The women´s ensemble "Roudaniat" from south-western Morocco continues and old Berber women´s tradition with its music. The singing of the eight women is led by a female cantor and accompanied by a variety of percussion instruments. The elements of improvisation and interpretation play an important role in the ensemble´s music.
The women´s ensemble "Roudaniat" ("Roudaniates" means inhabitants of Taroudant) comes from south-western Morocco. The musicians belong to the "Ouariyat" Berber tribe. Like many other Berber communities, especially those in the Atlas region, the "Roudaniayates" have maintained their own musical culture despite Islamic influences.
As a result the women musicians of the "Roudaniat" ensemble continue an ancient Berber women´s tradition with their singing. Their music is led by a female cantor and is accompanied by a variety of percussion instruments such as the small metal drum taarija, the small cymbals naqus, the frame drum bendir, finger cymbals and other rhythm instruments. The elements of improvisation and interpretation also play an important role in the ensemble´s music.
Women used to hold regular meetings together where they could be on their own and sing about different themes that interested women only: sexual initiation, topics of everyday life and religious themes. Their singing often conveyed elements of social criticism from a female perspective. The texts derive from both Berber and Arab sources. These exclusively female groups are called "abat", a word derived from "labat" meaning "to play".
In the course of time more and more men joined the circle of listeners, and the songs took on a religiously ritual aspect. As the audience has broadened the Berber women now tend to concentrate on songs of praise. But the strong influence of the women´s songs bemoaning the oppression of women by men can still be felt.
"… it is not the man´s absence that hurts, but the fact that women are despised in this way", is the lament in one of "Roudaniat´s" songs.
The ensemble consists mainly of independent emancipated women artists, some of whom are widowed, some divorced. For instance the singer Cherifa whose raw, guttural voice possesses undertones of both tragedy and dignity. She has been singing professionally since she was 15 years old, with only a brief interruption during the time she was married. Cherifa stands for the status of the "cheikha" - a concept which originally meant mistress and refers to women who sing for men and were often suspected of being "bad women". "I used to sing at home as a child while I was doing housework or fetching water. One day the famous lute player Roucha heard me and asked me whether I would join his group. My parents were against the idea, especially my father who had been to Mecca and had acquired the status of "hadj". But when I actually sang in a group for the first time and my family saw my photo on a cassette, they had no more objections."
At the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin the "Roudaniat" ensemble performed the Islamic Sufic ritual "hadra". The word "hadra" comes from Arabic and means "presence". This ritual is performed to gain spiritual proximity with the Prophet Mohamed as well as Allah, to make their presence known to oneself. The participants are able to reach a state of trance with their songs and the use of the various drums and finger cymbals.
Events at the HKW:
Friday 14 July 2000
Percussion – Festival of the Continents
The Long Night of Hadra
Organizer: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
The women musicians:
Jemia Ait chaf – vocals, dance
Jmia Ez-Zarrary – taarija (small metal drum), vocals
Rabia Wahrich – naqus (small cymbals), vocals
Jmia El-Hemmaz – vocals, dance
Faima Ahnouch – bendir, vocals
Malika Ait Chaf – bendir, vocals
Milouda Ejbaboi – taarija, vocals