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The Berber people is the indigenous and major ethnic group inhabiting North Africa (west of Egypt) and part of West Africa (north of Senegal). Berbers call themselves "imazighen". Those who lived in northwest Africa were called "Libyans" by the Greeks, "Africans", "Numidians" and "Moors" by the Romans and early Europeans, and dubbed "Berbers" by the modern Europeans and Arabs.
The Berber culture probably dates back more than 5,000 years and the Berbers were inhabitants of North Africa long before some Arab tribes arrived. The Berber language belongs to the Afro-Asiatic group linguistically and has many closely related dialects and accents. Their music is widely varying across the area they inhabit, but is best known for its place in Moroccan music, the popular Kabyle and Chaoui music of Algeria and the widespread Tuareg music of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
Ancient Berber culture is stylistically diverse with music ranging from oboe and bagpipes to pentatonic music and all these combined with African rhythms and an important stock of oral literature. These ancient traditions of music have been kept alive by small bands of musicians travelling from village to village to entertain at weddings and other social events with their songs, tales, and poetry. The real core of Berber music remains within traditional, community contexts. The Berber language is related both to Semitic languages, among them Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and to ancient Egyptian, Coptic, and the Cushitic languages spoken in Ethiopia and Somalia.
Much of the most interesting Berber music is not pop at all, but rather village and urban folk music.[according to whom?] Aesthetics and style aside, it is important to understand[according to whom?] that the whole subject of Berber music and culture is inevitably colored by Berber people’s longstanding struggle to achieve basic language rights and identity recognition in modern North African societies.
Berber music is well known for its use of folk oral traditions, as well as particular scales and rhythmic patterns, which include pentatonic music and African rhythms. All these tunes are combined together to form one of the main sources of entertainment in Berber social ceremonies like marriages, verses, tales and songs.
Berber vocal styles in Morocco consist of two main types. The first, called Ahwash, is exclusively village music, probably unchanged for centuries or longer. Ahwash texts emphasize the submission of the individual to the community. Typically, it consists of two large choruses engaging in call-and-response vocals, accompanied by instrumentalists and dancers. Since this music requires anywhere from 20 to 150 participants, it is not easily portable and so rarely heard in the cities.
The second, called Raiss, is performed by smaller groups of professional musicians who blend dance, comedy, and sung poetry. Raiss songs tend to honor orthodox Islam, but with notable dashes of syncretist belief. In these songs, things like sacrifices and evil eyes are justified in terms of Islam. Instruments typically include the rebab, a one-stringed fiddle, the lotar lute, hand drums, and a bell. One notable feature of rwais (rais, singular) melodies is the way they leap up and down in large intervals.
The region of Kabylie in Algeria has a very large Berber-speaking population. Vocalists are usually accompanied by a rhythm section, consisting of "tbel" (tambourine) and "bendir" (frame drum), and a melody section, consisting of a "ghayta" (bagpipe) and "ajuag" (flute).
The Berber music of the Tuareg region uses rhythms and vocal styles similar to the music of other Berber, Iberian, and Arab music, while West African call-and-response-style singing is also common. In contrast to many of the region's peoples, among the Tuareg, music is mostly the domain of women, especially the imzhad, a string instrument like a violin. Tuareg weddings feature unique styles of music, such as the vocal trilling of women and special dances (ilkan) of slaves marking the occasion.
The Berber people are spread out over a large part of Africa, but seem to have a dense concentration within the northwestern part of Africa. The people have a vast array of instruments, both melodic and percussive. The following instruments take part in the accompaniment in dance and song both secular, and sacred.
The taghanimt is an end-blown reed flute. Used mostly to accompany songs rather than dance, the taghanimt is said to have a rich, breathy texture.
The zukrah of Tunisia has a large role in societal performances along with the ghaytah of Morocco. In both countries, these instruments are combined with several percussive instruments to create large ensembles which may perform at public festivals or such occasions.
The nafir is a long natural horn, a type of valveless trumpet. This instrument is used mostly as a signaling instrument to send out messages to large masses, although it also has some performance value.
The Moroccan ginbri is a stringed instrument with a long fretless neck. The box of the instrument is covered in skin, and is used in several varying occasions. Most ensembles have at least one ginbri, although it is not always limited to one. In addition to the ginrbri is the rabab, a long necked-fiddle with a large box which is covered in skin. This instrument has only one string, usually of horse-hair horse hair, and is commonly played alongside the ginbri.
In percussion, the tabl (Berber: e'ṯbel) is a cylindrical double-sided drum. Although it has similar use and spelling to the tabla of India, there is no direct correlation found between the two. The qas'ah is a large shallow kettledrum found mostly in Tunisia. Similar to the qas'ah is the Naqqarah, two ceramic kettledrums played simultaneously by both hands.
In Moroccan Berber music, a series of snare frame-drums of bandirs may be played simultaneously. These provide the main percussive rhythm for Berber music as the above mentioned drums are more artistic than bandirs.
The region of Kabylie in Algeria has a very large Berber population. Traditional Kabyle music consists of vocalists accompanied by a rhythm section, consisting of t'bel (tambourine) and bendir (frame drum), and a melody section, consisting of a ghaita (bagpipe) and ajouag (flute).
