Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ashura in Marrakech - Daqqa Marrakchiya

In honor of Ashura, which is celebrated this week, I'm breaking away momentarily from my series of Jbala posts to return to my beloved Marrakech.

Here's a swell tape of daqqa marrakchiya, a fantastic genre performed especially for Ashura, famously in Marrakech (though its roots are apparently in Taroudant).

It's surprisingly difficult to find video examples of it online. The only one I could find is this snippet from the streets of Marrakech, apparently from the Sidi Youssef quarter:

It's performed by large groups of men, most of them with a taârija drum, with one man on a pair of qraqeb. It starts slooooooooooooooow and heavy with looooooong poetic stanzas.  Eventually it builds in speed, the rhythms become less complex, and ends with a raucous, deafening section in good 'old 6/8.

It seems like many Moroccans use the term daqqa marrakchiya to refer to what I knew in Marrakech as dqiqiyya or tkitikat - i.e., men's perussion/party ensembles:

These groups are great fun, but should not be confused with the daqqa I'm presenting here.

Etymological excursion: I'm pretty sure the names of these percussion groups are diminutive forms of the names of other Moroccan genres: dqiqqiya being a diminutive form of daqqa, and tkitikat sounding like a diminutive form of taktouka (about which, more next week).

Back to the real daqqa: In bygone days, each neighborhood in Marrakech had its own daqqa group that would perform all night, outdoors, on the night of Ashura. The rhythm of the long, slow opening section (the âayt), is a lopsided thing. It alternates 3 bangs on the taârija with 4 bangs, and each grouping is separated by a clack of the qarqaba whose delivery is streeeeeeeetched out beyond any reasonable sense of meter. Very striking stuff - check the excerpt below for a bit from the beginning and a bit from the end of the tape.

If you like the sound of this, (and I know you do), try to find a copy of the CD La Daqqa: Tambours sacrés de Marrakech. It's a lovely 62 minute recording (one single track!), with excellent performers.

Dekka de Marrakech: Majmuât ad-daqqa al-marrakchiya under the direction of al Hajj Muhammad Baba
Excerpts from sides 1 and 2

Get it all here.

PS - I love the blue Sawt al Haouz cassette shell:

Not forgetting the logo featuring the Koutoubia:

And the Doctor Who-ish psychedelic j-card design. Nuff said.


  1. Halo Mister Abdellah, I was searching for songs of the 90s famous moroccan singer Dalila. Except some few videos in youtube, it's quit innexistant. Hope you got some records of her and know by the way what is she doing.
    Much thanks

  2. Thanks for visiting! I don't believe I have any albums of Dalila. I checked on - they have some music from a Chaba Dalila (Algerian) and a Berber singer called Dalila Brahim. Sorry I couldn't help.

    Best wishes,

  3. Dalila Al-Mghrebiyah (Arabic: دليلة المغربية), this Anonymous must have meant. She is a pop singer of a mediocre following outside Morocco.

    I could be wrong, though.


  4. Well, Tim... After listening to the beautiful cassette here, I'd like to offer you (as a token of thankfulness), some extra information that I'd only hope might be helpful to you.

    Religious Background:
    Daqqa Marrakchyiah is a rare artform that some scholars trace all the way back to the A-Sa'adieyn ruling dynasty and is played nowadays in Morocco in Ashura; a holy day to most Muslims where they fast from dawn to dusk (Note: its name means 'the Tenth' and it's the tenth day of the lunar, so-called Arabic month of Muharram, and in Morocco, people refer to it as youm Zamzam in an allusion to old Jewish traditions (Note: it's believed to be the day when God parted the waters of the Red Sea, according to some literature, which is again common to Muslims' who also fast a day before it called Tasoua'a, or the ninth to distinguish theirs from Judaic fasting), and at the beginning of the fasting day, Moroccans throw water from Mecca's famous spring at each other's faces as a way of blessing and purification. The music playing is held usually after the late, I'shaa prayer when the sun is absolutely gone from the horizon, and it used to start very slowly, with repetitive beat (the name daqqa, or a'dakka; dekka meaning literally; 'the beat'), and then stretch all the way until the early dawn when the sun begins to appear from the east again, but these days, most performances do not exceed the half-hour limit.

    The originating place is the city of Taroudant (Arabic: تارودنت), where it used to be called daqqa Roudaniyah (which is now almost extinct), but those who used to master this Islamic performance art moved to Marrakech by way of traders and craftsmen who travelled from Taroudant and finally settled there (and, ultimately started to attract its performers), in Marrakech until the genre became aligned to the name of the same city ever since the late 1800s. Today, some small-numbered groups of young performers try to imitate this old artform—calling their selves al-Daqqaiqqiyah (Arabic: الدقايقية); or as it's spelled here as dqiqiyya—having nothing to do with the older, and bigger ensembles that can be anything between 20-50 performing men, usually all of them are chosen based on their old age and experience.

