El Hadj Houcine Toulali

© Christine Delpat

The malhûn tradition remains attached to the great ancient city centres, Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Salé… But, originating from all regions of Morocco, the authors of the malhûn do not feel linked to their hometown even though they may sometimes be named after them. The singers, on the other hand, consider themselves as city people and as representatives of their cities. These, in return, support them, put them in the forefront and grade them according to a hierarchy accepted by all. For the city of Meknes, El Hadj Houcine Toulali is without doubt the greatest of all contemporary singers.

Born in 1924 in Hay Toulal, a peripheral neighbourhood of the city, he developped a passion for malhûn singing as early as 1945. In 1959, he recorded his first pious piece for the Moroccan National Radio, called Ya lutf llah lkhâfî, which right away placed him as one of the leaders of this style. Since then, together with his group of the professional musicians, he shares his artistic activities between playing at feasts, on-stage productions, television broadcasts and teaching at the National Institute of Music.

Toulali died on December 17th 1998, leaving behind a precious heritage of about a hundred songs.

Hassan Jouad
Translated by Mona Khazindar

Available album: The Malhûn of Meknes