Presentation : Musicology in/of the Maghrib in the Colonial Context: Revisiting Jules Rouanet’s Colonial Musicology in a Time of Decolonization

The essays collected here revisit Jules Rouanet’s writings on music in the Maghrib, one hundred years after the publication of his landmark essay in the Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire. We do this fully cognizant of the complexity of the task. On the one hand, Rouanet’s La musique arabe du Maghreb remains the most ambitious study of its kind, and one that has until now received only a modest amount of scholarly attention. On the other hand, it is a work that was profoundly shaped by the prejudices of its author and his colonial context. Thus any serious engagement with Rouanet’s thought must grapple with the question of what to do with colonial scholarship in a contemporary moment marked by the “decolonial” impulse in so many scholarly fields.

When our dear late colleague Hadj Miliani first proposed this project in December 2020, our hope was to gather contributions representing a range of disciplines that together would allow us to take seriously Rouanet’s 1922 essay. The purpose was not to render homage to Rouanet. Instead, we envisioned a sober, grounded examination of the essay in its many facets, with a sidelong glance to its Mashriq-focused companion essay titled La musique arabe, likewise published in the pages of the Encyclopédie (Rouanet 1922 and 1922a).[1] These explorations would include the context of its creation: Rouanet’s interlocutors, his prejudgments, his readers and critics, and the broader cultural and political context in which he lived and worked. They would also include an engagement with the musics that Rouanet was writing about, both in his day and in the one hundred years since the publication of the essay. Hence these contributions would be both a critical reading of Rouanet and a recovery of his work as a source of knowledge about musical practices in the Maghrib.

It felt urgent to devote attention to Rouanet’s essay in large part out of the conviction that it has too long been overlooked.[2] The reasons for this oversight are complex. While Rouanet has been continuously cited by Algerian scholars and musicians into the present, he undeniably belongs to a colonial moment that Algerian intellectuals have understandably confronted with some ambivalence.[3] In musicological scholarship about the Maghrib more widely, Rouanet is often remembered as one of a range of European scholars working in the colonial context during the interwar period, alongside Alexis Chottin and Prosper Ricard in Morocco and Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger (and secondarily Antonin Laffage) in Tunisia (Davis 2004; Guettat 2004; Poché and Lambert 2000: 135-142; Pasler 2012-2013). While this contextualizing move makes a great deal of sense (even if it needs to be expanded beyond the French colonial sphere to include Henry George Farmer, Robert Lachmann, and Patrocinio García Barriuso, and no doubt others; see Katz 2015, Davis 2013, and Calderwood 2018), it has meant that the singularity of Rouanet’s work has too often been missed. Not only did Rouanet’s contributions predate those of d’Erlanger and Chottin and provide something of a model and foil to them, but in certain respects his are the sociologically richer. Lacking the highly technical approach of d’Erlanger, Rouanet’s work conveys a vivid sense of musical practices in his day, particularly in the nûba tradition of Algiers. And while it is less focused and polished than Chottin’s work on Morocco, Rouanet’s ambitious, frequently tendentious mapping of a vast constellation of musical practices onto sociopolitical patterns rooted in the Maghribi past clearly provided inspiration for Chottin.

Ironically, it may have been precisely Rouanet’s importance to early twentieth-century European scholarship on music in the Maghrib and in the Arab world more widely that helped lead to his marginality. Coming to Arab and Maghribi music nearly a half-century after Francisco Salvador Daniel’s pioneering work in Algeria, Rouanet did more than any other European figure to bring these musical traditions into the francophone print sphere in the first decades of the twentieth century. However, the culmination of Rouanet’s efforts in 1922, despite the many laureates it received in the French sphere, was soon overshadowed by d’Erlanger’s massive collaborative project, which, like Rouanet’s twin essays, aimed to join the study of classical sources with attention to contemporary practices in both Mashriq and Maghrib. The first of d’Erlanger’s six volumes, published in 1930, anticipated his organizing of the Congress of Arab Music held in Cairo in 1932, an event from which Rouanet was conspicuously absent even if his influence is evident in some of its printed matter, such as Mahmoud Ahmed El-Hefny’s introduction to the Recueil des Travaux (1934).[4] The scale of d’Erlanger’s interventions and their prominence in the public eye drew some of the luster away from Rouanet’s oeuvre. There was also a striking contrast in the two figures’ reception among Arab intellectuals: whereas Rouanet received some sharp criticism from the Lebanese-Egyptian musician, scholar, and translator Alexandre Chalfoun (1927; see Annex), d’Erlanger enjoyed a generally positive reception in Algeria (al-Madani 1930), Tunisia, and Egypt. With regard to the relative lack of attention to Rouanet in recent decades as compared to d’Erlanger, Chottin, and Farmer, it might also be possible to read this as symptomatic of the difficulties that colonial Algeria presents for contemporary scholars of North Africa: too old a colony, too radically tied to France, colonial Algeria as a field of “indigenous affairs” comes to be a vague backstory or counterexample to a more defined situation in neighboring countries. Unfortunately, such an approach tends to downplay the coloniality of Tunisia and Morocco under the French Protectorate, diminish the continuities among the Maghrib countries both before and during the colonial period, and bracket colonial Algeria as essentially unknowable. 

But if Rouanet’s writing can be read in starkly ideological terms, so that “[le] jugement de valeur, esthétique, social, humain étouffe ici l’analyse musicologique” (Bouhadiba 2019: 69), it can also be read as a rich document that, when read in a certain light, stands to illuminate a great deal about musical practices in the Maghrib of his day. Although it takes careful attention to notice, La musique arabe dans le Maghreb bears traces of the relationships Rouanet had with Algerian musicians and listeners, including Edmond-Nathan Yafil, Mostefa Aboura, Mohamed ‘Ali Sfindja, and Ben Farachou. Particularly as concerns the nûba repertoire of Algiers and Tlemcen, the essay frequently provides rich insight into musicians’ and listeners’ own understandings of the repertoire. In addition, Rouanet gives partial, frequently partisan, yet nonetheless precious accounts of a wide range of musical practices of his day. As a reading of Tamara Turner’s contribution to this issue reveals, Rouanet’s account of musics associated with Black Algerians, particularly in Laghouat, combines racist tropes with remarkably detailed information about social and musical practice. And the transcriptions that Rouanet provides (some of them from the pen of Aboura, it seems), alongside his accounts of musical modes, rhythms, and instruments, provide a rich resource for scholars seeking to gain an understanding of the musical landscape of his day, particularly as regards Algeria. Students of colonial-era musical practices in the Maghrib ignore Rouanet at their own risk. 

This collection of articles by no means exhausts every facet of Rouanet’s essay. Instead, it provides a sense of what might be done through a close reading of it, including through exploration of the ideological assumptions undergirding Rouanet’s musicological work, as exemplified in Hicham Chami’s placement of his thought within its broader European colonial context in North Africa and beyond. At the same time, it is essential to trace the musical networks in which Rouanet worked and that he helped to shape. As pointed out above, and as Guettat has indicated (2004: 284), a close reading of Rouanet’s writings reveals connections to many other indigenous Algerians. Rouanet also had an important influence on European and North African scholars. The contribution by Hadj Miliani explores the fertile and difficult relationship between Rouanet and Yafil, which gave rise to musical projects that had a long-term impact as well as to a politically loaded polemic that appeared in the columns of La Dépêche Algérienne in 1927. The essay by Jonathan Glasser is a close reading and contextualization of the Arabic-language musicological writing of Ghaouti Bouali, an Algerian scholar whose work straddled the European, Mashriqi, and Maghribi intellectual scenes of the turn of the century, and whose work Rouanet cited only to dismiss. And Helena Tyrväinen’s tracing of the career of the Finnish musicologist and composer Armas Launis demonstrates the European reach of both Rouanet’s work and the indigenous Algerian musical scene beyond the French sphere.

Multiple essays revisit musical practices treated by Rouanet. These contributions fill in gaps in Rouanet’s approach, revisit musical practices as they have developed since, and, in a gesture that points out the “positive” possibilities of his work pioneered by Elsner (1992), Yammine (1999), and Plenckers (2002), also draw on the essay as a valuable source of information. Nacim Khellal provides a close reading of Rouanet’s treatment of Kabyle music, bringing the exploration of his ideological assumptions into the domain of a specific regional practice. Tamara Turner offers a critique of Rouanet’s reading of “Black music” in Algeria while at the same time pointing out the valuable clues he provides concerning the musical traditions of Black trance traditions. And Salvatore Morra looks at Rouanet’s considerable discussion of the instrumentarium to problematize our understanding of the differentiation between the ‘ûd and the kouitra in the modern period. 

Finally, we have included in an annex a series of documents related to the contributions to this volume, in the spirit of our late colleague’s admonition to dig beyond the known sources. They include an invaluable passage from Armas Launis’s accounts of his conversations with Yafil regarding the musical lineage of Sfindja, translated from the Finnish by Helena Tyrväinen; the texts of Rouanet and Yafil’s 1927 exchange in La Dépêche Algérienne; and a selection of Chalfoun’s critical comments regarding Rouanet’s La musique arabe.

In conclusion, we would like to pay homage to the late Hadj Miliani who gave birth to this collaboration, in the hope that the conversation he so energetically launched will continue[5].


Al-Madani, T. (1931). Kitāb al-jazā’ir. Al-maṭba‘a al-‘arabiyya.

Bouali, S. (1968). Petite introduction à la musique classique algérienne. SNED.

Bouhadiba, F. (2019). Etique vs émique dans la conceptualisation et la mise en exergue des spécificités des musiques modales : contextualisme désignatif et descriptif dans les textes de la musicologie francophone, propositions conceptuelles et impact musical. Revue des traditions musicales 13, 63-76.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1992). L’Algérie musicale entre Orient et Occident (1920-1939). Un évènement : le Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe : Le Congrès du Caire de 1932 (pp. 87-98). CEDEJ.