Kabyle music has been famous in France since the 1930s, when it was played at cafés. As it evolved, Western string instruments and Arab musical conventions, like large backing orchestras, were added. After the independence of Algeria and Kabyle culture was oppressed, many musicians began to adopt politicized lyrics. The three most popular musicians of this era were Ferhat Mehenni, Lounis Ait Menguellet and Idir, whose "A Vava Inouva" (1973) brought international attention for Kabyle music and laid the groundwork for the breakthrough of raï.
By the time raï, a style of Algerian popular music, became popular in France and elsewhere in Europe, Kabyle artists were also moving towards popular music conventions. Hassen Zermani's all-electric Takfarinas and Abdelli's work with Peter Gabriel's Real World helped bring Kabyle music to new audiences, while the murder of Matoub Lounes inspired many Kabyles to rally around their popular musicians.
Modern singers include Djur Djura and many chawi singers and groups as: Houria Aichi, Les Berberes, Amirouch, Massinissa, Amadiaz, Numidas, Mihoub, Massilia, Merkunda, Thiguyer, Salim Souhali (Thaziri), Dihya, Messaoud Nedjahi and others.
Kabylie is a region east of the capital Algiers, inhabited mostly by speakers of Kabyle, first régional language, and one of the indigenous languages of North Africa. Kabyle folk music has achieved some mainstream success outside of its homeland, both in the rest of Algeria and abroad.
In the 1930s, Kabyles moved in large numbers to Paris, where they established cafes where musicians like Cheikh Nourredineadded modern, Western instruments like the banjo, guitar and violin to Kabyle folk melodies. Slimane Azem was a Kabyle immigrant who was inspired by Nourredine and 19th century poet Si Mohand Ou Mohand to address homesickness, poverty and passion in his songs, and he soon (like many Kabyle musicians) became associated with the Algerian independence movement.
By the 1950s, Arab classical music, especially Egyptian superstars like Umm Kulthum, had become popular and left a lasting influence on Kabyle music, specifically in lush orchestration. Cherif Kheddam soon arose with the advent of a Kabyle branch of Radio Algiers after independence in 1962. Female singers also became popular during this period, especially Cherifa, Djamilla and Hanifa.
Algerian independence did not lead to increased freedom for Kabyle musicians, and these Berbers soon included often covert lyrics criticizing the Ben Bella government. Many of these musicians were inspired by othersinger-songwriters, including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Víctor Jara and Silvio Rodríguez. Abranis ( pop rock amazigh music concept) Idir, a Kabyle geology student, sang Kabylie's first major hit, which sold an unprecedented amount in Algeria and abroad, "A Vava Inouva" (1973). Ferhat, known for his politically uncompromising lyrics, and Aït Menguellet, known for his poetic and inspired lyrics, also became popular during the 1970s.
Modern singers include Djur Djura and Houria Aichi.
Berbers are a solid majority of Morocco's population, but are nevertheless politically marginalized. Their most famous musical output is likely Ammouri M'barek Singer and Song writer (Considered to be, the john lennon- Beatles in the Berber World, singing since the early 1960s and now; Nekk dik a nmun (1978) Cd Album). Usman (Ousmane) - Music Band 1960s and 1970s . Najat Aatabou, a singer whose debut cassette, "J'en ai Marre", sold an unprecedented half a million copies in Morocco. Internationally, the Master Musicians of Jajouka are also well known, as a result of their collaboration with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and William S. Burroughs. Another recording group from Jajouka is Master Musicians of Joujouka, formerly managed by the late painter Mohamed Hamri. In 2009 the first R'n'B songs in a Berberian language were released by Ahmed Soultan in his second album Code. Besides there exist diverse projects of different fusion styles with berber music based in the European countries like Hindi Zahra, Khalid Izri, Hassan Idbasaid, Thidrin, Med Ziani, Hassan Hakmoun, Imtlaa and Houssaine Kili.
Non Algerian Tuaregs
The Tuareg who live in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have produced internationally renowned bands in Tartit and Tinariwen. Their traditional music uses rhythms and vocal styles similar to the music of other Berbers and Arab music, while West African call-and-response-style singing is also common. In contrast to many of the region's peoples, among the Tuareg, music is mostly the domain of women, especially the imzhad, a string instrument like a violin.
Ethnic dance is becoming increasingly uncommon in Morocco. When it was active, it could be seen at the Marrakesh Folk Festival.
Within the past 4 years, Morocco has seen a lot of change. Most of that change has come with the use of the satellite receiver. It has been added to almost every household in Morocco. Out of 300 channels, 30 of them are religious. Because of these religious channels, women are no longer permitted to dance in public. Islamists consider this to be dishonorable to herself and her family, thus imposing fundamentalist Arab Muslim beliefs on the Berber peoples.
Some parts of North Africa, near Eastern, still have some Berber Dance traditions.
Guedra is the form of Berber Dance in Tuareg. Guedra is what they call the ritualistic dance only when the woman is doing the dance on her knees. If she stands up at all during the performance, it's called T'bal. The reason for the different names, even though dances are done very similar is unknown. In this culture, Guedra is not just a dance, but a ritual that everybody can participate in. It is mostly done by women, but sometimes men and children also participate. Guedra is performed to create good energy, peace and spiritual, not carnal, love.
- Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Tunisia. Steven Danver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, pp. 688-689.
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