    The performance (called taqqtiqqiyat; which means simply percussive tunes), is led by a L'Mkadem, or lead-man who controls the 'beat' and sometimes carries on playing the main instrument of tara in what is known as the afous finale conjecture that speeds up all of a sudden after a lengthy monotony. The rest of the instruments and its performers are, the qaraqeb-player/s (and, those can also become dancers as well just like in gnawa music, and aissaouia/aissawa); the aâyiet (Arabic: العييط, plural is aâyateen), who sing the main verses through the whole performance in which their voices can stretch out, and last for hours accompanied by some bendir l'kbir players rattling this famous upheld percussion instrument that must has s'nouj or small copper zills attached on it, the hand-held ta'arijah small painted drum, and finally the oboe-like naffar that announces the Laila.


  5. The Laila:
    On the date of the also-called Laila Marrakchiyah (Note: Ashura has many names in Morocco like Aiyshouri/ Aishour, Baba Aishuri, Ba Al-Shiek (northern parts), Abnashour (Amazigh), 'Hourma, etc.), people gather from all over the country to see the circle of men sitting on the floor or standing; each holding their ta'arijah drums (Arabic: التعريجة/ الطعريجة, known also in darja dialect as al-kour which is also used to denote the whole gathering of performing men). These men are what's used to be called as al-Daqqaiqqiyah and they sing and play their hand-drums while the L'Mkadem, plays his tara backed by the qaraqeb-player/s and they follow each other's syncopated beats strictly helped all the way by the leader of the band or rayess who sings adulatory poetic couplets beseeching Allah, Mohammed, and many so-called ouliyah (men of miracles), and the 'Seven Men' and they are: Sidi Youssef Bin Ali, Al-Qadhi A'ayadh, Abu Al-A'abass A-Sabthi, Imam Al-Jazouli, Sidi Abdel-Aziz Al-Tabba'a, Sidi Abdellah Al-Ghouzwani (a.k.a. Moul L'Ksour), and Imam Al-Souhaili who lived in the city, purportedly.

    The Musicology:
    Normally, and in the past, each small district (Houmah) of Marrakech has its own distinct daqqa and the competition between each was fierce. The tunes thus varied and there are still some of these variations being performed by modern-day al-Daqqaiqqiyah such as daqqat Houmah Al-Zaouiyah Al-A'bbassiyah (Sidi Bin-Souleiman), daqqat Houmah Bab Elan (L'Ksour), and the winner daqqa saylah gets played by those who succeed in transmuting the rhythm from slow into very fast in the break-point called dakhla, or the 'intro'; which is the hardest part of the performance.

    Women Performers:
    The women do not perform on that holy fasting day, but they go without their hair covers showing their freshly-henna'd locks singing with some bendirs the following, well-known ahazoujahiat or hymns:
    "ذا عاشور ماعلينا الحكام ألالة، عيد الميلود كيحكموا الرجال أللا" (trans. This is Ashura and no longer we're ruled, and no men shall reign on this birth-date of the meloud), "عايشوري عايشوري، دلليت عليك شعوري" (Aishouri, Aishouri, I let loose my hairs on you). Other than this, women stay home and prepare the food to break the fast with; which is made from the usual couscous, and al-fakkiah (dried fruit salad; including almonds, mixed nuts, dates, figs and raisins mixed with boiled hummus beans), in addition to q’did and some specially-baked sweets called qreshilat, or kea'ak'akiayt that are like small cakes for the family to eat and give to the guests.


  6. At the end, the daqqa Marrakchyiah was always a uniting force of spiritual origin performed to remind the people of one district (usually, craftsmen) in Marrakech of their unison and harmony under the auspice and guidance of their leader (who's normally chosen as an elderly holy man). Today, and in Marrakech, there are several districts that still compete for 'completeness' and try their 'game' (literally, the performance is referred to in Moroccan dialect as 'le'aba'; which means a competition or a 'game'), naming here but a few: Bin Salah, Bin Al-A'arassi, A-Sabbtien, Hay Al-Qasbah, Bab Al-Dabbagh, Darb Al-Debashi, Al-Mawqefh, Al-Zaouiyah, Al-Mawwassien, etc. where in each 'Houmah' this beautiful music is still being played.

    I uploaded a small album by one El-Hadj Mohammed Bin L'Mkadem (الحاج محمد بن المقدم; known as just 'Baba' whose picture is featured on the jacket of the cassette wearing a shoulder-bag or satchel) - Daqqa Marrakchyiah. Enjoy.

    This link has so many good videos to choose to watch from.

    Ferqat Daqqa Marrakchyiah.


  7. Hiya Hammer - wow, what a cornucopia of video and information. Thanks so much for contributing! Looking forward very much to hearing the tape!