Calderwood, E. (2018). Colonial al-Andalus: Spain and the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture. Harvard University Press.

Chalfoun, A. (Ed.). (1927). Dā’irat al-ma‘ārif al-mūsīqiyya: ta’rīkh
al-mūsīqā al-‘arabiyya. Maṭba‘at ra‘amsīs.

Davis, R.F. (2004). Ma'lūf: Reflections on the Arab Andalusian Music of Tunisia. The Scarecrow Press.

Davis, R.F. (Ed.). (2013). The “Oriental Music” Broadcasts, 1936-1937: A Musical Ethnography of Mandatory Palestine. A-R Editions, Inc.

El-Hefny, M.A. (1934). Introduction. In Recueil des Travaux du Congès de Musique Arabe (pp. 1-17). Imprimerie Nationale.

Elsner, J. (1992). Présentation de la musique algérienne au Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe : Le Congrès du Caire de 1932
(pp. 191-208). CEDEJ.

Guettat, M. (2004). Musiques du monde Arabo-Musulman: Guide bibliographique et discographique, Approche analytique et critique. Editions Dar al-'Uns.

Katz, I.J. (2015). Henry George Farmer and the First International Congress of Arab Music (Cairo 1932). Brill.

Pasler, J. (2012-2013). Musical Hybridity in Flux: Representing Race, Colonial Policy, and Modernity in French North Africa, 1860s-1930s. Afrika Zamani 20-21, 21-68.

Plenckers, L.J. (2002). Modal and Formal Constraints in Improvisation:
A Study to the Algerian istiḫbār. In I. El-Mallah (Ed.), Omani Traditional Music and the Arab Heritage (pp. 83-107). Oman Centre for Traditional Music.

Poché, C. & J. Lambert (2000). Musiques du monde arabe et musulman: bibliographie et discographie. Les Geuthner.

Saidani, M. (2016). L'ethnomusicologie face à l'industrie du spectacle en Algérie. Cahiers d'ethnomusicologie 29, 175-191.

Yammine, H. (1999). L'évolution de la notation rythmique dans la musique arabe, du IXe à la fin du XXe siècle. Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 12, 95-121.

Jonathan GLASSER[*]

Ahmed Amine DELLAÏ[**]


[*] Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, William & Mary (Virginia, USA).

[**] Researcher at CRASC.

[1] The two essays have been digitized through the Bibliothèque nationale de France:,%20Jules%20%201922%20%20La%20musique%20arabe%20%20Encyclop%C3%A9die%20de%20la%20musique%20et%20dictionnaire%20du%20Conservatoire%20 .

[2] Except for the work of Bouhadiba 2019.

[3] See, for example, Bouali 1968; Bouzar-Kasbadji 1992; Saidani 2016.

[4] Farmer’s devastating critique of Rouanet’s La musique arabe would not appear until 1946, but it is certainly possible that Farmer’s skepticism regarding Rouanet’s scholarship had something to do with the latter’s absence from Cairo. 

[5] This collaborative project would not have come to fruition without the precious help of Nidaa Abou Mrad, Abdelouahab Belgherras, Ahmed-Amine Dellaï, Marybel Dessagnes, Fazilet Diff, Daho Djerbal, Lamia Fardeheb, Azedine Kinzi, Ouail Laabassi, Mehdi Megnaoua, Mohamed Miliani, Karim Ouaras, Martial Pardo, Dwight Reynolds, Saliha Senouci, Youssef Touaïbia, Mourad Yelles, and all the contributors, as well as the support of our colleagues at CRASC. For the documents gathered in the annex, I would like to recognize Helena Tyrväinen, Asta Schuwer Launis, the university librarians of William & Mary who located Chalfoun’s rare work, and Rachel McGraw. Hadj Miliani left us before he could write his contribution, but the editorial committee of the journal Insaniyat kindly authorized the republication of his article, « Déplorations, polémiques et stratégies patrimoniales. Á propos des musiques citadines en Algérie en régime colonial », which appeared in 2018.

تقديم : إعادة النظر في علم الموسيقى الاستعماري لجول روانيه في زمن إنهاء الاستعمار

تتناول المقالات التي جمعت في هذا العدد كتابات جول روانيه عن الموسيقى في المنطقة المغاربيّة، بعد مرور مائة عام على نشر مقاله التاريخي في أنسيكلوبيديا الموسيقى ومعجم المعهد الموسيقي[3]. ونحن نفعل ذلك مع إدراكنا الكامل بصعوبة وتعقيد المهمة، فمن جهة، تظل دراسته للموسيقى العربية في المنطقة المغاربيّة الدراسة الأكثر طموحًا، والتي لم تحظ حتى الآن إلّا بقدر متواضع من الاهتمام الأكاديمي. ومن جهة أخرى، تأثّر هذا العمل بشكل عميق بأحكام مسبقة لمؤلفه وسياقه الاستعماري. وبالتالي، فإن أي تعامل جدي مع فكر هذا الباحث يجب أن يتصارع مع مسألة ما يجب فعله بالدراسات والبحوث الاستعمارية في وقتنا المعاصر المتميّز بدافع فكرة "التخلّص من الاستعمار" في العديد من المجالات العلمية.

عندما اقترح زميلنا الأستاذ الراحل حاج ملياني هذا المشروع لأول مرة في ديسمبر 2020، كان أملنا هو جمع عدد من الإسهامات التي تكون قادرة على أن تأخذ مقال روانيه عام 1922 على محمل الجد. لم يكن الهدف تكريمه، بل كان إجراء دراسة عمليّة وعلميّة للمقال في جوانبه المتعددة، مع دراسة موازية للمقال الذي يحمل عنوان "الموسيقى العربيّة"[4] كونه دراسة تكميلية تتركّز أساسا على المشرق العربي، والذي نُشر أيضًا في صفحات الموسوعة (Rouanet 1922 and 1922a)[5]

تشمل الإسهامات الموجودة في هذا العدد، السياق الذي نشأ فيه المقال، أهم الأشخاص الذين حاورهم الباحث، أحكامه، قراؤه ونقاده، والسياق الثقافي والسياسي الأوسع الذي واكبه. تتضمن الإسهامات أيضًا أعمالا عن الموسيقى التي كان يكتب عنها، سواء في عصره أو خلال المائة عام التي تلت نشر مقاله. ومن ثَمّ، فإن هذه الإسهامات ستكون بمثابة قراءة نقدية واستعادة لعمله باعتباره أحد مصادر المعرفة حول الممارسات الموسيقية في المنطقة المغاربيّة.

لقد أصبح من الضروري أن يٌخصّ مقاله بالاهتمام، انطلاقًا من الاقتناع بأنه تم تجاهله لفترة طويلة جدًا نظرا لأسباب عديدة ومعقدة[6]، ففي الوقت الذي يتم فيه الاستشهاد به بشكل مستمر من قِبَل العلماء والموسيقيين الجزائريين في الوقت الحاضر، فإنه لا يمكن إنكار أنه ينتمي إلى حقبة استعمارية واجهها المثقفون الجزائريون بشكل من التناقض والتردد[7]. غالبًا ما يتم ذكره في الدراسات الموسيقية حول المنطقة المغاربيّة على نطاق أوسع، باعتباره واحداً من مجموع الباحثين الأوروبيين الذين عملوا في السياق الاستعماري خلال فترة ما بين الحربين العالميتين جنبًا إلى جنب مع ألكسيس شوتين وبروسبرريكارد في المغرب والبارون رودولف ديرلانجر (وثانيًا أنطونين لافاج) في تونس (ديفيس 2004؛ قطاط 2004؛ بوشيه ولامبرت 2000: 135-142؛ باسلر 2012-2013).تعد هذه الخطوة السياقية منطقية إلى حد كبير (حتى لو كانت بحاجة إلى التوسع خارج المجال الاستعماري الفرنسي لتشمل هنري جورج فارمر، وروبرت لاخشمان، وباتروسينيو غارسيا باريوسو، وغيرهم بلا شك، ديفيس 2013 وكاتز 2015 وكالديروود 2018)، إلا أن تفرد عمله قد تم إغفاله في كثير من الأحيان. من هنا نسجّل أنّ إسهاماته، سبقت ليس فقط إسهامات ديرلانجيه وشوتين، بل قدّمت لهما نوعا من النموذج والنموذج المضاد، إلى جانب اهتمامه بالناحية الاجتماعية للموسيقى والأحاسيس، خصوصا فيما يتعلق بالنوبة، على عكس على ذهب إليه ديرلانجيه الذي اكتفى بالمنهج التقني. وعلى الرغم من أنه أقل تركيزًا وصقلًا من عمل شوتين حول المغرب، إلا أن ربط روانيه طموح تحيزه في كثير من الأحيان لمجموعة واسعة من الممارسات الموسيقية يالأنماط الاجتماعية والسياسية المتجذرة في الماضي المغربي كان مصدر إلهام واضح لشوتين.

