Berber music is derived from a blending of rural, urban, and global expressions and styles. Music is almost invariably associated with poetry and various modes of singing and dancing. Traditional Berber music could be divided into two major categories: collective celebrations and professional musicians. While collective music involves village- or family-wide participation in such performances as ahidus and ahwash, professional music, referred to as imdyazan or rways, consists of traveling bands of two or four musicians, led by a poet called amdyaz or rays. Traditional music uses a wide array of instruments consisting of flutes, drums, lute-like instruments (wtar and rebab), fiddles, and ghaitas (pipe-like instrument). Musical performances usually start with an instrumental session on rebab or wtar, followed by a tambourine/drum and a flute, which gives the notes and the rhythms of the melody that follows. The next phase is the amarg, or sung poetry, followed by dancing. In Morocco, some of the most popular singers of this genre are Mohamed Rouicha, Hadda Ou `Akki and Bannassar Ou Khouya, Cherifa, Najat A`tabu, Tihihit, Taba`amrant, Al Haj Bal`id, and Demseri, to mention a few.
   Unlike Moroccan Berber music, Kabyle music was known outside North Africa as early as the 1930s, especially in France. The extensive rural-to-urban and international migration has transformed Kabyle music in many ways. The denial of recognition of Berber culture and language by postcolonial governments has also had a considerable impact on the production of Berber music on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. The centrality of poetry in Berber life to speak truth to oppression and power has led to a passionate interest in the songs of culturally and politically engaged artists such as Slimane Azem, Chérifa, Akli Yahyatene, Hanifa, Kamal Hamadi, Ferhat, Aït Menguellet, Matoub Lounes, and Idir. Many Berber musicians were and are persecuted or even killed, as in the case of Matoub Lounes in Algeria. In France, where there is a significant Berber diaspora in search of its roots, Idir and Aït Menguellet are widely popular and have come to represent the symbols of Berberism or Tamazgha. In the early 1970s, Idir had the first international hit for Kabyle music, and he is said to have ushered in the new age of the world-beat genre.
   Tuareg traditional music uses rhythms and vocal styles similar to the music of other Berbers and tends to lean most often toward the call-and-response style of singing modes. In contrast to other Berber groups, among the Tuareg, music is mostly the domain of women, who are held in high esteem as imzad players (a one-string instrument like a violin) and poetesses. Music celebrations for the most part center on the performance of ahal, which is an amorous gathering of young men and women to recite poetry. Tuareg courtship ceremonies such as the tendi and ahal center on the vocal trilling of women, special dances, and singing of love poetry marking the occasion. Tuareg have produced internationally renowned bands in Tartit and Tinariwen. Other remarkable experiments in modern Berber music include Ousman, Imazighen, Izanzaren, Ammouri Mbarek, Djur Djura, Slimane Azem, Cherif Kheddam, Afous, Takfarinass, and Yani, among many. In general, Berber music is informed by social and political protest and fuses traditional music and modern styles, adding a hybrid dimension to Berber voices enabling them to reclaim their place in the world.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.


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