Destinations Podcast: Mauritania

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. 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).

This mixtape consists of tapes found by Marco Tiara (of Hive Mind Records) at a cassette stall in Fes (the second largest city of Morocco). The artists are unidentified, but this is Moorish music sung in the Hassaniyya Arabic dialect and the songs are handed down through generations of griots.

In Mauritania, there are five modes to the music and traditional artists move in a kind of ?melodic orbit? through the modes during a performance. Each mode has multiple under-modes that are referred to as black or white. It?s a kind of coloring to the music that helps bend the mode in a certain direction, either black which lends violent tension, or the white, which lends a softness or elegance.

"There are women, griots, the ancient ones. It was these griots who made music in Mauritania, but now there are a lot of people making music who are not griots. Normally, though, in Mauritania, only the griots make this music. It's made in families, like my own. I'm a griot, as was my father, his father, and twenty-one fathers before that." Read an interview with Noura Mint Seymali and Jeiche Ould Chigalhy HERE.

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