 ومن عجيب المفارقات أن أهميته في الدراسات الأوروبية -على وجه التحديد في أوائل القرن العشرين- للموسيقى في المغرب والعالم العربي على نطاق أوسع هي التي ساعدت في تهميشه. أدّى إهتمامه بالموسيقى العربية والمغاربية بعد ما يقرب من نصف قرن
من العمل الرائد لفرانسيسكو سلفادور دانيال في الجزائر، إلى جعله أبرز من أي شخصية أوروبية أخرى تعمل لجلب هذه التقاليد الموسيقية إلى مجال الطباعة الفرنكوفونية في العقود الأولى من القرن العشرين. ومع ذلك، سرعان ما طغى مشروع ديرلانجيه التعاوني الضخم على ذروة جهوده عام 1922 والتي كانت تهدف أساسا إلى ربط دراسة المصادر الكلاسيكية بالممارسات المعاصرة في المشرق والمغرب. استبق المجلد الأول من مجلدات ديرلانجيه الستة، الذي نُشر عام 1930، تنظيم مؤتمر الموسيقى العربية المنعقد في القاهرة عام 1932، وهو الحدث الذي غاب عنه روانيه، حتى لو أن تأثيره كان واضحًا في بعض مطبوعاته، كمقدمة محمود أحمد الحفني لـ Recueil des Travaux (1934))، حيث أدّى حجم تدخلات ديرلانجيه وبروزها في نظر الجمهور إلى إبعاد بعض البريق عن أعمال روانيه. وكان هناك أيضًا فرق واضح في استقبال الشخصيتين
بين المثقفين العرب، ففي حين تلقى روانيه بعض الانتقادات اللاذعة من الموسيقي والباحث والمترجم اللبناني المصري اسكندر شلفون (1927)، حظي ديرلانجيه باستقبال إيجابي بشكل عام في الجزائر (المدني 1930)، وتونس، ومصر. لن يظهر نقد فارمر المدمّر للموسيقى العربية حتى عام 1946، ولكن من الممكن بالتأكيد أن تكون شكوك فارمر بشأن دراسة روانيه لها علاقة بغياب هذا الأخير عن القاهرة.

وأما فيما يتعلق نسبيا بنقص الاهتمام به في العقود الأخيرة مقارنة بديرلانجيه وشوتين وفارمر، فيمكن قراءة ذلك باعتبار أن الجزائر تطرح على الباحثين المعاصرين في شمال إفريقيا صعوبات، نظرا لأنها كانت مستعمَرة فرنسية ولقد أصبحت اليوم حقلا "للسكان الأصليين" وبمثابة خلفية درامية مقارنة بالبلدان المجاورة. ولسوء الحظ، فإن مثل هذه الرؤية تقلل من أهمية استعمار تونس والمغرب خلال فترة الحماية الفرنسية والإسبانية، وتحد من التواصل بين الدول المغاربيّة قبل وأثناء الفترة الاستعمارية، ومن ثم تضع الجزائر المستعمرة بين مزدوجتين أو كأرضيّة مجهولة يتعذّر الوصول إليها.

ولكن إذا كان من الممكن قراءة كتاباته من خلال مصطلحات إيديولوجية بامتياز، بحيث "يعيق الحكم القيمي، سواء كان جماليا أو اجتماعيا أو إنسانيا، التحليل الموسيقي"[8]، يمكن قراءتها أيضًا على أنها وثيقة تسلّط الضوء في عصره على قدر كبير من الممارسات الموسيقية في المنطقة المغاربيّة. كما يلاحظ جليا أن "الموسيقى العربية
في المنطقة المغاربيّة " تحمل آثار العلاقات التي أقامها الباحث مع الموسيقيين والمستمعين الجزائريين، بما في ذلك إدموند ناثان يافيل، ومصطفى عبورة، ومحمد علي سفينجة، وابن فراشو. أما فيما يتعلق بمخزون النوبة في الجزائر العاصمة وتلمسان على وجه الخصوص، فإن المقال يُقدّم في كثير من الأحيان نظرة ثاقبة لفهم الموسيقيين والمستمِعين للمخزون الموسيقي. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يقدم روانيه روايات لمجموعة واسعة من الممارسات الموسيقية في عصره، قد تكون جزئية وحياديّة في كثير من الأحيان، ولكنها مع ذلك ثمينة. وكما تكشف تمارا تيرنر في هذا العدد، فإن وصفه للموسيقى المرتبطة بالجزائريين السود، خاصة في الأغواط، يجمع بين الاستعارات العنصرية ومعلومات مُفصّلة بشكل ملحوظ حول الممارسة الاجتماعية والموسيقية. والنسخ التي يقدمها (بعضها بقلم عبورة، على ما يبدو)، إلى جانب رواياته عن الأنماط الموسيقية والإيقاعات والآلات، توفر مصدرًا غنيًا للباحثين الذين يسعون إلى فهم المشهد الموسيقي في عصره خاصة فيما يتعلق بالجزائر، حيث يتحمّل الباحثون في الممارسات الموسيقية في العصر الاستعماري في المنطقة المغاربية مسؤولية تجاهل أعماله.

هذه المجموعة من المقالات لا تستنفد بأي حال من الأحوال كل جانب من جوانب مقاله ولكنها توضّح لنا ما يمكن القيام به من خلال قراءة متأنية لأعماله، بما في ذلك استكشاف الافتراضات الإيديولوجية التي يقوم عليها عمله الموسيقي، كما يتضح من تحليل هشام شامي لفكره ضمن سياقه الاستعماري الأوروبي الأوسع في شمال إفريقيا وخارجها. وفي الوقت نفسه، من الضروري تتبع الشبكات الموسيقية التي عمل فيها والتي ساعد في تشكيلها. وكما أشير أعلاه، وكما أشار قطاط (2004: 284)، فإن القراءة الدقيقة لكتاباته تكشف عن صلاته بالعديد من الجزائريين الآخرين. كان للباحث أيضًا تأثير مهم على العلماء الأوروبيين وعلماء شمال إفريقيا، حيث يستكشف إسهام حاج ملياني العلاقة الخصبة والصعبة بين روانيه ويافيل، والتي أدت إلى ظهور مشاريع موسيقية كان لها تأثير طويل المدى، بالإضافة إلى جدل مشحون بالسياسة ظهر
في أعمدة جريدةLa Dépêche Algérienne عام 1927. وبالنسبة إلى مقال جوناثان غلاسر، فهو عبارة عن قراءة تحليلية ووضع سياق للكتابة الموسيقية باللغة العربية لغوثي بوعلي (باحث جزائري مزجت أعماله بين المشاهد الفكرية الأوروبية والمشرقية والمغاربية)، والذي يبدو أنّ الباحث استشهد بعمله فقط لأجل انتقاده. أمّا هيلينا تيرفينن، فتتناول في عملها مسيرة عالم الموسيقى والملحّن الفنلندي أرماس لاونيس وطبيعة الرؤية الأوروبية لعمل روانيه والمشهد الموسيقي الجزائري الأصلي خارج الأدبيات الفرنسيّة.

تسد هذه الإسهامات المقترحة في هذا العدد من مجلة "تراث" الفجوات التي نجدها في نهج الباحث، وتعيد النظر في الممارسات الموسيقية وتطوّرها، وتشير إلى الجوانب "الإيجابية" لعمله الرائد من قبل إلسنر (1992)، وأمين دلاي (1999)، وبلينكرز (2002)، بينما يقدّم نسيم خلال قراءة قريبة لمعالجة روانيه للموسيقى القبائلية من خلال استكشاف افتراضاته الإيديولوجية في مجال ممارسة إقليمية محددة. وبدورها تقدم تمارا تورنر نقدًا لقراءته “لموسيقى السود” في الجزائر، بينما تشير في الوقت نفسه
إلى الأدلة القيمة التي يقدمها فيما يتعلق بالممارسات الموسيقية لتقاليد الجذبة عند السّود. ويهتم سلفاتور مورا بمناقشة روانيه الكبيرة حول الآلة الموسيقية ليبرز إشكالية في فهمنا للتمييز بين العود والكويترة في الفترة الحديثة.

إضافة إلى هذه الإسهامات، يتناول هذا العدد من مجلة تراث سلسلة من الوثائق ذات الصلة بالموضوع وذلك انطلاقاً من نصيحة زميلنا الراحل حاج ملياني الداعية إلى التنقيب خارج المصادر المعروفة. تتضمن الوثائق مقطعًا لا يقدّر بثمن من روايات أرماس لاونيس عن محادثاته مع يافيل بخصوص الأصول الموسيقية لسفينجة، والتي ترجمتها هيلينا تيرفينن عن الفنلندية، إضافة إلى نصوص الحوار المتبادل بين روانيه ويافيل عام 1927 في جريدة La Dépêche Algérienne؛ وأخيرا مجموعة مختارة من تعليقات شلفون الناقدة بشأن الموسيقى العربية لروانيه.

وفي الختام، نود أن نشيد بمجهودات المرحوم حاج ملياني الذي كان سببا في ولادة هذا التعاون العلمي، على أمل أن يستمر ذلك بلا كلل.


Bouali, S. (1968). Petite introduction à la musique classique algérienne. SNED.

Bouhadiba, F. (2019). Etique vs émique dans la conceptualisation et la mise en exergue des spécificités des musiques modales : contextualisme désignatif et descriptif dans les textes de la musicologie francophone, propositions conceptuelles et impact musical. Revue des traditions musicales 13, 63-76.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1992). L’Algérie musicale entre Orient et Occident (1920-1939). Un évènement : le Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe : Le Congrès du Caire de 1932 (pp. 87-98). CEDEJ.

Calderwood, E. (2018). Colonial al-Andalus: Spain and the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture. Harvard University Press.

Chalfoun, A. (Ed.). (1927). Dā’irat al-ma‘ārif al-mūsīqiyya: ta’rīkh al-mūsīqā al-‘arabiyya. Maṭba‘at ra‘amsīs.

Davis, R.F. (2004). Ma'lūf: Reflections on the Arab Andalusian Music of Tunisia. The Scarecrow Press.

Davis, R.F. (Ed.). (2013). The “Oriental Music” Broadcasts, 1936-1937: A Musical Ethnography of Mandatory Palestine. A-R Editions, Inc.

El-Hefny, M.A. (1934). Introduction. In Recueil des Travaux du Congès de Musique Arabe (pp. 1-17). Imprimerie Nationale.

