On our architectural tour of Casablanca, our guide took us past an interesting looking entrance with a beautiful mosaic sign identifying it as the “Association des Amateurs de la Musique Andalouse.”
Intrigued by the unknown concept of Andalusian music, I was excited when we were able to take a quick look inside. We entered into an open room that was set up as a performance space. The walls surrounding the square room were filled with glass cases displaying classical Andalusian instruments and sheet music.
Our guide gave us a brief introduction to Andalusian music, explaining that it is a musical style that fused Arabic music from the Orient with Afro-Berber music from the Maghreb. Dating back to 9th century, Andalusian music has developed slightly different styles in every North African Country. Upon returning to our host family’s apartment in Rabat, I spent the remainder of the evening exploring the internet’s repertoire of Andalusian music and information. I learnt that Morocco’s classical music originated from the Arab-Andalusian tradition. Interestingly, a number of musical instruments used in Western Music are believed to have been derived from Andalusian musical instruments: the lute was derived from the alud, the harp and zither from the qanun, geige (violin) from ghichak.
Andalusian orchestras are spread across Morocco, but the most celebrated and well respected is the Orchestra of Tangier which regularly travels across North Africa and the United States. The Orchestra of Tangier is led by violinist Ahmed Zaitouni who has devoted his life to preserving and performing nubas, a collection of instrumental and vocal suites that were brought to Morocco from Spain during the Christian Reconquista. As I was researching the works of Zaitouni, I found several videos of the Orchestra of Tangier’s collaboration with the flamenco singer El Lebrijano. In the 1980s, this collaboration was considered groundbreaking as it was unlike anything classical Andalusian music had experimented with before. I have included a video of one of El Lebrijano’s performances with the Orchestra of Tangier. I am grateful for our brief visit to the Association des Amateurs de la Musique Andalouse in Casablanca, as it opened up my eyes to a new style of music and allowed me to add another layer of vibrancy and understanding of Moroccan culture.