The music of Mauritania comes predominantly from the country's largest ethnic group: the Moors. In Moorish society musicians occupy the lowest caste, iggawin. Musicians from this caste used song to praise successful warriors as well as their patrons. Iggawin also had the traditional role of messengers, spreading news between villages. In modern Mauritania, professional musicians are paid by anybody to perform; affluent patrons sometimes record the entertainment, rather than the musicians themselves, and are then considered to own the recording.
Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.
An ethnic group, a people group, a people, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry or on similarities such as common language, history, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is often used synonymously with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from but related to the concept of races.
The term "Moors" refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs.
Traditional instruments include an hourglass-shaped four-stringed lute called the tidinit and the woman's kora-like ardin. Percussion instruments include the tbal (a kettle drum) and daghumma (a rattle).
A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table. The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing, so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch. The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).
The kora is a 21-string lute-bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.
The ardin is a type of harp played in Mauritania. It has a resonating body made of calabash, with 10 to 16 strings, and is played by female griots.
There are three "ways" to play music in the Mauritanian tradition:
Haratin, also referred to as Haratine, Harratin or Hartani, are oasis-dwellers in the Sahara, especially in the Maghreb. They are particularly found in Mauritania, Morocco, Western Sahara and Algeria. In Tunisia and Libya they’re called Chouachin, Chouachine or Chouchan. They have Sub-Saharan African heritage and make up a distinct group of largely-settled workers, and with 40% of Mauritania's total population, they are its largest ethnic group. They have been called a socially distinct class of workers, or a caste that emerged from a legacy of slavery in Africa under the Arabs, the Berbers and the Moors.
Music progresses through five modes (a system with origins in Arabic music): karr, fagu (both black), lakhal, labyad (both white, and corresponding to a period of one's life or an emotion) and lebtyat (white, a spiritual mode relating to the afterlife). There are further submodes, making for a complicated system, one to which nearly all male musicians conform. Female musicians are rare and are not bound by the same set of rules.
Arabic music is the music of the Arab World with all its different music styles and genres. Arabic countries have many styles of music and also many dialects; each country has its own traditional music.
The afterlife is the belief that the essential part of an individual's identity or the stream of consciousness continues after the death of the physical body. According to various ideas about the afterlife, the essential aspect of the individual that lives on after death may be some partial element, or the entire soul or spirit, of an individual, which carries with it and may confer personal identity or, on the contrary, may not, as in Indian nirvana. Belief in an afterlife is in contrast to the belief in oblivion after death.
In spite of the rarity of female musicians in Mauritania, the most famous Moorish musician is a woman, Dimi Mint Abba. Dimi's parents were both musicians (her father had been asked to compose the Mauritanian national anthem), and she began playing at an early age. Her professional career began in 1976, when she sang on the radio and then competed, the following year, in the Umm Kulthum Contest in Tunis.
Dimi Mint Abba was one of Mauritania's most famous musicians. She was born Loula Bint Siddaty Ould Abba in Tidikdja Mauritania in 1958, into a low-caste ("iggawin") family specializing in the griot tradition.
Umm Kulthum was an Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress active from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was given the honorific title Kawkab al-Sharq.
Tunis is the capital and the largest city of Tunisia. The greater metropolitan area of Tunis, often referred to as Grand Tunis, has some 2,700,000 inhabitants.
Another popular female musician is Malouma, who is also a respected politician and social activist ("Desert of Eden," Shanachie Records [U.S.], 1998).
Malouma Mint El Meidah ; born October 1, 1960) is a Mauritanian singer, songwriter and politician. Raised in the south-west of the country by parents versed in traditional Mauritanian music, she first performed when she was twelve, soon featuring in solo concerts. Her first song "Habibi Habeytou" harshly criticized the way in which women were treated by their husbands. Though an immediate success, it caused an outcry from the traditional ruling classes. After being forced into marriage while still a teenager, Malouma had to give up singing until 1986. She developed her own style combining traditional music with blues, jazz, and electro. Appearing on television with songs addressing highly controversial topics such as conjugal life, poverty and inequality, she was censored in Mauritania in the early 1990s but began to perform abroad by the end of the decade. After the ban was finally lifted, she relaunched her singing and recording career, gaining popularity, particularly among the younger generation. Her fourth album, Knou (2014), includes lyrics expressing her views on human rights and women's place in society.
The Music of Mali is, like that of most African nations, ethnically diverse, but one influence predominates; that of the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka. Mande people make up 50% of the country's population, other ethnic groups include the Fula (17%), Gur-speakers 12%, Songhai people (6%), Tuareg and Moors (10%) and another 5%, including Europeans. Mali is divided into eight regions; Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou and Bamako.
Sudan has a rich and unique musical culture that has been through chronic instability and repression during the modern history of Sudan.
