The History of the music of Morocco

Table of Content

The music of Morocco is believed to be predominantly from the Arabic origins. The history and type of Morocco music is diverse and it ranges in type from different areas of the country. Its music is founded on the roots of the Andalusian Classical music that exists through out the Northern Africa. This kind of music originated from the Cordoba and the Moors and from the Ziryab and the Persian born music and it has been credited since its invention (Cook, 2001, p.235). The Ziryab music was   developed from the nuba a genre which forms the base for al- ala music which is the most primary and the most indigenous form of the Indaluasian classical music.

The nuba music is a composition of several nuba dances which were joined together and were played continuously thought out the day hour after hour. Currently the nuba music has slowly declined and only four types of nuba have survived .The nature of the nuba music is basically long in construction and one nuba music can run for six to seven hours. This kind of music was divided into five different parts known as Mizan and each has its own corresponding rhythm. These rhythms were usually classified into and according to the rhythms following a specific order in the nuba structure. Each of the Mizan music has different beginnings with different instrumental preludes usually referred to as bughya or tuashia m’shaliya. This type of music is however, succeeded by as many different series of more than twenty songs of the Mizan form

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The Indalusian type of music is spread all over across the Morocco city after Jews and moors were driven out of Spain .The Jews  who had occupied Morocco  played very significant roles in the perpetuation and the development of the Morocco oral traditions. It was believed that the late Rabbi David Bouzaglo had great conservatory traits of the Casablanca people. The Jewish and Arabic musicians used to attend classes about the music and they also go trained on the al –Ala music around this area. There as many verities as possible of the Morocco music as well as many genres of the morocco music. It is composed of the Berber, Arab, classical and the popular genres in Morocco. Different musicians usually go round the city performing in concerts in different places such as cafés, ceremonies, funerals, marriages, religious processions and at private homes (Davis, Douglas, 1995, p. 233). This music is usually adopted in many functions especially in storytelling and dancing.

There are different types of the Morocco music these include:-

The Gharnati music. This kind of music is commonly found in Algeria and Morocco and very frequently practiced by the popular Oujda and the Rabat people of Morocco. Normally it is organized in a similar way such as the nuba and the al-ala music. In its composition it is made up of four unfinished nuba portions and twelve other finished portions. Its rhythms almost resemble the Nazis dance since the organization and structure are similarly the same. The name of the music “Gharnati” originates from the Andalusian city of the Granada people living in Morocco


The Berber music is also a common type of music that is frequently done by the Moroccans. The Berber music appears in a variety of different folks done by people in different villages while performing various   rituals .It is a music that is usually in the hearts of different professionals and they do perform it in different occasions. Music done in the village is collectively done for the purpose of dancing. These dances include the ahouach and the ahidus dances .The music is accompanied by different accompaniments that decorate the rhythms of the music hence making it more enjoyable to dance and to listen to. These accompaniments include the flutes and the drums.

Before the dances commence a chanted prayer is said to invite the presence of God. However, the music is commonly played during cerebrations such as marriages and other significant life events. This music is also used for protection purposes and especially protection against evil spirits. The experts of this music usually travel as a group of four individuals always led by a poet. The poet recites various forms of improvised poems as he leads the group to the performance venue. The poems are also accompanied by systematic drum beats that match the pace of the poem. These professional are in other terms referred to as rwais.

Chaabi is another form of music that is also common among the Moroccans. It is a composition of various Moroccan folk songs .It was initially performed in market places especially during market days. Currently it is however, found in different celebration centers and official meetings. It is a typical composition of swift organized rhythmic sections which are usually accompanied by syncopated clapping and they usually end with a leseb.This type of music originated back in the 1970s, and it used to compete with the popular Lebanese and Egyptian music (Venema, Bakker, 2004, p.487). The common forms of accompaniments that were used in playing this kind of music are the lute, the hadjuj and some forms of drums. Eventually with the current technology the modern form of Chaabi music is decorated with electric guitars and buzuks. There were three major groups of professional musicians who practice this kind of music namely, the Jil Jilala, the Nass El Ghiwane and the Lemchaheb. These three bands majored on politicized lyrics as the main themes of the music.

