Morocco has an oral literary tradition of the liveliest and most intact. Transmitted from ancient times, this tradition has been enriched from one generation to another, and contacts of many civilizations. It has so far been a very limited number of books and studies intended mostly for linguistic purposes. However, the stories that are reported to us in these collections, most often in translations that are poor, are unable to make the nuances and richness of expressions and images used by the storyteller, the allusion delicacy and tones specifically Moroccan tales and folk legends.

      Even more than in the tales and legends, translation of popular songs (the few fragments that can be read in some books) gives only a vague idea when it is not wrong of what in made popular poetry in North African dialects.

      These documents are of great interest for sociologists researchers, folklorists, ethnographers and linguists, anxious to find the origins of such a rite or a particular word. But they can not be used for analysis of studies of traditional oral literature. To correctly judge the value of a poem or a story, a reconsideration of the original text is needed. But the task is not easy. It would take a long research work to identify, group as many tales and legends (known by professional storytellers, because they alone hold the secrets of traditional narrative rich in images and expressions), songs popular sayings and proverbs that it is still possible to collect in different parts of the country. Once this encyclopedic work, we can engage in the analysis of documents in their native dialect to identify the characteristics of the popular genius that produced them.

      Some authors collected poorly narrated text, incomplete or degenerate, and concluded too hastily that Berbers lack imagination and that their stories are poor and totally devoid of lyricism (cf. Henri Basset, Essay on the literature of the Berbers. 1920 ) .dropoff window There is no need to demonstrate that their words are wrong. A story is only in the way you say it. Since it is oral, it is of no prisoner language; only the themes developed there remain unchangeable. Each storyteller has a style, a way of living his tale in halka. He uses tricks to attract, captivate the audience. Improvisation is vital to achieve his ends. The storyteller sometimes changes the name of one or more characters, occasionally removes certain actions, adds some of his own, according to circumstances. Because not only tell the tale report as it was designed by the former, it is especially enriched with new elements. This is why the storyteller is also a poet. A study of the traditional oral literature must in no way overlook the creative role of the storyteller.

      One thing is certain: the tradition is lost when it is not maintained. And literary oral tradition, more than any other tradition, is disintegrating if not extinction. Few professional storytellers today who still know the secrets of traditional narrative, the singers who know the poems of the legendary Sidi Hammou which most famous songs of the Souss awarded. The very names of our popular poets, and even more so their works are known almost anyone. If not for the work of René Euloge such group that quite a number of songs from the Tassaout who have never heard of the poet Mririda Do Ait Attik? Historians and biographers conventional cast discredit anything that is not composed in classical Arabic literary and relegate into oblivion these vulgar and illiterate poets, however, expressed the deepest feelings of the life of our people .dropoff window


SINGERS street

      Formerly, street, many singers in the Middle Atlas and more in the Souss, roamed all over the country, like acrobats Ouled Moussa or Hmad and storytellers. Their band consisted of four performers: the amghar or imdiazen, who is the head of the troupe, the ghanim bou or piper, dressed in a bright suit, and two respondents tambourine. In the Souss, street singers sometimes went alone or with a child. But most often, these are major companies that roamed the cities and villages, improvising of their own poetic parts or singing famous poems from their boss.

      These itinerant singers have won a place of prime importance in the fight against the colonialists invading forces from the beginning of the century and under the protectorate “Today wrote Basset, they, these orchestras barbarian attire, always running from village to village, which spread in troubled areas, the most extraordinary sounds and push the fight against the French. we admire them, we listen. They are formidable propaganda agents. ”

      Many songs relate to the French penetration, struggles supported by the tribes, the abuses of big shots and civilian controllers; anonymous songs each endorsed because they are said with simple words and a man’s heart.

“More than sitting demolished castles castles.
more grime that soap
and more hungry than flour
and pierced shoes that good shoes. ”

      A poet of Mtir Bni says:

“I speak for those sitting around me.
If I told what I will say to the source, it will dry up emotion.
If I was telling the tree, it would lose all its leaves.
If I was telling the rock, it branlerait in its bases.
If I said to the shell 75, it would explode.
If I narrated my story to the stones, I’d cry.
O all of you who have lived through these events will bring my words,
Listen to me!
You ate the juice of bitter clusters, and keep your children irritated lips … “!

