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Diwan.. Algerian music that preserved its African origins

On Monday, Algeria bid farewell to one of the pillars and statures of Diwan music and dance, Moqaddam Ibrahim Barzouk, at the age of 89. The late artist spent more than 70 years of his life diligently in the field of promoting and developing this ancient music.

The son of the province of Bechar, southwest of Algeria, contributed to teaching young people these musical arts and dance of the Algerian Diwan, and his tours were not limited to local meetings only, he participated in international festivals that gave this artistic character another dimension through contact with international musical patterns.

Barzouk was distinguished by the title of “Moqaddam”, which represents a high degree among fans of the “Diwan” character, and also to indicate the great position he enjoyed among the pioneers of this music in his state, known for its great fondness for this original art in addition to its distinctive musical heritage.

old fashioned music

In order to delve into the history of this traditional music, which has preserved its peculiarities despite its transmission from one region to another, and with all the momentum that the Algerian musical genres have known, it was necessary to inquire those who know this rich lyrical color with its unique mysteries and secrets.

Although there is no agreement among researchers about a specific date for the emergence of this artistic character, according to historical sources, religious associations founded by musicians are considered to be behind the emergence of “Diwan” music during the 17th century.

According to other researches, this art took place on trips for commercial caravans coming from Senegal and Guinea, passing through Mali, towards the countries of the Maghreb.

Dances, colors and rituals

“Al-Diwan” is a popular music whose songs are called “The Towers”, and it is characterized as having a spiritual content, and it uses several instruments, but the most prominent of them is the “Qambri” (a stringed musical instrument), which is called by the people of the Diwan as a “spiritual instrument”, in addition to the Qarqabo (a traditional percussion instrument). ) and the drum.

In addition to the folkloric dance of this lyrical character, the performers of this art are adorned with seven colors, each color carries a specific meaning and dance. His role lies in preparing the clothes and summoning the audience.

As for the “Al-Qanadiz”, their role is limited to dancing and beating the “Qarqabo” instruments. On the other hand, it is not possible to neutralize the female component that is attended by the “Arifa” or “the introduction”, which is entrusted to the female audience.

oral tradition

Muhammad Rahmani, a researcher in Diwan music and a person familiar with this music in the city of Ain As Safra in Algeria, believes that in order to understand this authentic art, it is necessary to know the historical, psychological and linguistic dimension of the people of the Diwan, who are seven African tribes.

Rahmani, who is the governor of the National Festival for Diwan Music and Dance, said in an interview with “Sky News Arabia” that “this music is very old and has African, Arab and Islamic extensions.”

He explains that “the people of the Diwan are distinguished by oral culture, and they originally spoke and did not sing, and when they came to Algeria (most of them stayed in the south of the country) they carried with them their traditions and songs that are called in the Diwan’s music the towers sung in Arabic, Hausa and African Bambria.”

The researcher explains that “the way of the people of the Diwan has preserved its existence through their construction of the small house, which is the space in which it is celebrated every Thursday, in order to remember their origins and ancestors, and it must be clarified that their oral culture is based on intention, Nuba and sanctity.”

Mohamed Rahmani, who works on collecting and codifying everything related to the character of the “Algerian Diwan”, called for preserving this local musical heritage, stressing in the same context that he does not stand against the idea of ​​merging and introducing new musical instruments, but without prejudice to the “spirit and originality of the Diwan’s music.”

Festivals for the music and dance of the “Algerian Diwan” constitute an opportunity for various groups and young talents to emerge and show the magic of this inherited artistic character, as they aim to sponsor and preserve this art and bring the public closer to it.

And the city of Ain al-Safra, in the Naama governorate in western Algeria, hosted the 13th edition of the National Diwan Music Festival last October.

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