"Camping Shaâbi"
2. Mon Verre
3. Wereld Ni
4. Oppressor
5. Gnawa Power
6. Fantome
7. Hamdushi Five

Recently featured in the list of the "100 Greatest World Music Albums Of All Times" by Amazon US, "Camping Shaabi" came out in early 2008 and was Antwerp-based band Think Of One's second album for Crammed.

Original press release:

The antagonism between Belgium's two communities has never been as pronounced... the Arab world and the West are more at odds than ever... Yet, our favourite musical explorers (i.e. Antwerp-based band Think Of One) couldn't think of anything better than to put out a new album blending vocals in Arabic, in French and in Antwerp's Flemish dialect, written and recorded in collaboration with Moroccan musicians, and released on a rather francophone label...

Is this some form of provocation ? Of sheer irresponsibility ? Or a desire to try and bridge the gap between alienated communities ? There's probably some truth in all of these, but the main impulse behind this album comes from Think Of One's immoderate love for Moroccan shaâbi, that popular style which is directly derived from traditional Berber music and from its irresistible rhythms. Shaâbi songs were originally (and still are) performed at parties and weddings, mostly in an urban environment. But, for a good number of years, Shaâbi has become massively popular with the young : just listen to FM radio or lend an ear to the music blasting from car stereos, not only in Casablanca or Marrakech but also in certain areas of Brussels and Antwerp.

Shaâbi is nevertheless still considered as a lesser, inferior form of music by many *, which makes Think Of One's current endeavour all the more exciting: the band's aim is to get as many of us Westerners deeply addicted to the groove of shaâbi...

So how did they create this album ? In the wake of their musical adventures in Brazil (which resulted in Tráfico, their previous album), the band decided to bring the fusion between shaâbi and Euro-American urban music to a completely new level, and started writing these songs in the company of five Moroccan collaborators (some of whom they had already worked with in the past **): singers and percussionists Amina Tcherkich and Lalabrouk Loujabe (who are both members of an all-woman Houara band based in Marrakech), Gnawi musician and singer Ab el Kebir Bensalloum (also from Marrakech), and "The Twins", Hicham and Hakim Bouanani Moulay, who are renowned musicians in Brussels' shaâbi scene.

The album also features remarkable guest appearances by Mustapha Bourgogne (one of Morocco's biggest shaâbi stars), Belgian/Tunisian singer Ghalia Benali, Belgian/Algerian rapper Brahim Tayeb, singer Véronique Vincent (ex-Honeymoon Killers) and vocal group Laïs.

As always with Think Of One and their leader/composer David Bovée, this isn't about mixing things up in a crude kind of collage: Camping Shaâbi integrates the Moroccan elements into the fabric of the band's characteristic sound & compositions, to create a strange, original and delightful musical object. Many songs start off from the typical Berber 12/8 rhythm —the hallmark of Moroccan shaâbi –which sometimes becomes hardly recognizable as it is transmuted into some bizarre form of R'n'[Shaa]B[eat] (as in the title track), or into a quasi-punk cavalcade (in Alela Minena, based on a traditional counting rhyme).

The album also includes tinges of abrasive rock (Hamdushi Five, based on a different North-African rhythm), of jazz (the always inventive horn arrangements), of electronica (with plenty of subtle sound treatments and deliciously vintage-sounding keyboards), of dub and hip hop (Oppressor). Moroccan percussion, violins and keyboards meet guitars, basses and drums, wailing houariyat voices respond tolaid-back refrains in Flemish, and the whole thing is processed in typical TO1 style.Think Of One have already worked with Amina, Lalabrouk and Abd el Kebir on the Marrakech Emballage Ensemble albums, which were released on the band's own, tiny label. A handful of songs from those albums have now been completely rearranged and re-recorded for Camping Shaâbi.

Let's not forget the lyrics: sometimes surreal and dream-like, but often connected to social issues which concern the band (racist stupidity, for instance, in the hilarious and politically explosive Trap het af). Other examples: the autobiography of an old car, recycled as a taxi (J'étais Jetée)... or the uncanny Mon Verre and its evocation of certain dangers with which lonely female moviegoers can be confronted (pay special attention to the text chanted by Amina and Lalabrouk: it's not all in Arabic...).

Camping Shaâbi was composed in Marrakech and in an Antwerp suburb, recorded in Brussels, mixed in Paris, and produced by Yann Arnaud (who has worked with Air, Syd Matters, Phoenix and Cibelle).

Think Of One is an awesome live band, and will celebrate the release of this album by taking their colourful caravan (including their Moroccan friends) on the road during most of 2008.

By the way, why "camping" ? The answer might be contained in the short presentation film which is included in the album as a bonus...

* Unlike Arab "learned" music , and unlike rural folk traditions –Berber, Gnawa- which have acquired a respectable status with ethnomusicologists and world music aficionados.
** Think Of One have already worked with Amina, Lalabrouk and Abd el Kebir on the Marrakech Emballage Ensemble albums, which were released on the band's own, tiny label. A handful of songs from those albums have now been completely rearranged and re-recorded for Camping Shaâbi.


THINK OF ONE - Camping Shaâbi
Camping Shaâbi
THINK OF ONE - Trafico