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Renewal In Song

Sound Of Music

MOROCCO is undoubtedly one of the four nations of the Maghreb whose musical traditions provide the greatest multiplicity of aspects. Let us go back and see the different classical forms of music of the "andalou nouba" region in the North of the country, especially in Tetouan, Tangiers, Fes and Rabat, the question-answer songs of the "ahaidou" shepherds of Central Morocco, the percussion of the "bendirs" in the great "ahwachs" of Northern Morocco which sometimes number more than a hundred participants of both sexes, the dialectic poetry sung by the "malhoun", the popular songs of the plain of "aita" which often forms a part of the "chikhat" repertoire (women artists), the clapping of hands which makes the dancer gyrate in joyous abandon while dancing the "guedra" of the Goulimine region and then, there is the "guembri" and iron bars called the "krakch" which are instruments of predilection to this group more influenced by Black Africa, and who belong to the religious group of the Gnawas ... one could go on endlessly. Still, let us however evoke the memory of the extraordinary popular conservatory which still continues to form part of the Jama-el-Fna square of Marrakech.

Then there is the world of the "Moroccan song", the one which includes successful singers both male and female. Some of these artists continue to perpetuate the local tradition with remarkable talent which justifies their fame. To mention just few, Mohamed Bouzoubaa, who specializes in the "malhoun" songs, and Hameed Zahir, whose songs find their origin in Marrakech folklore. On the other hand there are those who wish to expand their horizons beyond the frontiers of their own country are more or less inspired by the vocal form of the Middle East which has been dominating the Arab form of music during the past few decades.

In 1971, a recital given at the Saada cinema hall of the popular city of Casablanca, by some boys, who for the first time adopted the name of he ancient religious sect of Nass el Ghiwane, marked the beginning of a phenomenon which appeared on the scene like a stone thrown in the peaceful waters of Moroccan songs which were close to stagnation. With the exception of a simple amplification which is obviously essential when catering to the needs of a large audince, the Nass el Ghiwane refuse to deform the sound of their instruments by any other electrical equipment. Each of the members of the group can sing, and more often than not, they sing in chorus.

The words of their songs were originally old popular poems with a slight modification which gives the words a more typical meaning. Treating social realities in an indirect manner, these songs make the audience reflect on these very problems. Questions such as why lie? Why fight? Why does one human being exploit the other? are asked in songs such as in Ya bani el Insane (Oh human). In Ya Saa (O my friend) there is the old proverb which preachers inaction, "If you forget your worries, the storm will blow over" dealt with in a more topical manner. Thus the transition seems to be almost complete and the Nass el Ghiwane believe that they project more of a song-drama than mere song.


Moroccan popular music was reborn in the 70s, with the arrival of the group Nass El Ghiwane. The group's material and style were inspired by popular forms (malhoun, aita and guenaoua, for example.. Their subtle lyrics can nonetheless be highly critical f some aspects of Moroccan society. A whole generation of Moroccan youth came of age to the beat of Nass El Ghiwane's stirring percussions. Other groups followed, among them Jil Jilala and Izan Zaren, whose popularity extends beyond Morocco's borders. Rai, a phenomenon which began in Algeria, is currently all the rage among Morocco's young people, who identify strongly with its themes and melodies.

Moroccan Singer Samira SaidAlso worthy of recognition is the work of contemporary composer A. Essyad, whose music is a blend of oral tradition and written composition, and of Arab-Berber and European styles. One of his most famous lyrical compositions, "L'Eau", based on T. Ben Jelloun's libretto, was commissioned by Radio-France.

Observers of Morocco's constantly evolving cultural landscape never fail to be impressed by the originality and creativity of the work of the country's artists - and this is what distinguishes Morocco most strongly from other Arab countries. Private and public initiatives abound and there is no lack of imagination or inspiration.





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