Amazigh Music: A Symbol of a Rich Culture

Amazigh Music: A Symbol of a Rich Culture

Amazigh culture is extraordinarily pure, diverse and rich in terms of handicraft, poetry, folklore and music. Music is considered to be not only a tool of entertainment, but also an ideal medium for the development and progress of societies. Indeed, Amazigh music becomes a fundamental element in the life of Amazigh people because they are primarily identified by it in addition to the language and identity. The Amazigh music themes are usually social, political and historical. Also, the manner of singing and the instruments used are still kept up to nowadays as a way of maintaining their culture and identity. In this light, Amazigh music reflects the richness of Amazigh culture.

Amazigh culture and Amazigh people have inhabited North Africa for more than four thousands years. Today, the indigenous peoples of North Africa live in a vast area extending throughout the countries of Maghreb ( Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Morocco) and the other African countries such as Mali, Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. Around 20 million of people speak the Amazigh language and they call themselves simply as “Imazighen� in lieu of “Berbers�, which means free and noble people. Historically, Romans and Byzantines used the term “Berbers� to represent those who did not speak Latin and Greek. After the arrival of Islam, the Arabs used the same term, as the Romans did.

Indeed, Amazigh music has existed for a long period of time in Tamazgha countries and it is as old and rich as the Amazigh culture. Much of the most interesting Amazigh music is not pop at all, but rather folk music. Actually, all the Amazighs or Imazighen have different distinctive musical styles. Some of the styles use bagpipes and oboe (In a Celtic style) and others have a style that sounds very much like “Chinese” music. In many Amazigh styles of music there are African rhythms. Also the lyrics sung in Amazigh music have a history of their own. (Culture, P.1). In the past mainly before the seventies, Amazigh music has been noticeably under represented while other types of music throughout the world especially the Arab and African were very known and spread out. Many Amazigh musicians and people resent the fact that so much effort has gone into promoting African-Arabic genres of music like “Raiâ€? and “Shaabiâ€?, while Amazigh sounds remain largely unknown in world music. However, in 1970, Amazigh music hits in Europe and the Middle East by the famous Algerian Amazigh singers “Idirâ€? and “Milaâ€?, with their song “Vava Inouva.â€? Or “My Little Fatherâ€?, in addition to other famous singers such as “Lounes Matoubâ€?, “Takafarinasâ€?, “Yubaâ€?, “Khalid Izriâ€?, “Walid Mimounâ€?, “Ahidousâ€? and “Rouichaâ€? who also made a Amazigh music revolution not only in North Africa but also in the entire world. Since then, Amazigh music alongside with Amazigh artists has been significantly beginning to get the recognition they deserved.

Amazigh music has preserved its rich folklore, which is nowadays an important cultural treasure. It also combines a great variety of styles, which characterized each region from another. Amazigh people use these types of music mainly in weddings, festivals and some other social events. Actually, there are many types of music among in the Amazigh culture (Taktouka El Jabalia, Izrane, Ahwach, Ahidous, Tamazight Tamiwine, North Folklore…) but this paragraph will focus on just two examples of these types of Amazigh music that existed in Morocco. First, “Ahwach�, which existed in the High Atlas of Morocco, is exclusively a type of music used mostly in rural areas and small villages and it is still pure, traditional and unchanged for centuries or longer. Women are the primary ones who perform this type of music while men are just hitting a “Bendir�. Those who perform this type of music are mostly not paid even though they perform in many cultural contexts such as public celebrations and weddings. Second, “Ahidouss�, in which singers and dancers make a huge circle where men and women beat the ground regularly (Eyre, 2003). This type of music is common not only in the Middle Atlas of Morocco but also in other parts of Morocco and other countries. The singers of “Ahidouss� have old ages, which are more than 30 years, and they use a coherent pace of singing all together to make the music sounds good. Despite the fact that the performing people of this typical music are from poor villages and face many crises in their lives, they battle and strive to keep their pure music from destroying and loosing by singing it in many different social events such as weddings, festivals and “Mawasim�. As stated before, Amazigh music is used in some of the most known festivals in order to show to other people its richness and variety. It is also used in weddings among primarily Amazigh people to celebrate and listen to their outstanding traditional music instead of others.

Moreover, Amazigh people have sustained and kept their traditional instruments as way of preserving their culture and identity. In reality, Amazigh people used a lot of drumming in their music and it is noticeable on many Amazigh songs. They use traditional Amazigh instruments like “Bendir�, which is a large round drum, covered by leather in one part; it is around 75 cm, and its width is around 15 cm. This instrument is widely used by most Amazigh singers especially in the Middle Atlas of Morocco. Also, “Derbouka�, which is an hourglass-shaped drum, is utilized by Amazighs, but mainly in the modern Amazigh music (Capgras, 1998). Furthermore, Amazigh singers use also a type of guitar with two strings, which is called “Gumbri� in their different musical performance. Many famous Amazigh singers such as “Rouicha� and “Idir� use this instrument in their musical performance. All these instruments in addition to others, which are not mentioened, are still used up to nowadays by Amazigh in their musical performance. Maintaining these instruments through many centuries depict that Amazighs always strive to keep their original music and folklore from being influenced by the modernized instruments like “Piano� and “Electronic Drum�.

