The information gathered during my fieldwork enables one to delineate a map of the background of the musical repertories of the group, and confirms the hypothesis of a process of transformation regulated by the tradition/modernity dynamics. The basic styles (houari and hamada), although presenting a certain variety in the lyrics of the songs, maintain a substantial unity in terms of metric, melodic line and rhythmic models. These two styles, and the related repertory of songs, apparently derived from the Hamada region in the Dr`aa (where the tradition is still alive) and moved toward the North - firstly to Taroudant and then to Marrakech - along the patterns of processes of sedentarization and urbanization in accord ance with the organization of space in the economy of modern Morocco (Beguin 1973).
The houari and hamada styles, influenced by Berber-Arab Bedouin singing and by the music of Saharan and sub-Saharan black Africa, appear to have exhausted their creative potential as the result of change in the socio-economic conditions. Today, they only lend themselves to composition by variation, while composition by invention of new themes is based on the structures of the modern popular song (cha`abi), developed especially in the urban context.
These distinct styles are characterized by differences in terms of performative method and musical features. When women perform the houari and hamada repertory, they sit on the ground in a circle with their legs crossed (in a position called ghelsa), as is still customary during breaks while working in the fields or at the loom. The musicians invite those present to dance though the sound of their percussion instruments and singing: at times one of them will rise up and participate in the collective dance.
The pieces performed in the houari style are based on an anhemitonic pentatonic scale which does not exceed the octave, and are divided into two parts: dakhla and kherja. The first part, dakhla ("entrance"), is in a 7/8 rhyt hm, accented on the odd movements. Two choruses express the theme in call-and-response form: the first chorus intones the oughna ("song"), the second the `azima ("reply"). The second part, kherja ("exit"), is in a 5/4 rhythm: the two choruses underline the fudamental images of the previously expressed text, and end in a crescendo with the mizan ("balance", rhythmic measure) sustained by hocketing in rhythmic counterpoint with the final crescendo of the percussion instruments.
L'Harka li Jeya (The arriving squad)
(Dakhla) (wav file: 207 kb)
(Kherja) (wav file: 169 kb)
1. Noblemen (Chorfa) of
the Almoravide line and the appellative of the woman who
has completed the (often metaphorical, cf note 3)
pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Islam.
The hamada style, from the name of the region where it originated, Hamada of the Dr`aa, presents similar characteristics: the call-and-response structure of the song, forced emission of the voice, pentatonic scale, and a rhythm based on the superimposition of binary and ternary rhythmic cells. All pieces end with a rhythmic-dynamic crescendo, the final explosion of the ferda (literally "fire weapons") representing the baroud, i.e. the fantasia of the Arab horsemen.
Ammalya (What is happening to me?)
(Hamada) (wav file: 113 kb)
(Ferda) (wav file: 196 kb)
The piece Arfoud, influenced by the ahouach of the Tacheleht Berbers of Imin Tanout, also belongs to the most traditional repertory.
Arfoud (Let's go) (wav file: 230 kb)
The more "modern" style (generically defined as cha`abi, i.e. popular), is a consequence of urbanization and changed productive structures, and gives increased emphasis to the soloist's voice, which presents vocal embellishments based on Arab-type scales with intervals even shorter than a semitone. In this context, the character of the woman-musician takes on a leading role, thanks to her standing position (ouqfa), enabling her to perform through dance and "spectacularize" the female body . The repertory in the ouqfa position also involves typical styles of the cheikhat, such as the `aita ("call").
Ayly Ayly (What is happening?) (`Aita) (wav file: 186 kb)
The composition of the lyrics utilized in the different styles shows traces of the influence of forms of classical metric, and particularly of the rouba`ayat (quatrains) which give the name to the typically female popular style called `aroubi (dialectal metathesis of the term rouba`ayat, El Fassi 1967), exemplified by the following piece.
Khelliouni Menni Lih (Leave me alone with him) (`Aroubi) (wav file: 161 kb)
After the first quatrain, which introduces the metric form and the melodic line and whose first verse gives the title to the entire song, the text can present some marked variations from one performance to the other. In practice, meter, rhythm, and melody function as clichés, or a generative matrix on which improvisation - i.e. the extemporaneous variation of performers - is based. The majority of the B'net Houariyat's song lyrics are "modular" compositions assembled as a patchwork, as a sor t of "canvas" adapted by the interpreters according to circumstance and temporary inspiration.
Among the most frequently utilized song themes, as shown by the above mentioned examples, one finds images of popular religious life and the visit to marabouts (cf song Ammalya) and, as expectable from a repertory of epithalamic songs, the exaltation of love (cf also song L'Harka li Jeya), eulogy of beauty, or also images of seduction. The panegyric dedicated to guests and their families is also typical. At times songs also express protest against repression brought about by false respectability, slander, and stereotyped judgement.
Finally, the more recent repertory in the cha`abi style features a song dedicated to the Moroccan national football team on the occasion of the "Coupe du Monde 1998", Kas El-`Alam (The World Cup), and a statement on phenomena of fanaticism in youth music through a piece dedicated to Bob Marley.
Kas El-`Alam (The World Cup) (Cha`abi)
Bob Marley (Cha`abi)
1 Places in Marrakech where the
sanctuaries of two great marabouts are located.
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