Gnawa is another type of music that is believed to be mystical. It was introduced to Morocco people by traders from the sub-Saharan region and later it got assimilated to the culture and tradition of the Morocco people. The ritual adopted in the Gnawa music follow systematic rules that were initially part of the Muslim Sufi and partially parts of the African animistic features that are common among the African Diaspora.

The malhun is another category of the Moroccan music. Its structure takes the form of a poetry that can be sung using the same instruments and modes that are used to play the al- alla music. It is made of two main parts .One part known as the overture played using a violin or an oud in rather free rhythm. This rhythm is played first to introduce the rest of the pieces .These pieces are later succeeded by the some forms of sung poems indigenously known as qassida  which are divided into three other parts. These parts include solo verses, a crescendoing chorus and a choral refrain which generally make the music complete (Cook, 2001, p.242).

The Ria is a complete genre own its own that is very common in Morocco and it is closely practiced by Algerians in the international music concerts. However, Moroccans adopted this music into their systems and they have currently produced their very own superstars in the present market such as the Cheb Mimoun. The rai style has achieved very high popularity since the onset of the 1990s within various regions of Morocco. The Oujda and the Berkane towns have now been translated into the real centers for current revived Rai dance in Morocco (Davis, Douglas, 1995, 329). This was accelerated by the huge population of Algerians who occupied this region from the east.

The Sufi music is a different genre altogether that is practiced by the Sufi brotherhoods in Morocco. It is by nature an integral part of the Moroccan spiritual tradition and this aspect contrasts this kind of music from the other Islamic genres and music. It is played with specific functions such as inspiring people. The brothers involved in the music normally join hands in a round circle and the dance and chant the music. It is usually played without any kind of rhythm. The Sufi brotherhoods are common across the southern Morocco where the music is commonly practiced. Majority of the occupants of this area have their origins from Ethiopia majority being Muslims. The music is also played with specific intentions such as protecting the populations against diseases such mental illnesses, malicious spirits and scorpion attacks. The instruments involved in making this music include the long –necked lute that originates from the regions, the Garagab and the castanets



Majority of the musical instruments that make the Moroccan music are indigenous, natural and originally composed and constructed by the Moroccan people. The musical instruments have been classified into different classes according to the means by which they are played.Hovever, it should be noted that the instruments vary according to the taste of the music, the region where it comes from and the local materials involved in the making them (Venema, Bakker, 2004, p.501).

String instruments include the Guenbri , the hajouje and the ginbri.These instruments are common among people in the Northan Africa .They are made up of  a three – stringed deep  wooden bass  which is a times attached to a wooden resonator. It has   a loud sound box which is covered with an animal skin and a long cylindrical neck. This instrument is used when playing Gnawa music.

 The ‘Ud and the Oud are other stringed musical instruments also common in Morocco. They are by nature fretless, pear-shaped and short necked. They can be played by means of plucking. There also wind instruments such as the Ghaytah and the raita still common in morocco. They are made up of a double wooden reed instrument and they are common especially in the rai dance (

 Percussion instruments in Morocco include the bandir and the Bendir which are made from animal skins and hides .A goat skin is used to cover a wooden drum and besides the drum two lengthy strings are tied around which they are used to produce high pitched distinctive percussion sounds. They are common and take different names according to their places of origin within the city.


Cook, B. (2001). The 2001 Fez Festival of World Sacred Music: An Annual Musical Event in Morocco Embodies and Reflects Sufi Traditions and Spirit. International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Vol.17; pp. 234-249

Davis, S. & Douglas, D. (1995). “The Mosque and the Satellite:” Media and Adolescence in a Moroccan Town. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol.24; pp. 320-335

Moroccan Music. Retrieved on 3rd May 2009 from

Music and Dance in Morocco. Retrieved on 3rd May 2009 from,

The Gnawa Music of Morocco. Retrieved on 3rd May 2009 from

Venema, B. & Bakker, J. (2004). A Permissive Zone for Prostitution in the Middle Atlas of Morocco. Ethnology, Vol.34; pp. 485-502

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The History of the music of Morocco. (2017, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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