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Moroccan Music & Artists > Berber Music - Amazigh Music
Travel To Morocco & Experience the Ancient Music of the Berbers
The music of the Berbers
is an ancient tradition, long predating the arrival of the Arabs in Morocco and has been passed on orally from generation to generation. There are three varieties of Berber folk music: village, ritual music and the music performed by professional musicians.
Village music is performed collectively. Men and women of an entire village will assemble on festive occasions to dance and sing together. Women also sing privately in their homes when weaving, cooking and cleaning. The best-known dances are ahouache, in the western High Atlas
and the ahidus, performed by Chleuh Berbers in the eastern High Atlas
. In these performances the only instruments used are the drums (bendirs) and flute (nai).
Ritual music among the Berbers is performed at regular ceremonies to celebrate marriages and other important life events. It 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 bououghanim 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 vocalists. 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.
Some popular Berber musicians that are respected by across Morocco and whose music has permeated daily life in and perform at local festivals are: Bahija d Omar, Aicha Tachinwite, B'net Marrakech, Hassan Arsmouk, Bnat Oudaden. These musicians are from various parts of the Souss.
Berber music draws from the deepest bottom of the human memory. While the Master Musicians of Jajouka grasped attention of the Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones 40 years ago, the mighty women of B'net Marrakech easily do the same to contemporary European and American audiences.
The Hungarian composer Béla Bartók went to Morocco to make field recordings, the Rolling Stones
and Led Zeppelin made albums with local Berber musicians. But it was not until the past decade when Moroccan bands came to Europe to perform on their own. The all-women band B'net Marrakech was one of the best kept secrets of the local cuisine until 1998 when they enchanted the midnight audience at the WOMAD festival.