Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

(iii) North Africa (Maghribi)

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(iii) North Africa (Maghribi).

Although Spanish Jews settled in North Africa before their final expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula, in its aftermath they established communities in the major urban centres of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and to a lesser extent Libya. Two layers of music may be detected in the Maghribi liturgy: autochthonous and Eastern Sephardi. The first layer is based on the classical Andalusian musical traditions of North Africa (Arabic al-‘alā al-andalusiyya in Morocco; gharnātī in Algeria; ma’lūf in Tunisia). It is characterized by a particular quality of vocal emission, the use of the Andalusian modes (which have a distinctive pentatonic ground structure) and syncopated rhythmic patterns. The singing of psalms to measured non-metrical melodies is also an ancient hallmark of this tradition, which was later disseminated widely by Moroccan cantors among the west European Sephardi communities (see above, §III, 2(i), ex.2). The Eastern Sephardi layer is reflected in the use of liturgical melodies from Turkey and Palestine that were brought by emissaries (shaddarim) who visited North Africa from the 18th century onwards to raise funds for the Holy Land. The Eastern Sephardi influence is found particularly in some piyyut melodies from the High Holy Day repertory.

The most elaborate paraliturgical tradition among Moroccan Jews is the performance of the baqqashot (‘petitions’). This event, held early on Sabbath mornings during winter, combined kabbalistic rituals such as tiqqun hasot with the performance of a set of sacred poems according to the modes and genres of the Andalusian court music of Morocco. Several traditions of baqqashot developed in different cities, but eventually that of the southern cities of Marrakech and Essaouira, codified in the book Shir yedidut (Marrakech, 1921), prevailed. It was adopted by several synagogues in Casablanca where large numbers of Jews from different parts of Morocco gathered from the early 20th century.

Jewish music, §III, 4: Liturgical and paraliturgical: Sephardi

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