Music of Mauritania

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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 Islamic republic in Northwest Africa

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.

Ethnic group Socially defined category of people who identify with each other

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.

Moors medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta

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.

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Instruments

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).

Lute musical instrument

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).

Kora (instrument) instrument

The kora is a 21-string lute-bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.

Ardin (harp)

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.

Types of Mauritanian music

There are three "ways" to play music in the Mauritanian tradition:

Haratin Ethnic group

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 music of the Arab world

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.

Musicians

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 Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress

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 Capital and largest city of Tunisia

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 Mauritanian singer, politician

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.

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Noura Mint Seymali

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