Elsner, J. (1992). Présentation de la musique algérienne au Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe :
Le Congrès du Caire de 1932
(pp. 191-208). CEDEJ.

Guettat, M. (2004). Musiques du monde Arabo-Musulman : Guide bibliographique et discographique, Approche analytique et critique. Editions Dar al-'Uns.

Katz, I.J. (2015). Henry George Farmer and the First International Congress of Arab Music (Cairo 1932). Brill.

al-Madani, T. (1931). Kitāb al-jazā’ir. Al-maṭba‘a al-‘arabiyya.

Pasler, J. (2012-2013). Musical Hybridity in Flux: Representing Race, Colonial Policy, and Modernity in French North Africa, 1860s-1930s. Afrika Zamani 20-21, 21-68.

Plenckers, L.J. (2002). Modal and Formal Constraints in Improvisation: A Study to the Algerian istiḫbār. In I. El-Mallah (Ed.), Omani Traditional Music and the Arab Heritage (pp. 83-107). Oman Centre for Traditional Music.

Poché, C. (1994). De l'homme parfait à l'expressivité musicale : Courants esthétiques arabes au XXe siècle. Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 7, 59-74.

Poché, C. & J. Lambert (2000). Musiques du monde arabe et musulman : bibliographie et discographie. Les Geuthner.

Saidani, M. (2016). L'ethnomusicologie face à l'industrie du spectacle en Algérie. Cahiers d'ethnomusicologie 29, 175-191.

Yammine, H. (1999). L'évolution de la notation rythmique dans la musique arabe, du IXe à la fin du XXe siècle. Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 12, 95-121.

جوناثان غلاسر[1]

أحمد أمين دلّاي[2]


[1] جامعة وليام وماري في فيرجينيا، الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.

[2] مركز البحث في الأنثروبولوجيا الاجتماعية والثقافية crasc

[3] Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire. 

[4] La musique Arabe.

[5] تم رقمنة المقالين من طرف المكتبة الوطنية الفرنسية:,%20Jules%20%201922%20%20La%20musique%20arabe%20%20Encyclop%C3%A9die%20de%20la%20musique%20et%20dictionnaire%20du%20Conservatoire%20 .

[6] ما عدا العمل الذي قدّمه بوحديبة 2019.

[7] انظر مثلا: بوعلي 1968، بوزار قصباجي 1992، سعيداني 2016.

[8] بوحديبة 2019، ص69.

Confronting Rouanet’s Colonial Gaze : A Critical Reading

The arrow of liberation and progress was thus turned against ourselves, and our traditions were represented as ‘slavery, backwardness and anachronism’, while the colonialists represented ‘liberty and progress’.

Munir Shafiq (Abdel-Malek, 1983, p. 239)

In this essay, I revisit Jules Rouanet’s entry on Maghrebi music in the Encyclopédie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire (EMDC) in light of its grounding in colonialist discourse, drawing on the current call in Ethnomusicology and Anthropology for the decolonization of all aspects of the disciplines’ endeavors: from fieldwork methodology to reportage. My positionality is that of a diasporic scholar who was born and raised in Morocco, experiencing the system of music education in the
French-instituted conservatoire network. I claim an identity as an “Oriental” (cf. Said, 1978, p. 26), remaining keenly aware of the indelible imprint of colonialism on Morocco and other countries in the Maghreb. As an ethnomusicologist, I join in the efforts of the current generation of decolonization-oriented Maghrebi specialists who, with the support of their professional organizations and the inspiration of scholars from other regions of the Global South, strive to overturn the colonialist interpretations of the past-replacing, as Marcelo Fernández-Osco exhorts, the old paradigm of “vertical, hierarchical lines” with an “indigenous episteme” based on “a model of horizontal solidarity”
(Mignolo, 2010, p. 18).[2]

The sensibility I bring to my reading of “La musique arabe dans le Maghreb” affords particular attention to Rouanet’s commentary on Moroccan music culture. While acknowledging the valuable content of his entry in terms of its first-hand observations, transcriptions, and descriptive information on the nawba,[3] my critical review—like others in post-colonial scholarship—reveals an unmistakable undercurrent of Eurocentrism, colonialism, Orientalism, and racism evidenced in numerous passages.
I examine this entry, then, through the lenses of decolonization: within the powerful context of the imperialist “Scramble for Africa” occurring during this period and informed by the tenacity of a coloniality that had its genesis in colonialist rhetoric and which resulted in the silencing of native voices. My critique begins with an overview of the Western-authored literature of the colonial era from which Rouanet’s writing arose, examines key selections and themes from his EMDC entry, and concludes with a discussion of his legacy vis-à-vis the decolonizing milieu of current Maghrebi scholarship.

A Pervasive Colonialist Ideology

The European agenda for the aggressive colonization which occurred in the 19th Century would function under the guiding concept of the French term mission civilisatrice (“civilizing mission”), derived from ideals for improving humanity which emerged during the Age of Enlightenment—coupled with a strong sense of the superior/inferior binary. Jennifer
E. Sessions identifies Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition (1798-1801) as the genesis of the civilizing mission advocated by French imperialists of the era, writing that this precedent loomed large in the mind of the planners and observers of the [1830] Algerian conquest. Indeed, the phrase mission civilisatrice first entered the French lexicon around 1840 to describe colonization efforts in Algeria. (Sessions, 2017, p. 7)

This phrase appears in an S. Dutot’s work cited by Sessions, phrased as: “By sending out models of work, of order, of discipline to new nations, France will begin the civilizing mission” (1840, p. 321). During the expansive Scramble for Africa operant during the 19th Century, Europe’s imperialist impulses would culminate in a feverish competition for land, resources, and (forced) labor throughout the African continent. Although the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 attempted to regulate the “carving-up” of Africa, negotiate provisions for trade, and resolve issues of effective occupation (Fitzmaurice, 2014, p. 283), the momentum propelled by European advocates for the mission civilisatrice could not be halted. Prime Minister Jules Ferry articulated their shared justification of colonial expansion in stating to the French Chamber of Deputies in March 1884 that this expansion was a right of the “superior races because they have the duty to civilize the inferior races” (Fitzmaurice, 2014, p. 276).

Other European powers would echo the rhetoric of the civilizing mission in their quest for colonial domination. Antony Anghie verifies its role in the justification of “extending Empire for the higher purpose of educating and rescuing the barbarian” and cites the concept’s “ancient lineage” traced to the Roman empire (2004, p. 96). Paul Tiyanbe Zeleza examines the entanglement of motivations and machinations of the Scramble for Africa, noting a Victorian theory outlined by Robinson and Gallagher which claimed that Britain had no thought of “sordid economic gain” in Egypt and that “resentful France and Germany now sought to carve up their own colonial empires in West and East Africa”
(1993, p. 350). With regard to North Africa proper, Sessions writes that after 1850, “France’s Maghrebi outpost became a strategic stronghold in the struggle with Britain for geopolitical primacy in the Mediterranean and the jumping-off point for expansion into Sub-Saharan Africa”
(2017, p. 11). The profusion of territorial competitors led to the convening of the Berlin Conference to set protocols for colonizing the continent.

In retrospect, critics have exposed the “veneer” of philanthropy which masked the element of exploitation inherent in this so-called civilizing mission (cf. Fitzmaurice, 2014, p. 294), although contemporary accounts would support the “colonial enterprises of the French in Northern and Western Africa” as purportedly intended to “preserve life and property within the domains of the Sultan” and remedy the “sufferings of the masses under a long rule of misgovernment, corruption and oppression”
(Harris, 1913, p. 263).

Colonialist Literature as Context

The phenomenon of the Scramble for Africa provides a potent context for interpreting the corpus of literature produced during this period, with its relentless usurpation of African resources and the concurrent European ideological polarization of allegedly “civilized” and “uncivilized” populations. In addition to natural resources such as rubber and gold, cultural capital was not exempt from the ensuing waves of exploration and appropriation throughout Africa.

In the northern tier of the continent—bordering the Mediterranean Sea and comprised of Egypt and the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya)—the incursions of chroniclers, historians, and explorers such as Guillaume André Villoteau, Edward Lane, and W. B. Harris would be supplemented by a cadre of European musicologists, photographers, missionaries, and other researchers closely connected to the colonizing activities of France, Spain, and Italy. Poornima Paidipaty (2008) notes the “ocular character” of the emergent genre of colonial-era “eyewitness travel writing,” which often “featured voyeuristic descriptions of primitive, foreign societies, with their colorful native costumes and spectacular rituals” (p. 260) in describing the cultures and practices of the Other. This “ocular character” would be reflected in the evolving trope of the “gaze” as formulated by Frantz Fanon (1952, drawing on Jean-Paul Sartre), Homi Bhabha (1994), and other scholars.