Music has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. The Bible documents the instruments played by the ancient Hebrews, all of which are correlated in Egyptian archaeology. Egyptian music probably had a significant impact on the development of ancient Greek music, and via the Greeks was important to early European music well into the Middle Ages. Egyptian modern music is considered as a main core of Middle Eastern and Oriental music as it has a very big influence on the region due to the popularity and huge influence of Egyptian Cinema and Music industries. The tonal structure of Oriental Middle Eastern music is defined by the maqamat, loosely similar to the Western modes, while the rhythm of Middle Eastern music is governed by the iqa'at, standard rhythmic modes formed by combinations of accented and unaccented beats and rests.
The music of Iraq or Iraqi music,, also known as the Music of Mesopotamia encompasses the music of a number of ethnic groups and musical genres. Ethnically, it includes Arabic music, Assyrian, Kurdish and the music of Turkmen, among others. Apart from the traditional music of these peoples, Iraqi music includes contemporary music styles such as pop, rock, soul and urban contemporary.
The music of Saudi Arabia includes both Western and traditional music. The most distinguished musician in recent Saudi history is Tariq Abdulhakeem, who composed hundreds of famous Saudi songs for himself as well as for other singers. Saraj Omar has become a very prominent composer after writing the music for the Saudi national anthem. In 1999, the 1st Arab Pioneers Festival, which was held in Cairo under the patronage of the Arab League, honored four of the lead composers in Saudi Arabia: Tariq Abdulhakeem, Ghazi Ali, Mohamed Abdu, Saudi Arabia's first pop star, and Talal Maddah, known as the "Sound of the Earth", who died in August 2000 while singing in the summer festival on the stage of Al-Muftaha Theatre in the southern region of Saudi Arabia. Of the same generation are the oud virtuoso Abadi al Johar, Rabeh Saqer and Abdul-Majeed Abdullah.
Benin has played an important role in the African music scene, producing one of the biggest stars to come out of the continent in Angélique Kidjo. Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba. It also has a rich variety of ethnomusicological traditions.
The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. The Mossi people, centrally located around the capital, Ouagadougou, account for 40% of the population while, to the south, Gurunsi, Gurma, Dagaaba and Lobi populations, speaking Gur languages closely related to the Mossi language, extend into the coastal states. In the north and east the Fulani of the Sahel preponderate, while in the south and west the Mande languages are common; Samo, Bissa, Bobo, Senufo and Marka. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French: Burkina Faso has yet to produce a major pan-African success.
The highly diverse and distinctive music of Madagascar has been shaped by the musical traditions of Southeast Asia, Africa, Arabia, England, France and the United States as successive waves of settlers have made the island their home. Traditional instruments reflect these widespread origins: the mandoliny and kabosy owe their existence to the introduction of the guitar by early Arab or European seafarers, the ubiquitous djembe originated in mainland Africa and the valiha—the bamboo tube zither considered the national instrument of Madagascar—directly evolved from an earlier form of zither carried with the first Austronesian settlers on their outrigger canoes.
Guinea is a West African nation, composed of several ethnic groups. Among its most widely known musicians is Mory Kanté - 10 Cola Nuts saw major mainstream success in both Guinea and Mali while "Yeke Yeke", a single from Mory Kanté à Paris, was a European success in 1988.
Chad is an ethnically diverse Central African country in Africa. Each of its regions has its own unique varieties of music and dance. The Fulani people, for example, use single-reeded flutes, while the ancient griot tradition uses five-string kinde and various kinds of horns, and the Tibesti region uses lutes and fiddles. Musical ensembles playing horns and trumpets such as the long royal trumpets known as "waza" or "kakaki" are used in coronations and other upper-class ceremonies throughout both Chad and Sudan.
Tunisia is a North African country with a predominantly Arabic-speaking population. The country is best known for malouf, a kind of music imported from Andalusia after the Spanish immigration in the 15th century. Though in its modern form, malouf is likely very dissimilar to any music played more than four centuries ago, it does have its roots in Spain and Portugal, and is closely related to genres with a similar history throughout North Africa, including malouf's Libyan cousin, Algerian gharnati and Moroccan ala or Andalusi. During the Ottoman era, malouf was influenced by Turkish music. However, Tunisian repertoires, styles and also instruments remain distinctive – the ʻūd tūnsī is an emblematic case. This is a close relative of the 'uds associated with Algeria and also Morocco.
Kaédi is the largest city and administrative center of the Gorgol Region of Southern Mauritania. It is approximately 435 km from Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.
The Emirate of Trarza was a precolonial state in what is today southwest Mauritania. It has survived as a traditional confederation of semi-nomadic peoples to the present day. Its name is shared with the modern Region of Trarza. The population, a mixture of Berber tribes, had been there for a long time before being conquered in the 11th century by Hassaniya Arabic speakers from the north. Europeans later called these people Moors/Maures, and thus have titled this group "the Trarza Moors".
Issues impacting Women in Mauritanian society include female genital mutilation, child marriage, and polygamy.
T'heydinn or T'heydinne, variously also called Al Batt Likbir and Al Rasm is a Moorish epic ensemble of Mauritania. It is an important literary and artistic manifestation of the Hassaniya language and was, in 2011, added to the UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Noura Mint Seymali is a Mauritanian griot, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist.