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Music and Dance for War in Morocco

Berbers have been known for their impressive and heroic achievements in battles, and traditional Moroccan music and dance include some genres that were originally performed in times of war. Examples include the ahidni, ghiayta, and taskioine dances. With the emergence of the modern state in Africa, such war songs and dances only exist as cultural remnants. Participants may include both the educated and uneducated, the religious and nonreligious, the rural and urban dwellers, and so on. In some communities, both men and women participate; in others, war dances are only for men. Traditionally, the men wore or carried such war paraphernalia as swords, knives, rifles, arrows, sharpened sticks, and amulets as they danced to a particular war song. Of the different types of this genre, the ahidni dance is the most celebrated. Dancers stand close to one another in a circle, and as they sing, they rhythmically clap their hands and stomp their feet in an aggressive and belligerent manner.

Similarly, the ghiaytas war dance serves to provide soldiers with courage in preparation for a war and embodies a form of victory celebration. During the dance, the warriors, holding their rifles, move their bodies in response to the tune of pipes and the beat of drums. The performers shout rather than sing.

They carry their rifles on their heads, mimic the movements of soldiers in real combat situations, and then pretend to shoot at enemies. Dancing in a circle, the performers aim their rifles to the ground, and at the command of their leader fire blank shots. Among the Haha people of the High Atlas region, a simple reed flute with seven-holes takes the melody, and the rhythm is made by clapping and stomping to give a commanding and enchanting effect. The male performers dance in an aggressive manner that shows masculine passion.

The taskioine is another traditional warriors' dance exclusively for men. Wearing white tunics and turbans, with powder horns on their shoulders, the dancers respond to the beat of earthenware tambourines covered with skins. They make well-rehearsed sudden stops with aggressive stamping of the feet. Although the taskioine dance is more of a physical activity than an artistic performance, the aesthetic values are nevertheless present.

Another traditional war dance involves acrobatic displays from the brotherhood of Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa (or Hmaid ou Moussa, the saint of Tazeroualt, from the Anti-Atlas Mountains), who established a training center for acrobats at the village of Amizmiz near Marrakech. Originally, the young people of the area performed these exercises in preparation for their role as sharpshooters and archers. As traditional warfare gradually declined with the emergence of the modern nation-state in Africa, the young acrobats ofTazeroualt turned the skills associated with this traditional dance into a moneymaking circus. Some of the dancers have taken their talents overseas as entertainers in Europe and the United States. In the diaspora, the traditional elegant costumes with colorful embroidery have been largely retained.

1. See W. Komla Amoaku, "Towards a Definition of Traditional African Music: A Look at the Ewe of Ghana," in Irene V. Jackson, ed., More Than Drumming (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985), 32.

2. Andalusia is the Arabic word for Spain; hence, the term Andalusian denotes the era of Arab conquest and control of parts of Spanish land.

3. See, for instance, Harold D. Nelson, ed., Morocco: A Country Study, 4th ed. (Washington, D.C.: American University Press, 1978), 140-141. See also Eugene Fodor and William Curtis, Fodor s Morocco 1973 (New York: David McKay, 1973),110-113.


BOUFOUSS is a freelance Blogger, Adventurer and a pet owner with a passion for interaction and share advices. He studied English Languistics and Computational Logic and loves cats and dogs.

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