Colonialist writings objectified Morocco as a geocultural entity and infused the prevailing rhetoric of otherness, inferiority, and savagery into a broader discourse which arguably served as a de facto justification of the mission civilisatrice initiated by France and adopted by other European powers during the period of the Scramble for Africa. An early work in this corpus, Le Maroc inconnu (Unknown Morocco), written by a French missionary, establishes the polarity of Muslim and European religious praxis in referring to the “bottomless abyss of the Mohammedan Soul” and its contrast “with our European civilization” (Mouliéras 1899, p. VI). With this language, Auguste Mouliéras effectively underscores the alterity of Moroccan Muslims, positing “civilized” European culture against this population. His text is replete with the rhetoric which would be reproduced in subsequent colonialist literature, reflecting the formulary of the colonial archive-in-progress (cf. Burke, 2014, p. 6).[4] The book’s very title suggests an “unknown” land ripe for discovery, with the subtitles of some editions indicating the author’s “explorations in a mysterious country”[5]—conjuring up the type of exoticist imagery cited by Edward Said (1978) as the “imaginative demonology of ‘the mysterious Orient’” (p. 26). Joseph Massad (2007) comments on the impact of this pervasive imagery:

As Orientalism assumed a central place in the colonial campaign, its pretensions encompassed defining who the subject people to be colonized were, what their past was, the content of their culture, and how they measured up to the civilizational, cultural, and racial hierarchies that colonial thought had disseminated. (pp. 1-2)

Against this backdrop of European hegemony, several key figures contributed to the emerging corpus of literature documenting the musics of the Maghreb—not without an infusion of colonialist ideologies.[6] These included Prosper Ricard and Alexis Chottin, officials in the French Protectorate’s Services des Arts Indigènes in Morocco who engaged in fieldwork and established a network of conservatoires; Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger, who conducted research in Tunisia and published a multi-volume study on Arab music; and Algeria-based Jules Rouanet, who collaborated on a major preservation project with Edmond Yafil
(cf. Glasser, 2016) and in 1922 contributed an entry on Maghrebi musics for the landmark multi-volume EMDC.[7]

Unpacking Rouanet’s Text

In this section, I examine selected passages from La musique arabe dans le Maghreb that focus on music culture in the Maghreb as a whole and Morocco in particular. My intent is not only to identify patterns of language and ideology which contribute to and support the colonialist narrative but also to develop an understanding of how Rouanet, as a representative of one of the colonizing powers, analyzes Maghrebi culture.

Thematics and Vocabulary

In many cases, Rouanet’s observations corroborate the spirit of other colonial-era European writers. Chottin, for instance—who cites Rouanet in the bibliography of Tableau de la Musique Marocaine (1938, p. 215)—polarizes Moroccan musical genres in juxtaposing the “classical music of Andalusian origin” against “popular music…influenced by Berber song, sometimes even of foreign origin: Turkish in processional music, Negro in certain [Sufi] brotherhoods” (p. 107). He characterizes Andalusian music, in contrast to popular genres, as “courtly art and bourgeois art, complex, learned and refined” (p. 107)—echoing Édouard Michaux-Bellaire’s 1908 elaboration of the bled al-makhzan/bled as-siba “dichotomy” as first articulated by Eugène Étienne in 1904 (Burke, 2014, p. 79), which posited the “land of government” against the “land of insolence,” thereby “equating Arab and makhzan, Berber and siba” (Burke, 2014, pp. 80-81). Similarly, Rouanet’s hierarchy of the Algerian repertoire places noubet ghernata, derived from Andalusian music culture, in the first position and zendani (“the popular little verse”) in the seventh and last (1922, p. 2845).

This passage from Chottin also hearkens to Rouanet’s use of the word “refined” in the Introduction (reinforcing the urban/rural dichotomy)[8] and Chapter I of his entry, where this word arguably signifies a code for “civilized.”[9] In discussing the “artistic decadence” of “the indigenous peoples who inhabit the Maghreb,” Rouanet refers to the necessary patronage[10] from “a refined elite and a mentality always tending toward high aspirations and toward a common ideal” (1922, p. 2813; emphasis added), underscoring class distinctions.

Having established the critical parameters of the social milieu foundational to his discussion, Rouanet anticipates Chottin in his stratification of Moroccan music culture: denoting the Andalusian origins of the aâla[11] and its poetic expression of “regrets for the past, the memory of the splendor of the great Arab cities, the evocations of the festivals, of the power, of the civilization of the ancestors” (1922, p. 2883). “On the other hand,” he continues, “in the countryside the music has preserved the Berber forms and character; it is more crude and also more energetic, more severe and more rustic” (p. 2884).

The sets of distinctions in Rouanet’s narrative—positing townspeople contra countryside, refinement vs. crudity—arguably conflate Eurocentric and elite rhetoric. Further, he appears to disregard the validity of the centuries-old traditional person-to-person transmission of musical knowledge by culture-bearers in Maghrebi culture in citing “the fatal failures of oral tradition” (1922, p. 2875), observing in a subsequent section that “in all Muslim countries, the absence of any semiology has entrusted the repertoire of the ancients to oral tradition alone”—while noting the “pious preservation of this heritage” in Algiers and Tlemcen
(p. 2878). He reiterates this argument later in the entry, during his discussion of Moroccan music.

Highly troubling to this reader is the section on “Les danses” in Chapter VIII, “Musique profane dans les lieux publics,” with an undisguised subtext of exoticization and racialization which reinforces the stereotypes of colonialist literature. Writing of the scarf dance (“danse des foulards”), Rouanet injects his consciousness of local class hierarchies in commenting on its performance as an “elegant dance, often seen danced in Jewish families by women and girls of a better world,” positing this elegance against the “intentions of brutal sensuality without grace nor distinction” among the Kabyles, Riffian Berbers, and Moroccan Djbalas, all rural Maghrebi populations. This assessment is followed by a derogatory and dehumanizing vignette of the dances of “negroes” (“les nègres”)
in Constantine and Oran, described as “an appalling hub-bub” during which “the women scream with their heads thrown back and their eyes half-closed, with quivering throats that seem like beasts’ wails; they exalt the dance, exalt themselves, and in turn this simple and barbarous people reaches the paroxysm of hypnosis” (1922, p. 2832). Rouanet then proceeds to describe an urban dance featuring “the troupes of negro musicians ... beating their primitive instruments like madmen…singing unintelligible words” (p. 2832).

In a study of the Gnawa tradition, Meriem Alaoui Btarny cites a 1924 article by Rouanet in La revue musicale, “Les visages de la musique musulmane” [“The faces of Muslim music”], which reproduces the verbiage of his 1922 work in describing “troupes of Negro musicians, covered in tinsel, their faces hidden under a hideous mask” and producing “a terrible hullabaloo” during which “the sound of large bendairs, deffs and big drums mingles with the sharp clash of iron castanets.” He reiterates the presence of screaming women and “simple and barbaric people,” along with “the paroxysm of hypnosis through the violence and the exasperation of the rhythm, any other musical form being absent” (2016, p. 21).

Uncovering Rouanet’s Cultural Ideology

Rouanet’s 1922 writing fails to explain the basis for his aesthetic judgments—whether the presumed inferiority of the colonized Maghrebis, his relegation of tribal artistic expression to the “folk” realm, or merely the unfamiliarity of these expressions coupled with their divergence from a Western sensibility. This omission could arguably be attributed to Rouanet’s perpetuation of the racialized hierarchical distinctions among Jews, Arabs, and Berbers created and reinforced by colonial ideology. Btarny underscores the impact of these observations and opinions deriving from the 1924 article vis-à-vis shaping perspectives of a minority culture: “These distant portraits of these mythical musicians and dancers trace the first encounters with the Gnawa.” She further draws a correlation between the “ideas and images” and “ideological presuppositions” of these accounts, particularly “the reports of contempt for Gnawa sounds and choreographies” along with their potential to influence “the eyes of future observers” (2016, p. 22).

Coaxing this analysis a step further, it becomes imperative to ask: What, exactly, was Rouanet implying by his equation of the hypnotic rituals of “les nègres” with “la musique musulmane”? That is, was Rouanet in actuality moving beyond the geographic milieux of these practices into a broader—and baldly pejorative—critique of Islam itself? One recalls the phrase of Mouliéras in referring to the “bottomless abyss of the Mohammedan Soul” (cf. note 7 above). Jamil M. Abun-Nasr (1987) indeed makes this incisive observation regarding the alterity of Islam as the key to the binarization of a colonized Maghreb:

The heterogeneous native groups were further brought together by the realization that regardless of their locality, social background, or educational attainment, they were all treated as different from and inferior to the foreign colonizer. As racial differentiation on the basis of colour was not always possible, and some of the Maghribi Muslims adopted the customs and ways of the Europeans, the distinction between colonizer and colonized came to be based on religion. (p. 324)

Abun-Nasr explains that “Muslim” became equivalent to “indigenous,” and “signified backwardness, unprivileged political status, and generally being economically dispossessed” (1987, p. 324). The colonial Protectorates thus operated through schism, division, and polarity, imposing new binary constructs that did not exist prior to their incursions—and, I would add, introducing a new dimension to the extant internal binaries of race and class[12] which Moroccan elites would later mobilize following Independence. As an intriguing side-bar, I gloss Lois Ibsen al-Faruqi’s correlation of the elements of content, form, and performance practice of the Andalusian muwashshaḥ (sung poetry) which served as embodiments of the Islamic aesthetic, particularly noting the aspects of repetition (takarrur) and the symmetry (tanasuq) which evokes “a feeling of infinite pattern” along with the arabesque, known as tawriq, or “foliation” (1975, p. 12). In other words, the Moroccan musical genre rooted in a culture considered “refined” by Rouanet and later, Chottin, was, in reality, intrinsically bound up with core Islamic aesthetics.

Implications of Rouanet’s Colonialist Narrative

Why is this 1922 entry important, how did it contribute to the corpus of the literature of the time, and how has its ideology shaped readers’ perceptions of Maghrebi music culture for the past century? Within Rouanet’s colonialist narrative, the West becomes the ultimate arbiter of “civilization,” constructing a dually stratified schema in which the West is de facto superior to the East, urban is superior to rural, and native elites are superior to the peasantry. Rouanet indeed initiates his discussion of Moroccan music[13]—a mere sub-heading in Chapter XIV, “Le répertoire des musiciens de Tunis”—by immediately invoking Michaux-Bellaire’s bled al-makhzen/bled as-siba binary in its polarization of the rural and urban as “two societies, quite distinct” (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2882), concurrently drawing on the colonial lexicon:

In the countryside is the Berber society, the harsh mountain dwellers rebellious to the authority of the sultans, fantastical and intractable; in the cities, it is a predominantly Moorish society that remembers the ancient splendors and has preserved a kind of aristocratic and contemplative, refined, brilliant and ostentatious life. (p. 2882)

Discerning the extent to which pre-colonial discourse in Morocco presaged this binarism merits further exploration. The echo of Michaux-Bellaire’s binary, promulgated by Rouanet and, thereafter, Chottin within the colonialist sphere—positing “refined” classical music against “popular”—would resound decades later in the handbook on Moroccan music written by post-Independence musicologist and Ministry of Culture official Ahmed Aydoun (2014), privileging Andalusian music over “folk” genres. In this regard, Aydoun may arguably be perceived as imitating rather than rejecting the colonialist structure of Chottin’s 1938 Tableau de la Musique Marocaine—with socio-political repercussions beyond the printed word in as much as the Fassis’ cultural/political cachet is perpetually enhanced through its historic connection to al-Andalus vis-à-vis the post-Reconquista migrations from Granada to Fès (Davila, 2013,
p. 58). 

Rouanet’s Legacy and the Decolonizing Imperative

The task of re-examining Rouanet’s text becomes entangled with the contemporary mandate to discern and critique the impact of the colonialist undercurrents inherent in writings of the era. To this day, students of ethnomusicology and other disciplines routinely consult EMDC, which remains on course syllabi as a standard reference in the field. Among the researchers drawing on Rouanet—in addition to Chottin—was Henry George Farmer, a prolific Arabist who opens an April 1932 article by citing “Jules Rouanet, the well-known writer on the music of Maghrib” (p. 379). Referring to the EMDC entry, Farmer notes that Rouanet had “lamented” the loss of “the mediaeval treatises of the Western Arabian musical system,” especially in light of the fact that, at the current time, “not a solitary practitioner in the Maghrib had the slightest acquaintance with musical theory” (p. 379). Farmer again cites Rouanet in his entry on Maghribí music in the 5th edition of Grove, in conjunction with Edmond Yafil (p. 507) and with regard to music culture in Tunis (p. 508). The first edition of Musiques du Maroc by Aydoun (2001, p. 43) mentions Rouanet, also related to his work with Yafil. Notwithstanding Farmer’s frequent citations of Rouanet’s oeuvre, Edith Gerson-Kiwi wrote to Farmer in the mid-1940s: “I remember Mr. Reeves mentioning your disapproval of M. [Jules] Rouanet’s contribution to the French Encyclopédie. If so, I quite share your opinion” (Katz, 2020, p. 125). Her mentor, Robert Lachmann, had referred a decade earlier to the “superficiality” of “French authors like Rouanet” (2020, 169).[14]

Evaluating the substantial corpus of colonial-era literature within which Rouanet’s work is situated remains a conundrum for post-colonial Maghrebi scholarship: valuing the first-hand observations of researchers of that era while interrogating its implicit assumptions about and interpretations of local culture. To what end did these Eurocentric writings ultimately prolong and reinforce the dynamic of superior vs. inferior at the core of colonialist ideology, especially in the absence of the input and insights of native voices?

The Eurocentric ideology endemic to colonialist literature would be replicated by Paul Bowles, an American expatriate of considerable celebrity (albeit with an absence of ethnographic training) who embarked on a four-month recording project throughout several regions of Morocco in 1959—a mere three years after independence.[15] In a 1963 memoir essay, “The Rif, to Music,” Bowles replicates a colonialist term signifying dominance in writing that his “stint… was to capture…examples of every major musical genre to be found within the boundaries of the country” (2002, p. 779; emphasis added).[16] His 122 pages of typewritten field note facsimiles, available on the MIT Archnet Web site (from document #1A on August 1, 1959 in Ain ed Diab to #60A on December 18, 1959 in Marrakech)[17] reveal his manipulative field methodology, inaccurate interpretations, and tacit disapproval of numerous aesthetic aspects of local music culture. His transgressions included a critique of an Indigenous percussion instrument, the bendir, as “an instrument [he] could do without” due to its “heavy reverberant sound” and “dull buzz” (1959, #23B). He deemed a song recorded with the Beni Uriaghel in Einzoren as “surprisingly repetitious even for Berber music” (2002, pp. 790-791), and sparked an altercation with a Beni Bouifrour musician in Segangan by insisting on a solo on the qsbah, a reed flute (1959, #24A), even invoking the power of the American government with the local caid (pp. 800-801).

Colonialist fieldwork methods and reportage would be supplanted by the ethics and methodologies of the emerging discipline of Ethnomusicology, with the introduction of the participant/observer model and a shift to an acknowledgement of the local interlocutor as the source of knowledge, eradicating the superior/inferior modality of colonial-era ethnography and re-framing cultural narratives from the perspectives of those living it. Analyzing the colonialist/imperialist/Eurocentric agendas and methodologies inherent in many “classic” projects and writings can only contribute to fairer and more accurate representations of Indigenous cultures. Even Jaap Kunst, who introduced the term “Ethno-musicology” in 1950 (p. 7) as the field formerly known as “Comparative Musicology” was transitioning to this new discipline, acknowledged the sea-change in academic approaches to non-Western cultures, writing in the second edition of Ethnomusicology: “I have taken care to add many particulars from non-European sources, with the result that the book is no longer as Europe-centric as it was” (1959, p. v).[18]

In the decade following Moroccan independence, major works by Maghrebi-based writers would acknowledge the lingering impact of colonialism—with Fanon identifying the “indelible wounds inflicted on our people by the colonialist onslaught” (1963, p. 181) and Albert Memmi lamenting the “wounds which [colonization] has left in the flesh of the colonized” (1965, p. 34). Emerging Maghrebi voices demanded an end to cultural hegemony, with Mohamed-Chérif Sahli calling for a “new Copernican revolution” to oust Europe from the scholastic mindset in his 1965 book Décoloniser l’histoire (2007, 119). “Heeding Fanon’s call to leave Europe behind” (Harrison & Villa Ignacio, 2016, p. 2), Abdellatif Laâbi wrote in the avant-garde post-Independence Moroccan journal Souffles two years later of the ongoing process of decolonization as a dual one: not only reclaiming local culture on a granular level, but rejecting the knowledge base imposed by the lineage of “Oriental scholarship.” Olivia C. Harrison and Teresa Villa-Ignacio recall that Laâbi’s 1967 essay articulated with renewed urgency the need for “cultural decolonization” in the post-colonial era, denouncing French cultural imperialism and Orientalist scholarship while urging Maghrebi writers, artists, and intellectuals to forge new languages, forms, and genres that were “not tributary to European cultural norms” (p. 67).

To what extent has Laâbi’s clarion call been heeded over the past half-century? Hassan Rachik comments on the trend—with its genesis in Laâbi’s time period—for Maghrebi scholars to decolonize the “colonial literature produced on their countries” and thus “purge the national history and culture from colonial defects” (2020, p. 43). Ali Abdullatif Ahmida (2009) interrogates the “orientalist, colonialist and nationalist theories” imposed on the Maghreb in an effort to counter impulses by former colonizers to re-cast the colonial period in a revisionist light, as in the 2005 law passed by the French National Assembly “hailing the ‘positive role of colonisation’, especially in North Africa” (p. 1227). Challenging the corpus of colonial-era writings—and excising their “defects”—thus requires no less than an infusion of critical re-readings and re-scripting of the Maghrebi narrative by those closest to the source.

This effort does not occur in a vacuum. The task of revisiting and critiquing existing literature, identifying its lexicon of damaging and polarizing colonialist rhetoric, detecting any lingering colonial traces in contemporary scholarship, and formulating a new corpus of literature drawing on the perspectives of Indigenous interlocutors and scholars holds the promise of what Samuel Araújo describes as the “transformation” of ethnomusicology resulting from “new epistemological scenari emerging out of post-colonial situations” (2008, p. 13). Araújo indeed envisions an ethnographic model in which “knowledge will hopefully emerge from a truly horizontal, intercultural dialogue and not through top-to-bottom neo-colonial systems of validation” (p. 13). Revolutionizing this discredited ideological approach carries the potential of overturning the “distorted narratives” which, Beatriz Marín-Aguilera contends, are perpetuated by former colonial powers—citing the case of Spain, which “regulates and promotes a particular heritage discourse that has conveniently been depoliticised” (2018, p. 472). She further maintains that by means of this discourse, “in line with previous colonial narratives,” Spain “has silenced the painful history of struggle and resilience of the inhabitants of Chaouen”
(2018, p. 472).

Linda Tuhiwai Smith emphasizes the task of the Indigenous scholar in confronting, and overturning, colonialist ideology and praxis, stating:

“From the vantage point of the colonized, a position from which
I write, and choose to privilege, the term ‘research’ is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism…. It appalls us that the West can desire, extract and claim ownership of our ways of knowing, our imagery, the things we create and produce.”
(2021, p. 2)

Ultimately, these contemporary reassessments—grounded in the lineage of the scholars who pioneered the discipline of Subaltern Studies—carry the potential to contribute to the creation of a new decolonized genealogy of scholarship and critique within the Global South, its practitioners entrusted with the task of interrogating the positionality underscoring ethnographic narratives: that is, who is telling the story, how, and why?


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Ahmida, A. A. (2009). Beyond Orientalist, Colonial and National Models: A Critical Mapping of Maghribi Studies. Third World Quarterly, xxx(6), 1951–2000.

Alaoui Btarny, M. (2016). Les Gnawa en rythmes et en mouvements. Construction et circulation de l’image de l’Autre. [Tr: The Gnawa in rhythms and movements. Construction and circulation of the image of the Other.]. Loxias-Colloques, vii, 1–32.

al-Faruqi, L. I. (1975). Muwashshaḥ: A Vocal Form in Islamic Culture. Ethnomusicology, xix(1), 1–29.

