Joudour Sahara Music Program, M'hamid el Ghizlane, Morocco

thomas duncan By Thomas Duncan

At Festival Taragalte in M'hamid el Ghizlane, musicians from across the Sahara gather in celebration of Saharan cultural diversity. The festival provides an opportune time for students from Joudour Sahara to learn from performing musicians, whom they can connect to with a shared cultural heritage, albeit divided by distance or national borders. At Taragalte 2017, Munija Mbarka, a Hassania musician from Goulmim, Morocco, sat down with some of girls to teach them some traditional Sahraoui lyrics and rhythms so that the girls can continue to practice them in Joudour Sahara Classes.

The workshop included the the recital of traditional Saharan poetry, and how that poetry is put to Sahraoui music using the traditional percussion instrument Tabal, a short barreled drum using either wood from palm trees or metal as the base, and covered with either sheep or camel hide. The Tabal produces a low, booming bass sound that reverberates through the music, and is one of the few traditional instruments that females also play.

The importance of the workshop goes beyond transmission of traditional culture onto the young girls of our program. Mbarka is a professional musician of standing across the Sahara and comes from the same tribe as the girls of Joudour Sahara. As a professional musician who shares a cultural heritage with the girls, she can pass on traditional knowledge with a confidence and credibility that serves to inspire the girls. In M'hamid, or throughout the region, there are no professional female musicians of Mbarka's stature who can work with the girls. Thus, she serves as a role model to the girls in ways that many other females in the community cannot. She is an strong, independent female who has made a career and living through traditional Saharan music, and as such serves as an example for the girls to look up to and even emulate. Perhaps one of the Joudour Sahara girls might grow up to be the next Mbarka in M'hamid and serve as a role model to the next generation of Sahraoui girls.