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Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus

posted on: Oct 27, 2021

Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus
Ahidus musicians perform the famous traditional music and dance style from numerous Berber tribes. Photo: Travel Exploration Blog

By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer

Introduction:

The country of Morocco is one of many cultures, beautiful architecture, amazing cities, and it also has its own unique musical and dance genres that are borne out of numerous traditions. These traditions stem from many influences including the cultures of the Amazigh, Arabs, Berbers, Gnawa, Islamic syncretism, Sufism, and Europeans, and so many more. Morocco has the world-famous traditions of Chaabi/Fusion, Gnawa music, Arab-Andalusian Classical, and so many other genres. This seven-part series will explore the cultural, geographic, and historical backgrounds of these amazing genres and readers will get to experience some samples of each musical style as well.

In this third installment, we will be traveling to the general area of the Fes-Meknes region in north-central Morocco to experience the lively sounds, rhythms, dances, and cultural traditions of Ahidus. But first, we must learn about the origins of this amazing musical style as well.

Geographic Origins of Ahidus:

Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus
A stunning image of the High Atlas Mountains in central Morocco. Photo: Lonely Planet

So, where does the music and dance style of Ahidus actually originate from? Well, it is believed that Ahidus comes from multiple areas of Morocco, specifically, in the north-central part of the country. Ahidus is known to be performed in the towns and villages of “Sefrou, Talsint, Oulmes, and Ain Leuh, among others.”

Most of the communities in this area encompass either some form of desert, rural, and/or rural-desert life. The towns and cities are small, and Ahidus as a cultural production is meant to bring people together, and sometimes you will also see the style performed within the mountainous regions of Morocco such as where the High Atlas mountains are located.

Historical and Cultural Origins of Ahidus:

Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus
Moroccan Berber men perform the traditional dance and music of Ahidus. Photo: Wikipedia

The origins of Ahidus are, unfortunately, very much unknown because the historical sources do not survive. However, we do know some aspects of the musical and dance style in that it is one that emphasizes community in order to bring people together to facilitate a feeling of unity and “peace.”

There are numerous Berber tribes who live throughout Morocco, and it is believed that Ahidus as a musical and dance genre “originated from the Zenata tribe.” The Zenata tribe has a long and storied history in Morocco and throughout Algeria as well. In the Maghreb (North Africa), the Zenata has most famously been present for the “13th to 16th centuries during the Marinid and Wattasid dynasties due to the rulers coming from Zenata tribes.” The Zenata tribe came to power after “overthrowing the Almohads.”

Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus
An illustration of members from the Zenata Berber tribe in Morocco. Photo: HyperLeap

So, now that we have introduced ourselves to the geographical, cultural, and historical origins of the people who brought Ahidus to the world, it is time to learn a little bit more about how the music and dance styles are performed. Come and join us to explore what musical instruments, dance steps, and how individuals perform this amazing music and dance style!

Ahidus is primarily a traditional dance, but it does have musical elements as well. In the dance, Ahidus is performed by both “men and women who stand either in a large circle or a line and are shoulder-to-shoulder.” The dance: however, is led by a man who is called an “Ammehreb” which is a Berber word meaning leader. The Ammehreb stands in the middle of the formation of dancers, and he also will adjust the rhythm of the dance. For men and women, there is specific apparel that they wear, and the gentlemen will usually be in a “white djellabas (traditional dress of Morocco which is a long shirt with a slightly-pointed hood on it) and a turban which denotes peace, and the ladies usually are dressed up in white or multicolored kaftans (another type of Moroccan traditional dress) and silver jewelry.”

Finally, the music of Ahidus is primarily performed by drums, singing, and chanting, but it can also be performed with some string instruments like a violin, and more modern instruments like those heard in electronic and synthesizer music.

Samples of Ahidus: A Traditional Music and Dance Style of Morocco:

So, it is now time to experience the wondrous genre of Ahidus music, it is one to surely get you on your feet as the rhythms are lively, stirring, and beautiful! Enjoy the samples below!

Ahidus performed by Moroccan Berber tribes. Video: Yousf Bouka

Ahidus performed in the Middle Atlas Mountains. Video: Marocopedia English

A more modern techno-musical spin on Ahidus with electronic instruments. Video: azOneTube

Conclusion:

Traditional Music of Morocco Series (Episode 3 of 7): Ahidus
A vintage photograph of Moroccan dancers and musicians performing Ahidus. Photo: Wikipedia

Ahidus is such a beautiful musical, dance, cultural, and religious style because it is lively, looks and its rhythms are rousing. Ahidus also has a lot of cultural and geographic history behind it because of its origins in Northern Africa, but it is particularly famous in Morocco. The Ahidus musical style has a wonderful tradition because it is meant to bring people together and promote unity. These traditional musical styles elicit feelings of passion, and the reason listeners get these senses is that these sounds and rhythms are the amazing cultural expressions of humanity worldwide. It is the author’s hope that everyone got the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the enthralling style of Ahidus, and perhaps, that you were able to tap your feet to the fun and rumbling sounds of traditional Moroccan music and dance! 

This is the third episode in a series of seven about some of the traditional music and (oftentimes) dance styles in Morocco. This series explores the cultural, historical, and geographic backgrounds of the musical and dance styles themselves and the group of people who brought these traditions to the forefront in Morocco. Keep an eye out for the next article featuring the intriguing sounds of Ahwash music!

To read episode 2 which features the musical style of Gnawa, please click here!

Check out Arab America’s blog here!