Anghie, A. (2004). Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cambridge University Press.

Araújo, S. (2008). From Neutrality to Praxis: The Shifting Politics of Ethnomusicology in the Contemporary World. Muzikološdi Zbornik/Musicological Annual, xliv, 13–30.

Aubin, E. (1906). Morocco of To-Day. J. M. Dent & Company.

Aydoun, A. (2014). Musiques Du Maroc. [Tr: Musics of Morocco.] (2nd ed.). La Croisée des Chemins.

Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The Location of Culture. Routledge.

Bowles, P. F. (1963). “The Rif, to Music” In: Their Heads are Green and their Hands are Blue: Scenes from the Non-Christian World. In D. Halpern (Ed.), Paul Bowles: Collected Stories & Later Writings
(pp. 778–812). Literary Classics of the United States.

Bowles, P. F. (1994). Folk, Popular, and Art Music of Morocco. The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection [Field Notes]. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1959-1962b.

Burke, E. I. (2014). The ethnographic state: France and the invention of Moroccan Islam. University of California Press.

Chottin, A. (1938). Tableau de la musique marocaine. [Tr. Overview of Moroccan Music]. Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner.

Davila, C. (2013). The Andalusian Music of Morocco: Al-Ala: History, Society and Text. Reichert Verlag.

Dutot, S. (1840). De l’expatriation, considérée sous ses rapports économiques, politiques et moraux. Arthus Bertrand.

el-Hamel, C. (2008). Constructing a Diasporic Identity: Tracing the Origins of the Gnawa Spiritual Group in Morocco. Journal of African History, xlix, 241–260.

el-Hamel, C. (2014). Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam. Cambridge University Press.

Fanon, F. (1952). Peau noire, masques blancs. Éditions du Seuil.

Farmer, H. G. (1932). An Old Moorish Lute Tutor (Continued). Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, ii(2), 379–389.

Farmer, H. G. (1954). Maghribí Music. In E. Blom (Ed.), Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (5th ed., pp. 504–508). MacMillan.

Fitzmaurice, A. (2014). Sovereignty, property and empire, 1500-2000. Cambridge University Press.

Glasser, J. (2016). The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. University of Chicago Press.

Goldberg, H. E. (1978). The Mimuna and the Minority Status of Moroccan Jews. Ethnology, xvii(1), 75–87.

Harris, N. D. (1913). The New Moroccan Protectorate. The American Journal of International Law, vii(2), 245–267.

Harrison, O. C., & Villa-Ignacio, T. (Eds.). (2016). Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology From the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics. Stanford University Press.

Katz, I. J. (n.d.). Robert Lachmann’s Letters to Henry George Farmer (from 1923 to 1938). Brill.

Kunst, J. (1950). Musicologica: A Study of the Nature of Ethno-musicology, Its Problems, Methods, and Representative Personalities. Indisch Instituut.

Kunst, J. (1955). Ethno-Musicology: A study of its nature, its problems, methods and representative personalities to which is added a bibliography. Martinus Nijhoff.

Laabi, A. (2016). Realities and Dilemmas of National Culture I and II. In Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics (pp. 61–73; 95–104). Stanford University Press.

Langlois, A. R. (2009). Music and Politics in North Africa. In L. Nooshin (Ed.), Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (pp. 207–228). Ashgate Publishing.

Marín-Aguilera, B. (2018). Distorted Narratives: Morocco, Spain, and the Colonial Stratigraphy of Cultural Heritage. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, xiv(3), 472–500.

Massad, J. A. (2008). Desiring Arabs. University of Chicago Press.

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Paidipaty, P. (2008). Gaze, Colonial. In W. A. Jr. Darity (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (2nd ed., Vol. iii). Macmillan Reference USA.

Pasler, J. (2012). Musical hybridity in flux: Representing race, colonial policy, and modernity in French North Africa, 1860s-1930s. Afrika Zamani: Revue Annuelle d’Histoire Africaine, 20/21, 21–68.

Rachik, H. (2020). Understanding Colonial Anthropology: On the Ethnographic Situation Approach. Hespéris-Tamuda, lv(2), 41–60.

Rouanet, J. (1922). La musique Arabe dans le Maghreb [Tr. Arab Music in the Maghreb]. In A. Lavignac & L. de la Laurencie (Eds.), Encyclopédie de la Musique & Dictionnaire du Conservatoire: Vol. Première partie, Histoire de la Musique, V (pp. 2813–2944). Librairie Delagrave.

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Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism. Pantheon Books.

Sater, J. N. (2016). Morocco: Challenges to Tradition and Modernity (2nd ed.). Routledge.

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Toler, M. A. (2016). From Tangier’s Old Medina to the World: Efforts to Make the Visual Resources in the Collection of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies More Widely Available. MELA Notes, lxxxix, 15–21.

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Hicham CHAMI[1]


[1] Columbia University in the City of New York (U.S.).

[2] In according with the usage suggested in APA Style under “Racial and Ethnic Identity,”
I capitalize “Indigenous” in this essay unless used in a direct quote which does not follow this practice.

[3] The nawba, or nūba (nouba), is a suite of Andalusi music including instrumentals and vocals; originally, often thought to represent each hour of the day. Eleven nawbāt are extant in Morocco (cf. Glasser, 2016, p. 211).

[4] Just seven years later, for instance, Eugène Aubin would comment on Morocco as “a country so hostile to European influences” that his extensive travels would have been “impossible…without the assistance of an Algerian, Si Kaddour ben Ghabrit”
(1906, p. vi).

[5]22 years of Explorations in this mysterious land from 1872 to 1893

[6] In an intriguing hypothesis, Hassan Rachik points out that the position of ethnographer Edward Westermarck, as a Finnish scholar, “is clearly different from [Edmond] Doutté’s position who led his missions as part of the French colonial expansion” (2020, p. 51).
In my research, I have found Westermarck’s documentation consistently absent of judgmental statements regarding Moroccan culture; rather, limiting his commentary to meticulous descriptions of local customs, important concepts such as baraka, and representation of the Moroccan point of view; cf. his account of the Andjra fire ceremony (1899, p. 28). 

[7] Jann Pasler observes that “Rouanet, Yafil, Chottin, and Erlanger concurred in the need to collect, first and foremost, music the medieval Moors brought from Andalusia, Spain” (2011, p. 57).

[8] Rouanet refers to “the refined soul of the townspeople”/“l’âme raffinée des citadins” (1922, p. 2813; emphasis added).

[9] Eugène Aubin comments on “the refined life of the Fasis”[9] [residents of Fès] in describing his sojourn in that city (1906, p. 267; emphasis added), introducing an important internal class hierarchy within Morocco. Rouanet (1922) cites Aubin’s book on p. 2828, in reference to the music performed at the annual festival of the tolba in Fez during which a university student masquerades as the Sultan. Harvey E. Goldberg points out that the students “represent two different social backgrounds, the city of Fez itself and the surrounding countryside” and that it is those in the latter group, and “not the Fasis,” who “select a mock king” (1978, p. 83).

[10] In discussing the viability of the andalus genre within post-Independence Moroccan culture, Tony Langlois comments that this genre “requires patronage, either from elites or from governmental structures”—citing the inevitability that “the music is implicated with regimes of power” (2009, p. 214); Jonathan Glasser describes “the patronage of Andalusi music” as “traditionally the purview of a certain sector of the bourgeoisie” (2016, 231).

[11] Variant spelling of al-āla, shorthand for al-alā al-andalusiyya, the local expression of the Andalusian music tradition which emerged in Morocco, and throughout the Maghreb, in tandem with migrations across the Strait of Gibraltar during the Reconquista.

[12] Chouki El Hamel notes the perceptions of some “Muslim intellectuals” regarding the Gnawa brotherhood as “an inferior form of Sufism—a cult influenced by pagan black traditions and embraced mostly by lower-class people with little or no literacy and learning” (2014, p. 282).

[13] “La musique indigène au Maroc”

[14] The complete quotation: “I think that shortness is not the same as superficiality (French authors like Rouanet, but also writers of other nationality, have proved us that superficiality is quite compatible with lengthiness).”

[15] A 2-disc vinyl recording was released on the Library of Congress label in 1962. Edwin Seroussi edited music recorded in Meknes and Essaouira for “Sacred Music of the Moroccan Jews,” issued by Rounder Music in 2000. In partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM) digitized 72 hours of music recorded by Bowles and housed at the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song as a “repatriation” project in 2010. The collection is now online at Archnet, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Toler, 2016). Philip D. Schuyler edited Bowles’s field notes for a commercial boxed-set released in 2016.

[16] Schuyler critiques Bowles’s unsavory safari allusion in commenting: “Like earlier collectors (and big-game hunters), he believed that his job was to ‘capture’ the sounds” (2016, p. 26).

[17] The field notes are accessed via a consolidated pdf document on the MIT Archnet Web site (under “Publications”):; eight additional pages of notes from recording sessions conducted by Bowles and Christopher Wanklyn in 1960-1962 are included.

[18] This quotation from the second edition is sourced in the third edition, cited in the Bibliography.

تحسّر، جدالات واستراتيجيات تراثية: الموسيقى الحضرية في الجزائر أثناء الاحتلال الفرنسي

لا يمكن حصر تمظهرات الحفاظ على الموروث الثقافي دائما في الاحتفاء الإلزامي به وإحاطته بهالة من القداسة، ولكن يتجلى هذا الاهتمام أيضا في الكشف عن التحديات التي يطرحها والآفاق التي يفتحها. هذه التحديات الرمزية، والمادية والمؤسساتية التي يمكنها أن تتمظهر في صورة خطاب نقدي وتحسر، أو بشكل أكثر جدلا في صورة سجال. ففي القرن العشرين، لاحظنا أنّ النقاش حول الموروث الموسيقي الجزائري قد سلك أحد هذه المسالك: النظرة التشاؤمية، النقد الهجائي، أو التفاؤل المعتدل. يتناول المقال هذا الموضوع، وذلك بإلقاء الضوء على بعض الأحداث والآراء التي ميزت صيرورة التتريث (الحفاظ على التراث) أثناء فترة الاحتلال الفرنسي، والتي عالجت بالتساوي مواضيع الممارسة الموسيقية، وهويتها وأساليب تملُّكها.

