A Common Motivation-A Specific Style for Each Culture: Towards a Comparison of Wedding Rituals in Morocco

By Olsen, Miriam Rovsing | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Common Motivation-A Specific Style for Each Culture: Towards a Comparison of Wedding Rituals in Morocco


Olsen, Miriam Rovsing, Yearbook for Traditional Music


Abstract in French

Le propos est de développer une approche comparative des rites de mariage du Maroc rural tribal, à partir des chants féminins antiphonaux qui les constituent. Chaque tribu possède un style vocal et mélodique qui lui est propre; un chant spécifique, dégagé analytiquement, peut être considéré comme emblématique de ce style. C'est donc la différentiation stylistique qui est l'objet de la comparaison entre tribus, différenciation qui se déploie également, pour de tels chants, dans une grande partie du pourtour méditerranéen et bien au-delà. Le constat de la transmission en milieu féminin de connaissances issues de l'environnement agricole pennet d'avancer qu'il existe un lien étroit entre les chants rituels et l'agriculture. Le rituel de mariage des Ida Ouzddout (Anti-Atlas) sert de pivot pour l'élaboration de cette approche.

The focus of this paper is to proceed from melodic procedures to an analytical model for the comparison of rural wedding rituals in Morocco through their songs.1 The area of concern, however, could be extended to a much larger geographical area, encompassing not only North Africa but also the Middle East, where similar kinds of songs are found. However, in this larger area, it is rather classical urban music-developed in vocal and instrumental suite forms such as the Maghribi nuba or the Mashreki Syrian wasla-that is usually compared, while rural music has tended to be ignored in such a comparative perspective. It has been frequently pointed out (Merriam 1982; Nettl 2005:60-73; McLean 2006:314-21) that since the orientation of comparative musicology as well as Alan Lomax's well-known method of cantometrics (1968, 1976), comparative research in etlmomusicology has been rather neglected during the last few decades. This is due to the conviction that musical forms or systems should not be compared since they are socially- and culturally-bound, and thus meanings are not necessarily comparable. Anthropologists however, have had different kinds of debates on anthropological phenomena linked to music. Important documentation from sociologists, anthropologists, or language specialists provides rich ethnographic detail and reveals great local variety (see, e.g., Westennarck 1914; Louis 1979; Laoust and Lefébure 1993). It supplies recurrent evidence about wedding ceremonies and festivities in which hundreds of people gather for several days. Yet despite the fact that music fills these events in important ways, discussion of this music has most often been absent or minimal. This has led to interpretations focusing on general anthropological concerns. Among the most significant examples are concepts of purification or protection from harm, suggested as common features in wedding rituals studied by Westennarck. As noted by Hassan Rachik (2012:103-4), however, this conceals the local variety of rituals. At a descriptive level, such indifference to music has led to the confusion of ritual with other marital events, such as engagements or various contractual aspects. By focusing in this paper on the ritual performance itself, I shall draw attention to the potential of studying music in these celebrations. This means a shift in focus to components such as structure, temporality, performing places and actions, and an approach to ritual "from within" and outwards (Jankowsky 2010:25-26).

In order to follow comparative issues regarding wedding rituals that have to emerge from inside musical perspectives, I shall propose some elements for a comparative approach for Moroccan studies in rural areas.2 In urban centres, hosts most often appeal to external specialists for musical and ritual activities, but in rural areas, families generally undertake these activities themselves. This lias an obvious impact on what is transmitted and on the maintenance of stylistic varieties. Specific songs are performed a cappella and in antiphony by groups of elderly women. Clearly, these songs belong to the category of what Gilbert Rouget has called musica reservala. …

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