Performers: Maalem Taieb ben Mbarek and Ensemble
Recorded by Paul Bowles
At Marrakech, Morocco
October 28, 1959
In this piece the Maalem abandoned his kamenja and went back to his exhortatory singing and hand-clapping. The mqahs player, who had been clapping his hands instead of playing his shears, returned also to his original occupation. The Moroccans are very fond of befuddlement music. They will sometimes describe it as "music that makes you play games inside your head." A glass of hot mint tea and a few pipes of kif along with this music ( the kif facilitates concentration on the music's patterns) can provide complete pleasure for the space of an hour or so for a Marrakchi. This is an example, (a bit happier than the reverse example of Khenifra, where country music is being changed to fit the exegencies of the city) of a city adopting the music of the rustics of the surrounding region in order to attract them there. The Djemaa el Fna is frequented as much by peasants as by the urban Marrakech population, and Haouziya music, on the other hand, is as much appreciated by the city-dwellers as it is by the country-people from whom it came. When I moved the group out into the patio at the beginning of this piece several of them asked me if I would like them to play the music of the women. I said I would. The style of the piece is in imitation of the sound made by a group of women of Marrakech singing the same kind of music. The point of the parody, however, does not lie in ridicule, but in the desire to prove that they can do it better than the women. ( The Maalem retains his own star personality by urging them on in his natural voice. ) After the performance one of the musicians asked me: "Were we good women?" In the past there were many more of this kind of performer in the Djemaa el Fna than there are today. The misshapen and incomplete have largely disappeared from the square, and the beggars are fewer. Occasionally one finds a man such as the one playing the aouada here, who does not actually beg with his voice, but pronounces the words of the formula, as it were, on his instrument. In this way he is able to think of himself as a musician rather than as a beggar, although no one ever stops to listen to his repetitive little plaint. He had only one arm; the other had been removed at the shoulder.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.