Morocco is home to Andalusian classical music that is found throughout
North Africa. It probably evolved under the Moors in Cordoba, and the
Persian-born musician Ziryab is usually credited with its invention.
Ziryab invented the nuba, a suite which forms the basis of
al-âla, the primary form of Andalusian classical music today,
along with Gharnati and Malhun.
There used to be twenty-four nuba linked to each hour of the day, but
only four nuba have survived in their entirety, and seven in
fragmentary form. An entire nuba can last six or seven hours and are
divided into five parts called mizan, each with a corresponding rhythm.
The rhythms occur in the following order in a complete nuba:
Each mizan begins with instrumental preludes called either tuashia,
m'shaliya or bughya, followed by as many as twenty songs (sana'a) in
the entire mizan.
Andalusian classical schools are spread across Morocco, having left
Spain when the Moors and Jews were driven out of the country.
Valencia's school is now in Fez, while Granada's is located in Tetouan
and Chefchaouen. Cities like Tangier and Meknes have their own
orchestras as well.
Jews in Morocco played an important role in the perpetuation of this
oral tradition. In fact, the late Rabbi David Bouzaglo was known to
have a conservatory of sorts in Casablanca where a number of Arab and
Jewish musicians trained in al-Ala.
Andalusian classical music uses instruments including oud (lute), rabab
(fiddle), darbouka (goblet drums), taarija (tambourine), qanún
(zither) and kamenjah (violin). Other instruments have included pianos,
banjos and clarinets, though none of these instruments lasted for long.
Andalusian classical music orchestras are spread across the country,
including the cities of Fez, Tetouan, Chaouen, Tangier, Meknes, Rabat
Gharnati is found in both Morocco and Algeria, primarily popular in
Rabat and Oujda in Morocco. It is arranged in nuba like al-âla;
there are four unfinished nuba and twelve complete ones. Orchestras
consist of kvîtra, mandolin, banjo, oud and kamenjah. The word
"Gharnati" comes from the Andalusian city of Granada.
There are three varieties of Berber folk music: village and ritual
music, and the music performed by professional musicians.
Village music is performed collectively for dancing, including ahidus
and ahouach dances. Instruments include flutes and drums. These dances
begin with a chanted prayer. Ritual music is performed at regular
ceremonies to celebrate marriages and other important life events.
Ritual music is also used as protection against evil spirits.
Professional musicians (imdyazn) travel in groups of four, led by a
poet (amydaz). The amydaz performs improvised poems, often accompanied
by drums and rabab (a one-stringed fiddle), along with a bou oughanim
who plays a double clarinet and acts as a clown for the group.
The Chleuh Berbers have professional musicians called rwais who play in
ensembles consisting of lutes, rababs and cymbals, with any number of
vocalist. The leader, or rayes, leads the choreography and music of the
group. These performances begin with an instrumental astara on rabab,
which also gives the notes of the melody which follows. The next phase
is the amarg, or sung poetry, and then ammussu, a danced overture,
tammust, an energetic song, aberdag, a dance, and finally the
rhythmically swift tabbayt. There is some variation in the presentation
of the order, but the astara always begins, and the tabbayt always ends.
Chaabi (popular) is a music consisting of numerous varieties which are
descended from the multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi
was originally performed in markets, but is now found at any
celebration or meeting.
Chaabi songs typically end with a leseb, or swift rhythmic section
accompanied by syncopated clapping.
A sophisticated form of chaabi evolved in the 1970s competing with
popular Egyptian and Lebanese music. These chaabi groups consisted of a
lute and a hadjuj, with some form of drum. Eventually, new instruments
like buzuks and electric guitars were added. The three most important
early groups were Lemchaheb, Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala. All three
bands featured politicized lyrics that got the songwriters in trouble
with the government.
The 1980s saw a new wave of modernizing bands like Muluk El Hwa and
Nass El Hal.
