THE ANDALUSIAN-MAGHREBI HERITAGE
Traditionally, the creation of the Andalusian-Maghrebimusical style is attributed to Abu Hassan 'Ali ibn Nafi (789-857), nicknamedZyriab (blackbird) due to the color of his skin and the beauty of hisharmonious chanting, likened often to the sing-song of birds. While studying inBaghdad under the great Persian master Ishaq Al Mawsili, Zyriab developed hisown musical style and built his own lute ('ud) by adding a fifth string tolutes of the period. Soon he became Caliph Abasside Haroun el Rachid's favoritemusician, but then was forced to leave the country due to the intrigues plottedby his old master, who was jealous of his student's talent. Zyriab crossedEgypt and the Maghreb, winding up in Cordoue, under the protection of thereigning caliph Omeyyade 'Abderrahman II, who became his protector and friend.
In Cordoue, a cosmopolitan city that is home to the variouscross-cultural currents of the Mediterranean (Hispano-Arabic, Jewish, Mozarabe,Christian), Zyriab studied Aristotle's philosophy and opened his own school ofmusic. Thanks to Zyriab the art of the sawt (chant), a musical and poetic formpracticed at the court in Baghdad, spread throughout the Maghreb andMediterranean Europe and in the process influenced the troubadours andminstrels. Zyriab enriched the sawt with the local styles of zajal (popularpoems sung in dialect) and muwashah (free form poem chanted in classic Arabic)and in the process created the nuba (turn, suite), a musical form embedded in theroots of Andalusian-Maghrebi heritage.
Tradition also attributes to Zyriab the creation of the tab'concept (character, temperament), which correlates the tonal musical scaleswith emotional temperament and its sentiments. During the Golden Age ofAndalusian-Maghrebi music, the repertoire consisted of 24 nawbat, 12 for themajor modes and 12 for the minor modes: each minor/major couple is tied to oneof the months of the year; each of the 24 nawbat corresponds to an hour of theday or of the night. This complex system came out of a deep knowledge ofspiritual associations. Dance and music were also used as a means to alleviateand cure mental disorders.
The thesis promoting the idea that the Andalusian-Maghrebimusical heritage is the product of one sole genius creator is being seriouslyquestioned today. Already in the middle of the XIXth century, Salvador-Danielwas pointing out that within the scales and musical structure of this musicexisted the diatonic scales and rules of Greek and Roman music, themselves aconduct of the Jewish, Byzantine and Visigoth civilizations. According to themost recent theories, Andalusian-Maghrebi music was also influenced by the\plain chant," a popular version of the Gregorian chant. For the Moroccan musicologists,the Maghrebi character of the nubais present in the maddahin, the religious texts sung by the local tolba(students of the Qu'ran). The nubawould have then developed between the X and XII century in that region nestledbetween the south of Spain and the north of Morocco, whose intense culturalmixing spawned, notably, the 430 Canticles of Santa Maria gathered by Alfonso Xthe Sage (1252 -1284). The musical modes at the roots of the nuba come from thediatonic scales of Greek music and especially from the Pythagorean tradition,while the masharquiya (oriental) influence would be less significant if theintervals below the half-tone were used only as abbellimenti (grace notes)without carrying any structural function.
The process of contamination and musical syncretismpioneered by Zyriab has evolved throughout the centuries, sustained by othermasters of the art and musical traditions, such as Al Kindi (IX century) andIbn Baja (Avempace, d. 1139). This new and original musical culture reached itsapex between the XI and XII centuries and began to lose its creative drive withthe progressive exodus of Islam from Spain under the pressure of theReconquista Catolica (fall of Cordoue 1236, Valencia 1238, Siviglia 1248,Granada 1492, definitive expulsion of the moriscos 1609). Consequently, themusicians and schools from Spanish Andalusia were welcomed in Northern Africa,where the tradition of the nuba, though it never reached its original creativeimpetus, was kept alive within families of musicians under the protection ofcourts of the Sultans. Nonetheless, the patrimony representing the collectivememory of a people (exclusively oral), was saved and enriched thanks to thepractices of the religious brotherhoods, the Jewish community and popular musicians.
During the XVIII century, the Moroccan nuba tradition wascodified by the Tetouaneese Mohammed al-Ha'ik, who collected in his workKunnash the body of eleven nawbat that constitute the basis ofAndalusian-Maghrebian musical culture as we know it in Morocco. In the othercountries of the Maghreb, a body of twelve nawbat was preserved (Algeria), andanother of thirteen nawbat (Tunisia). Today, the institution of NationalConservatories and the growing interest of the public for world music bothoffer new horizons for the survival of this millenary musical tradition.
In Morocco simply called al-ala ("instrumental music"), thenuba - a word that designates also the "taking of turns" of the musical ensembles at the court ofthe Sultans and military fanfare- is a musical suite based on vocal andinstrumental pieces played out according to a determined rhythmic order. In theMoroccan nuba there are five rhythmic movements, five mawazin (plural of mizan,rhythm, literally "balance"): basit (6/4), qaim wa nisf (6/8), btaihy (6/4),qoddam (3/4) and darj (4/4). Every mizan is divided into three harakat (parts,literally "gestures"): muwassa'a ("long," tempo lento); mhazuz ("between,"whose final parts qantara, "bridge," tempo moderato); insiraf ("light," tempoallegretto/mosso). The last two movements, qoddam and darj, play with rhythmicambiguities and the superimpositions of binary and tertiary rhythms.
The basic form of the sung poetry of the nuba is the san'a,a poem composed by stanzas mostly comprised of two, five or seven verses. Theincipit, the first hemistitch, gives the san'a its title. The chant is based onan antiphonal structure, the voices dividing themselves into two alternatingchoruses. Many san'at are linked to one another and can be interlaced with interventionsby the mawal (solo chant, freed from the metric rules, but referred to a fixedscale); the inshad (solo chant with a rhythmic schema, qalab), the taqsim(instrumental solo); and the tuishyat (musical interludes). Mawal and inshadcan introduce grace notes based on micro intervals.
The excerpts presented in this CD by the ensemble RabitaAndalusa originate in the nuba Istihal, created in Fez in the XVIII century byHajj Allal and Batla, and for this reason are included within the Kunnash ofal-Ha'ik as one of the two strictly Moroccan nawbat among the original body ofeleven. According to the typical taste of the embroidery, the last section ofthe nuba played by Rabita Andalusa (track 15) is an insiraf excerpted from thenuba Rasd ed Dhil, the other nuba of Moroccan origin. The last twopieces (tracks 16 and 17) belong to the repertoire of urban popular music (sha'abi)from the North of Morocco.
Rabita Andalusa is the name given to an ensemble composed ofsoloists of the Larache Conservatory, the ancient Roman city of Lukhos where,during the golden