Generally, music is primarily considered, today, as a tool of fun and entertainment, but its meaning and purpose is further than that; it is to portray happy events or painful ones encountered in Imazighen s lives within their home countries. For instance, Amazigh music, to a large extent, is considered to become explicitly a political tool instead of an instrument to state a lovely relationship or a happy event. The reason behind using Amazigh music often to describe painful events is that Amazigh people have encountered in their countries problems and inequity regarding their culture, language and identity in addition to skirmish the colonization. Music is more than just a part of culture, but it has been a matter of survival, preserving history and expressing rebellion (Ferroudja, 2001). Because of not having enough means that will enable their voice to be heard so as to solve their problems, Amazighs used music as a medium to express the pain or the discrimination that they encountered. Concrete examples are the songs of many Amazigh singers which mostly depict whether social or political matters (e.g. “Idir� songs and “Izri� songs and Walid Mimoun s songs). Not surprisingly, many musicians who use this tool to defend and ask for their rights in practicing their culture were persecuted, and even killed while others went into exile. However, Amazigh music also used to mention happy and joyful moments such as lovely and happy events (e.g. “Ahidous� songs and “Ahwache� songs).

Therefore, it is evident that music is a fundamental element in human life; Amazigh music, in fact, plays a crucial role in the life of Amazigh people through many centuries because it is used to depict the Amazighs circumstances. Also, the important role that was played by Amazigh music was shown in its availability everywhere especially in countries of North Africa: it is used at homes, stores, in supermarkets, weddings and feasts. As asserted by Mc Murray, in a description of the use of music in a city in North of Morocco, “Nador is awash in music. Over every telephone wire dangles the thin, brown-like remains of a music tape. Little kids play soccer in the streets using the same tape bunched up as a ball. The music stalls lining the street to the bus station blare out a cacophony of competing songs…. Sound saturates Nadorâ€? (Almasude, 1999).

Unlike other types of music, Amazigh music keeps its originality and purity; a thing that portrays Amazigh culture is original and pure. Music as any other cultural features is today influenced by western ideas, and sometimes gave birth to some new forms of expressions. For instance, the western music influences Arabic music in its styles of singing and in the use of instruments. Also, most of Arabic music is recorded, nowadays, in western countries and its Arabic singers live there too, so this affects Arabic music and change its originality and purity. This is noticeable in the different types of Arabic music performed today by Arabic singers such as “Amrou Diab� and “Ilissa�. Whereas, Amazigh music has resisted, to a certain extent, the western influence and preserved its originality. This is remarkable in the various Amazigh bands that perform the typical, classical music like the bands of “Ahiddous� and “Ahwache�. From that, it seems that Amazighs maintained their cultural aspects including music from outside influence, which indicate that their culture is still pure.

In conclusion, Undoubtedly, Imazighen, the free and noble people, have existed for a long period of time in Morocco in which they have had various contact with different peoples such as Romans and Greeks. Their culture is rich mainly in terms of music, which plays an important role among Amazigh peoples. In fact, Amazigh music composed of many styles and it is used in many cultural events and ceremonies. Its instruments are still kept up to now as a way of maintaining their pure, rich culture. Besides utilizing music as a mean of illustrating joy and cheerfulness, Amazigh music tend mostly to depict sorrow, despair and discrimination problems encountered by Amazighs throughout history. Like many other Amazigh cultural aspects, Amazigh music also was protected from being influenced by foreign cultures to not lose its purity and originality, which permits to the Amazigh culture to be so rich because a rich country without culture is a poor country.


Almasude, A. (1999). The New Mass Media and the Shaping of Amazigh Identity.
Retrieved July 12, 2003 from
Capgras, M. (1998). Les Musiques Du Maroc. Retrieved July 12, 2003 from aphies/musique_arabe.htm
Culture. (No Date). Retrieved July 12, 2003 from
Eyre, B. (2001). Amazigh Music. Retrieved July 12, 2003 from
Eyre, B. (2003). An introduction to the music and history of the North African
Amazighs. Retrieved July 12, 2003 from
Ferroudja, N. (2001). What Happened In Kabylia: Modern Political & Militant Amazigh
Music & Poetry . Retrieved July 12, 2003 from

Written by Achraf Boujir

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