      These singers today are silent. They do not cover more towns or villages. Even in the square of Jemaa el Fna, Marrakech, there really is more than charlatans, monkey blockers, snake charmers, and Rwaïss who can not sing. In the cities, sometimes encountered isolated singers that no one listens. On rare occasions, this twenty-seventh day of Ramadan or Ashura eg buskers appear. But these troubadours are becoming increasingly rare. Modern life pushes them towards the interior of the country, in small towns and in the souks.




      The role of the poet in ancient Moroccan society is considerable. It is primarily the chronicler, 1 “historian” of his tribe. It does not only sing his loves and his own disappointments, but especially the events experienced by his tribe or within his tribe. In a contest between rival clans, it is to him that we called in defense of his own. Respected and revered as the equal of a saint, his word is heard, because it has the wisdom and the secret words that go to the heart.

The black cloud announces the rain;
the arrival of the bee-eater, summer;
the songs of roosters, Aurora;
Smoke terraces, fire walnut …
But nothing warns of death.

      Thus says Sidi Baaddi of Togourt. All those who received the wonderful gift of poetry and song, wherever they go, are welcomed. They also feared qu’aimés.

      But the poet is not just a troubadour, a bard who sang during the holidays, glorify his tribe or praised a famous man or a benefactor. Its role is essential when it comes to his tribe to fight the enemy. Ibn Khaldun noted this function of the poet in Zenata; he writes: “The poet goes before rank and sings its song animate the solid mountains; he sends for death those who did not were thinking.”

      For everyone, the poet’s inspiration is divine source. Popular belief, nurtured mythology, superstition and wonderful, attributed with supernatural gifts.

      There are several countries in the sacred places (caves, holy shrines) where aspiring poet went to receive consecration. It was at IFRI Nkad among Aït Baamrane Tiznit; Lalla Takandout among Ihahanes; in the region of Marrakech, two famous marabout Sidi Moulay Brahim Jebbar and that many singers and poets to recognize patterns. The aspiring poet makes a sacrifice, then falls asleep in the cave or in the shrine of the saint. If his sacrifice is approved, the third night he sees out of the cave “the mother of the spirit” that inhabits; she invites him to follow. Inside, she made him drink water from a fountain or the milk of a sheep. Then there is a whole assembly geniuses who offer him couscous. Much grain he will eat as many poems composed.

      The poet is surrounded by myths. It is believed that he may come in contact with the forces of nature, or appease the trigger against someone; he speaks the language of animals, plants and insects. The world has no secrets for him. But popular opinion is aware that the poet must perfect his art from famous poets. He entered the service of one of them, accompanied him wherever he goes, learns what he says. After a long period of poetic initiation, he can speak for himself, giving a new character and personnel to its songs.

      The musical instruments that the poet uses are varied according to region. Here are the main ones:

– The rebab, a kind of little violin monotone with inlays of pearls and glass, the rope, horse hair, is oblique, and bow in a semicircle.
– Bendir skin stretched over a wooden circle (this instrument is used in dances).
– The guenbri instrument with three or four strings, used by most of the troubadours of the country (the Gnawa singers use a different guenbri, the resonance box is more elongated, and the end of the arm is provided with pendants tiny that produce dense sounds).

      In the Atlantic plains (Chaouia, Doukkala, Abda, Tadla), the most used instrument is the taréja. Elsewhere, the flute, derbouka, ter, the Tebel and violin with bow.

      In Zagora for example, there is an instrument that are found nowhere else: the Deffe, taut skin on both sides of a square timber whose dimensions are much smaller than those of bendir.

      However, it is impossible to give part of this sketch a more comprehensive list of instruments; they deserve a separate study that would account for the variety and richness of Moroccan popular music.




