Traditional / folk music of Mauritania
Mauritania takes its name from the Moors, which are largest ethnic tribe in the region. They conquered the region long time ago. The folk music of Mauritania is influenced by two ethnic groups there: Moors and Berbers. Berbers has a history of thousands years in the region and long time before Arabs came to North Africa. Mauritania lies between Morocco and Senegal and musically and culturally influenced by culture of North Africa.
Mauritania society has different castes, musicians has the lowest caste after the warrior class, merchants and others (sadly). As it is a caste system, the knowledge of traditional and folk music pass through the families, from parents to their children. It is an oral system of teaching of modes, songs and also playing the folk music instruments. The caste of musicians is called "Iggawin", it is something the same as "griot" tradition in some other countries in West Africa. As the poetry has a high position in Islamic cultures, it has also big position in the traditional music of Iggawin caste. They were also behaved as history teller of the country as there were no written history in Mauritania. This traditional music also reflect the Islamic aspect of life and also black African aspect of life in Mauritania. Some of these Iggawin has nomadic life and travel from town to town and village by village. They perform their traditional music in festivals, wedding, or any kind of events. They entertain people with their stories of their gypsy life in the form of traditional music. Also they perform for the higher class castes with the praise songs.
The main traditional music instruments in Mauritania are Tidnit and Ardin. Tidnit is an instrument for men and Ardin is an instrument played by women. Tidnit is a four string lute style instrument and Ardin is a harp style instruments. It is said that Tidnit is the ancestor of American banjo. The Ardin is very similar to kora, the traditional harp of Malian griots.
There are three ways of playing folk music in Mauritania. Mauritanian musicians are taught to play in one of these styles:
a) The white way which is related to Bidan Moors of North African descent.
b) The black way which is related to Haratin Moors of Sub-Saharan descent.
c) The mixed way.
The most successful and well-known traditional musician from Mauritania was a woman which is notable for an Islamic-Arabic country. Her name was Dimi Mint Abba and she was an Ardin player. She born in a musician family as mentioned above. Her first album was accompanied by his husband Khalifa Ould Eide which was Tidnit and guitar player and also composer. Dimi Mint Abba's traditional music later followed by her daughter, Noura Mint Seymali which makes a newer genre and mixed the folk instruments with some western music instruments.
Another notable musician is also a woman named Malouma. She is a singer, songwriter, politician and women activist. She has her own style of music and does not exactly follows traditional music rules. She sings in the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic.
One of the popular genres of music in Mauritania is Sega. Sega is kind of dance and it has many sub-genres. Originally it was the music of slaves and it was sung in creole. In traditional way it has lots of improvisation and it is very emotional and expressive. In the dance of sega, the feet never leave the ground and just the body moves.
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Traditional / folk songs for Mauritania
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