Living in the Sahara, sometimes your ears get tired of the quietness, so you start drumming on a table or a can in order to disturb that silence.
Amongst the different styles of music from the desert is Ahidus or Ahidous. This is the traditional collective performance dance style in many Berber tribes of Southern Morocco and Atlas Mountains, the performance involves dancing while singing poetic songs, performed by groups of men and women standing shoulder to shoulder in a large circle or two facing lines.
The Ahidus dance is performed at wedding ceremonies and baby births. During wartime, the women performed it to encourage the warriors. The poetry is mostly about life in general – love, courage, friendship and morality. It is used as a newspaper to deliver a message to an opposing tribe, as the lands and pasture are divided between the different branches of the annexed tribes of the main Ait Atta tribe.
The songs are an oral book that carries lots of ancestral history and stories passed down from generation to another through poetry and music like “Timnadine songs”. Each generation also adds to it, making it organic poetry in a way.
The Desert Blues has become a popular music style in the desert, after the young people were introduced to modern instruments which they mixed with the traditional African instruments.
Instruments used in Desert Blues
- Guitar (both acoustic and electric)
- Tam-Tam drums
- Hajhouj (known also as Sintir)
This unique culture and music genre began to arise during and after the French colonisation in some North and West African countries among many of the economically and politically marginalized youths.
The Desert Blues is a fusion of blues and rock.
What distinguishes the Desert Blues from both American and African Blues?
In the desert blues, the vocals are more dominant and important than the instruments. Therefore, the desert blues was born from the sufferings and marginalization of the people and their identity, reasserting a cultural pride. The music nowadays along with other forms of art (painting, theatre, poetry…) is used as a weapon of peace to fight against the ongoing marginalisation of Berber People (Imazighen) and their cultural identity.
The music in the desert reflects the lifestyle, from historical events to daily life, moments of joy and happiness, moments of war and sadness, even songs while grieving a loved one.
While traveling across the desert alone, the rhythm of the song follows the camels walking. You are carried along with rhythm of the camels steps. It’s like a trance that helps you make the long journey ahead, while singing poetry expressing experiences of traveling through the desert.
This is a trailer to a film documentary which depicts the journey of Hmad Laarossi, founder of Tiziri Camp, as a young Amazigh musician, songwriter, and activist living in the southeast of Morocco.
The full video is available for purchase at our camp – Tiziri Camp
Laarossi blends traditional songs with African desert blues music on electric guitars. Spending the first years of his life in the back-country of the Sahara Desert, Laarossi is profoundly influenced by the desert landscape, in both his life and work. He writes lyrics rich in metaphors about the natural world and uses them as a way to speak out against state policies aimed at erasing the identity and memory of his people. The story interweaves scenes of his band, lots of music, and discussions from community members, artists, and activists to reveal a flourishing Amazigh revival in Morocco led by artists and youths.
The Definition of Timnadine Songs
“Imazeghen principles reflect strongly throughout the lyrics. For the group Immoda, not only preserving but actively engaging in their culture is a primary aim. With their traditional songs, IMODDA helps keep the Tamazight (Berber) language alive and preserve the identity of the Imazeghen (Berbers) in North Africa. Many of their songs speak about their history, traditions, and nomadic life. For example, their song “Arhal” tells the story of a nomad searching for water in the vast desert and his struggles to simply survive in this harsh environment. Further, their song Timnadin, is named after the traditional Timnadin which are songs that have been passed down through generations of Imazeghen. The songs themselves were heavily influenced by the oral tradition and poetry maintained by Imazeghen women. Many people throughout centuries contributed to these songs and the subject of these include everything from universal moments of happiness (birth, marriage) and sadness (sickness, loss, death) to detailed politics between tribes and the occurrence of specific events.
Politics of Peace
However, IMODDA’s songs also speak about the larger problems affecting Africa, such as totalitarianism, injustice, wars, and poverty. Additionally, many of their songs praise the values of democracy, diversity, freedom, tolerance, and peace. For example, “Adwal” (the song which also gives the name to their first album) speaks about the Amazigh harvest. A time when the community comes together to help one another reap their crops; working together they share the burden of the harvest. It is a beautiful tradition built on trust and cooperation, which the group contrasts with the corruption manifest in the governments of North Africa.