CD photos as "the one who died." I bought this disc last year in an amazing music store in Essaouira called Bob Music, which is accurately described in some detail over at the Crud Crud blog (get yourself to the July 2010 entries).
This and a couple of the other records I'll probably post in the future are likely the very same ones that were mentioned there as too beaten up to be worth buying. I likely overpaid for this at about US $10, but the same shop owner let me have some quality CDs at very low prices and I wasn't about to complain. I enjoy even having the sleeve of something this cool.
This is one of my all-time favorite covers on a single, with striking colors and graphics. The sound quality on this even after cleaning it is fairly rough; hope you like pops and crackles. I suggest buying yourself a compilation or two of the band's releases, as I have, if this strikes your fancy.