      Amarg is the word Berber dialect by which is meant any sung poetry in general (Middle Atlas is the Izlane). Amarg also means love, sorrow, regret, meetings at which it performs the songs.

      It consists largely of short pieces from the inspiration of the moment and last time that the events that suggested them be forgotten. These parts are improvised or during a large gathering of tribes or traditional ceremonies (birth, baptism, circumcision, marriage, etc …); either in literary contests, true virtuosity tournaments between people of the same tribe or rival tribes. Everyone makes assault spirit and verve in these games where often it seems that women triumph.

      These sessions, combining song and dance are known in Morocco under the names of Ahouach and Ahidous. Whether one or the other, it is always sung dances, collective and ritual dances, the multiple figures are set by the Raïss.

      A poetic theme is proposed, a sentence is launched; it, the theme music is embroidered, the pace immediately seizes, gives it a shape, a rigid texture that dancing will make plastic.

      The songs are, in short, to single called “tit”, shock, stroke, stroke bendir that modulates the first Raïss and all then repeated many times. Each is in itself a poem; here are some examples:

“A friend is not seen, – send for him – it is not a sin.”
“Hope is stronger than Syria mules. – We are never tired to go to a friend.”
“The love that we can not satisfy is sad that the rainy season.”
“I would reap a harvest of beauty that would bring home the laborers on mules.”
“You who figures you have friends in prosperity – although keep your fortune if you want to keep your friends.”
“An open hand is worth several private hands.”
“Friendship is maintained in confidence – she perished in falsehood.
“In love, everyone go with what he likes.”
“Is not this the people that must sigh when we are in trouble?”

      Sometimes during these sessions, sometimes we make declarations of love, ironic allusions about the conduct of an unfaithful wife or a proud man.

                “Whatever God puts astride a saddle –
                it must moderate its pace, –
and not make those overlapping gallop on land and on the thumbs of their feet lest God it apart and it is similar to them. ”

      These are designed to a sheikh of the tribe of Ghoujdama holding remote people who came to greet him, lest they sully his bathrobe.

      The festival, which began shortly before the end of the day, ends at dawn.

“For God, give us leave, master of the feast.
The morning star rises and this is the day. ”

And what about all the people disperse.

      Alongside this form of poetry characterized by spontaneity and improvisation of the popular mind, there is a category of songs that relate to a very archaic way of life and even now that many tribes have continued the tradition. These are:

a) the songs of agrarian rites for rain, celebrate the harvest and crops or mutation of the seasons. Seasonal celebrations are probably inherited dances that were already celebrating the son of Sumer and Homer shepherds. Recall that dances in ancient times were associated with all religious and political parties; they gave a vivid and concrete form to the sacred designs.

b) chants accompanied by their rhythm the daily work: songs of spinners and wool carders, the hinna songs qu’entonnent women adorning the bride, singing artisans, songs of grain mill, lullabies, etc .. . the songs of grain mill will already find themselves more than in some tribes of the Atlas as Bougmez and among the Ait Atta Tazzarine and Mgouna (these songs are called “Herro”). Their survival is precarious, because the use of grain mills is becoming increasingly rare, and these songs, one of a kind, likely in the very near future to no longer be a distant memory if measures are not taken in time to save them from oblivion.

c) wedding songs, songs of mourning, etc …

d) rhymes sometimes even the children of rural and urban recite in their games or when it rains.

e) to ignite war songs riders, the march to the battle, etc …

      The songs of the Rif – same inspiration that the songs of the Middle Atlas – however, have a less primitive form. The songs of Tangier, Fez, Larache (such as the Atlantic plains and eastern Morocco) are a rich and compelling depth. Song of the powder, bathing song, song of the great daya, geranium song. Songs such pleasant this song women Tangier on the old:

“The beggars and vagrants
try the delicacies;
old white and wrinkled
like girls;
the cat that lost teeth
wants very tender mouse
and he that is toothless wants chewable candy … ”

      The poems composed by a bard usually tell an anecdote from the legend. The origin of it is none other than the Qur’an, the Prophet’s life or saints of lslam. Some songs eerily reminiscent in about ancient myths, like this poem Cabi which tells the story of a young man to whom God allowed to see his parents in hell and deliver one of them: neither his father nor his mother did not want to leave her husband, God freed them both and forgave their families. This poem has great affinity with the other Soussi song “Hamou Or Namir” (collected by Justinard) which recalls the myth of Orpheus.

