Artist Profiles: Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger

Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger

The project Orquesta de Mujeres de Tanger was conceived by Jamal Ouassini with the aim of promoting and introducing to the European continent one of the most fascinating and at the same time least known aspects of Moroccan culture.

The show proposes a symbolic reconstruction of a tradition peculiar to the cities of Tanger (also known as Tangier) and Tetuan. There, in accordance with a tradition dating back thousands of years, during the three days in which a wedding is celebrated, at the house of the bride’s family the music is entrusted to a musical ensemble made up exclusively of women.

The first day of the ceremony, called ‘El Henna’, involves just the closest relations and friends of the bride. Here the performance of an instrumental and sung repertoire follows in a continuous crescendo and reaches its peak with the ‘Zagharid’, the typical cries of the Maghreb’s women, in this way accompanying the complex and refined decoration of the bride’s hands and feet with a pigment (called ‘El henna’) derived from the leaves of a plant that grows along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Morocco.

This tradition dates back to very early times, to the 7th millennium B.C., a fact confirmed by the archaeologists, who associate it with the fertility rites at Cathal Hayak, considered to be one of the earliest villages of the Neolithic period. ‘El henna’ is therefore a day of preparation for the actual ceremony itself: In this case the invitation is extended to all the acquaintances. And the music played during this second long day of celebrations includes both pieces of the Arab-Andalusian repertoire to accompany the bride’s frequent ‘changes of dress’.

The climax of the event occurs in the late evening when the percussion and dancing unite in a continuous crescendo that announces the arrival of the bridegroom and his relations, who ‘abduct’ the bride at the end of the day. During the third, conclusive day of this ancient ceremony, ‘ESbah’ (The Morning), the orchestra moves to the bride’s new abode and accompanies her awakening.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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