Saturday, June 21, 2014

Moroccan Field Recordings at Pitt Rivers Museum

Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum offers online samples from ethnographic field recordings in their collection. Among these are some recordings from a 1961 Oxford University expedition to Morocco.

The Aït Hdidou are Tamazight speakers from the south-eastern High Atlas. The tribe are perhaps most well known for their participation in the Brides festival at Imilchil. Tracks 1-7 feature variously vocals only (1), vocals and drum (5-6), and vocals drum and violin (2-4). Tracks 5-6 sound like an ahaidous, the Tamazight equivalent of the Tachelhit ahwach.

Tracks 7-9 are street recordings from Rabat. Track 7 is listed as an Ait Hadiddu beggar, but I'm guessing that it actually is from Rabat and from the same date as tracks 8-9. The beggar sings in Arabic and mentions l-âwacher (the ten days preceding a holiday), as do the singers in track 9, and the catalog numbers indicate these tracks come from the same tape reel. I'm pretty sure I can hear a guinbri being thumped in the first half of track 9, suggesting that it's a Gnawi singing. He's invoking the saint Moulay Brahim, but it's not a melody I recognize. If this was indeed recorded in August 1961, the holiday referred to would be mawlid an-nabi - the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which occurred around 8/24 that year.

Track 10 is some ghaita and tbel processional music from the city of Rich - back at the eastern edges of the High Atlas.

Thanks to Phong Tran for letting me know about this! It's great that some sound archives are making old and rare field recordings available to at least sample online. There are some Moroccan recordings available in the Lomax collection, as I wrote about here.


  1. Thanks for the neat post. Any word on whether or not these will be made available in their entirety and downloadable?

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