      There are other poems – and these are most of those compounds in the Sub – attributed to a legendary poet Sidi Hammou, one of the most famous minstrels. Born in Aoullouz and death in Iskrouzen, with uncertain dates (its existence dates back to the sixteenth century), patron of singers, Sidi Hammou did not leave a written work, and there is probably no one who can say in his songs present. However, few of his long poems were collected in some books, but it is not certain that they are not changed, it is still necessary to know if they actually belonged to Sidi Hammou. In any case, it should be noted that no study (to our knowledge) has been undertaken to identify forgetting the colossal work of this great popular poet.

      After a long absence, Sidi Hammou decides to go back to the one that was the subject of his first love. Crossing the Atlas Mountains to reach Aoullouz, it seeks to alleviate the hardships of the way through reminiscences, and expressing his fears and hopes.

“… Oh, my mother, loving, finally I got to be Taleb! How proud I walk, my tablets in hand. But the song goes, and my little scholarship benefits me mistresses earrings .dropoff window
Should I go back to Ouijjan at Tiki-wah and Ighil Mallan where I saw these adorable gazelles, based on their couches? This is a show that is worth gold quintals!
When the caravan tires, it must rest.
If the mill works slowly, is added to the water in the creek.
If friendship cools, loose one. ”

      It is found in the words of Sidi Hammou an infinite number of proverbs. In this poem where he sings his beloved Fadma Tagurramt, he constantly expressed by allusions, parables

“Is it brings water to the top of the mountain for the run to the plains?”

“Weighing your words rather than your wealth.”
“Did I ask the camel nobility of the horse?”
“The oleander me will happen to the sweetness?”
“We’re not looking for a dry place in the ocean.”
“And I, can I expect a response from the dead?”
      With characteristic reticence, the poet leaves us at the end of the poem only guess that all is well, and the price of his passion, once so troubled, promises in the future to unfold to its satisfaction.

“Fadma, daughter of Muhammad, do you think, among drug Rome, there is a remedy for those who love? Whatever it is, give it to me, but fast.”

      It seems that one of the favorite themes of Sidi Hammou in most poems attributed to him is friendship.

“That he will never say that he spent his life,
He who has no friends,
Because life, it is the friends who make it happen. ”
“A heart when it is broken, that will cure it,
If not, friend, speech or laughter? ”
“There is nothing more cruel than the tears of a friend.”
“The oleander is bitter. Who, ever, by eating,
A found it sweet? ”
“I ate it for my friend. I did not find bitter.”
“That gun is never far from the ball
And eyes painted with antimony
And heart away from friends
Until they come under. ”

      Wisdom, beauty of these worms are incomparable. But, as the song says:
“The words of Sidi Nammu are so numerous that it is like the sea, you will not see the end.”

      In summary, we distinguish in the Moroccan popular poetry:

– ‘Small parts’ which usually sing the feelings honored in the tribes: friendship, love, courage, etc … They are more like proverbs, and worms, often launched on the fly during the dances, have no connection between them; the only theme unites them.

– ‘Longer poems’ are composed by bards. But most of them, if not all, are passed today, anonymous. Who will tell us the names of these poets? Who will tell us the name of the one who said:
“A source came from the tomb of Fadel. A source Attouch left the tomb. They met and traveled the world.”

And that will tell us the names of all those who shouted against the oppressor market before the soldiers singing:
“The men of the union. I see the river,
At any location it scatters,
There must be a way through it. ”

– Finally ‘ritual songs’ whose origins are lost in the mists of time, accompanying rites which the peasant remains faithful.


1: We will not discuss here one of the most important genres of poetry: Malhoun; he alone would require several separate studies.
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