Saturday, January 16, 2016


The Berber people have been creating their own music for thousands of years. These groups of people are generally nomadic and pastoral; their territory stretched from Morocco across North Africa and extended down into Mali, Burkina Faso and other areas of West Africa. Much of their music was built on the pentatonic scale (a scale made of five notes — think of it like playing only the black keys on a piano). Utilizing instruments that resembled the modern oboe and bagpipes, musicians would often travel from town to town performing their music, much like the troubadours in France did. 

The Tuaregs, whose music is often similar to that of the Berbers, used the call-and-response style of music, and music was generally a woman’s area of expertise. Women also dominated at playing the imzhad, a type of string instrument similar to a violin. Other instruments heard in Tuareg and Berber traditional music include the flute (usually made of bamboo), the oud (a fretless lute), tambourines, and the darbuka (a type of goblet drum played with the fingers). Clapping intricate rhythms often accompany their music.  

Tuareg folklore dance styles are still widely popular and are linked with traditional music. Many times, these folkloric dances are showcased on television programs. Hagallah is a style of dance performed by women during special ceremonies. She will often use a handkerchief or a straight stick as a prop and is very rhythmic, utilizing the intricate clapping mentioned earlier. This style of dance is often used as a way for a young girl to showcase her beauty. Line dances are also another style of dance performed in Libya; dancers will link arms while gliding and hopping their way across the performance area.  

As far as pop music goes, there’s not much. After decades of music being repressed and only traditional music being played, it’s no wonder it’s been a little slow on the uptake for new music to open up. I mean, if you were under constant threat of being arrested and/or “disappearing” just for expressing your craft, would you do it? It’s certainly the true test of an artist, and many did it anyway. But many also emigrated for their safety. Musicians who did stay knew that Western music styles and speaking out against the government were pretty much out of bounds. 

However, one musician that stands out is Ahmed Fakroun. As someone who is skilled in many instruments, he was also influenced by the Europop styles and the rock coming out from France. I listened to the Compilation album. It certainly reminded me of the raï music; some songs were reminiscent of the style of Cheb Mami and others. 

In the aftermath of the Civil War, more musicians and bands are slowly feeling more comfortable with creating music that was originally banned. Although I think many of these bands are still on the underground, metal bands and rappers are starting to make names for themselves. I found some references for a few Libyan metal bands: Rex Mortifier, Acacus, Magma, Libya Death Metal Rebels, The BlackForce, Tasnim, and others. Some bands, like Rex Mortifier are no longer together.

Western- and European-style rap and hip-hop are also making an entrance on the music scene. Artists like Volcano often rap about the events that have taken place in their country in the past decade, the end of the civil war, and their sentiments about it. Often covering topics like injustices and calling out ISIS over their ridiculous extremist ideologies, these rappers use their art form as a means of dealing with this mess. I listened to Volcano’s song “C5,” which is fairly catchy and well written. The video is done well and is eye-catchingly riveting with scenes performed on the rubble from the attacks. Rappers like Volcano, Ibn Thabit, and Libyan-American rapper Khaled M. often use current events to fuel their message.  

Up next: the food

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