Gnawa musicians in Morocco
Gnawa music is considered a mystical music. It was gradually brought to
Morocco by Sub-Saharan Africans and later became part of the Moroccan
tradition. The ritual of the gnawa (or gnaoua) follow rules, that are
part from the muslim sufi tradition and partly of African animistic
origin similar to the traditions that are found in the african
diaspora, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and so forth. The centre of the ritual is
the so-called "leelah" (the night), also called "derdeba", the night of
trance. Here the seven spirits are evoked through around 100 chants.
Especially in the Muslim month of Sha'aban, which is just before
Ramadan, there are "leelahs" held in the gnawa community.
Milhûn is a form of sung poetry which uses many of the same modes
and instruments as al-âla. A milhûn suite comprises two
parts, the taqsim overture played on an oud or violin in a free rhythm
to introduce the mode for the rest of the piece, followed by the
qassida, or sung poem which is itself divided into three parts. These
are the solo verses (al-aqsâm), choral refrain (al-harba) and
crescendoing chorus that completes the suite (al-dîdka).
Thami Lamdaghri is perhaps the best-known milhûn composer, known
for songs like "Al-Gnawi" and "Aliq Al-Masrûh".
Milhûn orchestras include oud, kamenjah, darbuka, handqa (small
cymbals), hadjouj (a bass lute) and swisen (a high-pitched lute).
Rai is more closely associated with Algeria in the international music
scene, but Morocco has produced its own stars like Cheb Mimoun and
Hanino. Especially in the eastern regions of Morocco Oujda and Berkane
the Rai-style has gained a lot of popularity in the beginning of the
early 90s. The two major cities in the east of Morocco, Berkane and
Oujda have become centres of the new revived Rai-style in Morocco. The
huge presence of Algerian-born people in the East is the major factor
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Sufi brotherhoods (tarikas) are common in Morocco, and music is an
integral part of their spiritual tradition, in contrast to most other
forms of Islam, which do not use music. This music is an attempt at
reaching a trance state which inspires mystical ecstasy. The brothers
hold hands in a circle and chant or dance. Sufi music is usually
Marrakech and other regions in southern Morocco are home to the Gnawa
Brotherhood, which claims descent from the Ethiopian muezzin Sidi
Bilal. Gnaoua ceremonies (deiceba) are used to protect against mental
illness, scorpion stings and malicious spirits. Deiceba may be related
to Sub-Saharan African ceremonies and use a long-necked lute of African
origin called the guembri, as well as castanets called garagab.
The Jilala are another brotherhood, known for their hypnotic and
otherworldly music. They are devotees of Moulay Abdelkader Jilali.
Instruments include the bendir (frame drum) and qsbah (flute).
Other brotherhoods include Hamadcha (founded by Sidi Ali ben Hamdouch),
Aissaoua (founded by Sidi Mohamed ben Aissa, Derkaoua, Haddaoua,
Cherkaoua, Dar Damana (the Sufi saints of Ouezzane). A well-known local
cult is in village of Jajouka in the Ahl Srif Mountains, home of music
group, Master Musicians of Jajouka. This cult commonly flourished near
the sanctuary of a local saint. Jajouka musicians play healing music
said to be written by their ninth century patron saint Sidi Achmed
Schiech. They also perform a ritual called Boujeloud which is likened
to the worship of the God Pan.
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| Morocco Travel Guide
Highlights of Morocco
When to go & weather
What to pack
work & Study
Travel to Morocco
Immerse yourself in the colors and smells of the medieval medina, North
Prepare for sensory overload in this city of souks and storytellers
High Atlas Mountains Ourika Valley
Discover the real Morocco... a cup of tea within the Berbers
Marvel at the ingenuity of the
ancients in Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins
Ride on a camel in the Sahara. Morocco Trekking, Climbing, Camels, 4x4,
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Catch a sea breeze amid the
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Travel in Morocco
is sensory overload at its most
intoxicating, from the scents and sounds that permeate its imperial
cities to the astonishing sights and its landscape.
Culture & Heritage
Moroccan culture is rich is
history, the arts and sciences. Throughout Morocco there is a wide
choice of museums......
Airlines that fly to Fes
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