تُنسب الموسيقى في المغرب العربي منذ أكثر من قرن ونصف إلى مصدرين اثنين، والمُعبّر عنهما بمصطلح التراث (على نحو الموسيقى الحضرية من أصل عربي-أندلسي)[2]، أو بمصطلح التقاليد - المبهم - (الموسيقى الشعبية). وقد تأرجحت بقية الأشكال الموسيقية بين هذين القطبين، دون أن تجسد شكلا محددا في السياق التاريخي للأشكال الموسيقية والغنائية. وعلى نحو مماثل، بدا أن الأنواع الناتجة عنها قد تشكلت وفق أساليب جديدة، كمحاولة للتعبير عن احتياجات جديدة. وبهذا، ستتيح الأشكال الهجينة للأشكال التوفيقية بين العالِم والتقليدي الديمومة، أو بالأحرى، احترام بعض العناصر الثقافية دون إحداث القطيعة (مثال: الشعبي، العصري، الراي). فعلى غرار ما ذكره جاك بيرك، يمكن الحديث هنا عن عملية تكيّف، إذ جاء على لسانه:
«مع هذا بقي الذوق الموسيقي في جوهره وفيا لبيئته. فقد خضع بالتأكيد لعملية التثقيف، والتهجين، والتماهي، لكن مع تحسّر على التنازلات المفروضة على الأصيل والعجز عن التغيّر فعليا» (Berque, 1980, p. 242). هذا التحول، سيفضي بالضرورة إلى حرية أكبر في الاستخدامات الموسيقية، كاعتماد آلات جديدة، وتنويع في التوزيعات الموسيقية وبروز مواضيع جديدة (مثال: تراجع المديح لصالح الحضري، وفرض المناسباتي بدلا عن الاحتفالي). وفي هذا السياق، يدعو الأكاديمي مالكولم ثيولاير (Malcolm Théoleyre) لضرورة النظر إلى مختلف المبادرات المرتبطة بالموسيقى أثناء الفترة الاستعمارية من خلال هدفها العام: (...) فبدءا بالكتابات الفولكلورية، ومرورا بالمنشطين الجزائريين الشباب في جمعيات الموسيقى العاصمية، ووصولا إلى الأعوان الفرانكو-مسلمين في "الحكومة العامة"، شكلت مبادرة ترقية الموسيقى الناطقة باللغة العربية اعترافا بالاختلاف وشرطا لتكامل المشروع الوطني في الجزائر.
. (Théoleyre, 2016, p. 641)

يندرج كل هذا في إطار إجراءات تطوير المنتوج الفني، بما فيها مظاهره النقدية والمتعارضة. كما ساهمت ردود الفعل تجاه هذه التطورات سواء في شقها الإيجابي أو السلبي في زيادة الوعي التراثي أو تراجعه. هذا وتجدر الإشارة إلى تأثير التواجد الاستعماري على الموسيقى، وذلك عبر الانغلاق على الذات تارة والاستثمار المفرط فيها، أو عبر مجاراة الأشكال الاستعراضية (الانتقال من مكان عام (السوق) إلى المقهى، ومن العروض المناسباتية (حفلات متنوعة ومراسم) إلى حفلات خاصة).

التحسّر: كريستيانوفيتش، روانيه، أزرور، بيرك، الحكومة الاستعمارية العامة

شكّل التحسّر أكثر العبارات تداولا لوصف حالة الموسيقى الحضرية في الجزائر خلال الفترة الاستعمارية، والذي يعد مزيجا من الندم، والرثاء وكذا الاحتقار. فهو يعكس وضعا مقلقا، وسلوكا غير مفهوم، وممارسات محل جدال، بل يعتبر اختلالا هيكليا. تختلف بطبيعة الحال هذه التقديرات باختلاف مجال اختصاص أصحابها ما بين: علم الموسيقى، والأنثروبولوجيا، أو المنصب الإداري، ولكنها بشكل عام، تجمع كلها على موضعة الاهتمام بالثقافة الموسيقية ضمن الفضاء الاستعماري. فهي على الرغم من عدم اقتراحها لإصلاحات واضحة، فإنها تدعو بشكل غير مباشر إلى إعادة تأهيل هذه الأنواع الموسيقية وخلفياتها الثقافية. هذا ما يشير إليه مالكولم ثيولاير عند حديثه عن "الجمعيـات الموسيقية الخاصـة بالأهالي"، التي تحدد إلى حد ما وبشكل تقديري، نظاما تراثيا ما.

ذكر الروسي ألكسندر كريستيانوفيتش (Alexandre Christianowitsh) (1874-1835) المولع بالموسيقى والباحث في الموروث الموسيقي العربي الأندلسي، بأنّه خلال زيارته إلى الجزائر بعد ثلاثين عاما من الاحتلال الفرنسي، لم يصادف غير الموسيقى المؤداة في المقاهي من طرف اليهود خاصة. ففي مدينة الجزائر المجهولة، والشاحبة والغامضة، أخبره المُخبر المرافق له: «عن وجود ثلاثة موسيقيين فقط قادرين على أداء النوبة وهم: حاج براهيم، وسيد أحمد بن سلِيَمْ ومحمد المنمش (المولود عام 1806 والمتوفي عام 1890)، فباستثناء هؤلاء الثلاثة، ليس هناك من يعرفها» (Christianowitsh, 1863, p. 6). وتم إخباره كذلك عن حمود بن مصطفى، الذي امتهن بعد حصوله على الإعدادية صناعة القيطان، أسوة بأبيه. وقد تتلمذ على يد الشيخ سيد أحمد بن حاج براهيم، كما أنه يُعدُّ من أوائل المخبرين عن الموسيقى العالمة. فحسب الباحث الروسي، هي مؤشرات عن فن متلاش، بل شيئا فشيئا هو عرضة للنسيان.

في فترة لاحقة، لجأ مختلف الملاحظين إلى استخدام عبارات تركة دون وريث، الإهمال، الاستقالة، أو التقهقر، للدلالة على وضعية الموسيقى الحضرية القديمة، «فهي محاولة لدق ناقوس الخطر ضد الانحطاط الفني المسجل منذ بداية القرن، وضد أخطار زواله، أو بشكل عام ضد التحول الفتاك لهذه الأنواع الموسيقية بفعل العامل الزمني، والذي يزيد خطره يوما بعد يوم حتى في المجتمع المسلم»
(Barbès, 1947, p. 7 ).

نلاحظ مثلا عدم اكتراث النخبة (الممثلة في المثقفين والأعيان حسب روانيه) بالموضوع. في حين يشير أزرور بشأن الموسيقى الحضرية في مدينة الجزائر، إلى جهل معنى الموسيقى، وعدم إجادة اللغة، بالإضافة إلى ضعف التكوين في مجالي الغناء والعزف. ولقد أعزى الباحث سبب هذا الضعف إلى إدخال آلات جديدة والتخلي عن بعض الآلات التقليدية. ولكن الأمر يتعلق كذلك بالمنافسة بين الفرق الموسيقية، ضياع الرصيد الموسيقي، روتينية العمل، إضافة إلى تراجع مداخيل الحفلات. سيؤدي هذا كله إلى بعض النتائج التي تتحدث عن محاولة البقاء، موسيقى فلكلورية، أو مجرد لهو.

في عام 1949، قام البودالي سفير بنقل نص غير منشور لجيل روانيه
(Jules Rouanet)، الذي أعرب فيه عن شعوره بالأسف الشديد نتيجة ضياع قيم الموسيقى العالمة وشروط جودتها، محملا مسؤولية ذلك لمحبي الموسيقى المطلعين، وللمثقفين الواعين.

في تقرير صادر في أبريل من عام 1940 حول البرامج الإذاعية الموجهة للجزائريين، لم يتردد أزرور عن إبداء رأيه فيه حول وضعية الموسيقى الحضرية، حيث تحدّث عن حالة من الانحطاط مُوجّها أصابع الاتهام للموسيقيين أنفسهم، وكذلك للأنواع الموسيقية المستحدثة[3]. فهو يشير إلى التحولات التي مسّت "عوالم الفن"، بمعنى آخر، البوتقة ونظام التضامن الفني اللذين ينصهر فيهما الفن الموسيقي. كما أشار إلى الجانب الاقتصادي وتأثير تراجع المداخيل، التي دفعت بالكثيرين إلى التخلي عن ممارسة الموسيقى العالمة واستبدالها بالأنواع الموسيقية الخفيفة. سيسمح الاقتباس الموالي بالوقوف على تفاصيل وضعية الموسيقى الحضرية من وجهة نظره، وشعور الاستياء الذي كان ينتابه: العروض الغنائية. الموسيقى الحضرية في مدينة الجزائر: (...) يمكن وصف الحفلات الموسيقية الحضرية المعروضة على الجمهور حاليا والتي تبرر تذمره في كلمة واحدة ألا وهي الانحطاط.

لا يمكن التطرق بإطناب إلى أسباب هذا الانحطاط الواضح في هذا التقرير، ولكن يمكن تحديد مظاهره في: جهل شبه عام لمعنى هذه الموسيقى ولقواعد لغتها، ضعف مستوى الفنانين من ناحية الغناء والعزف، الإفراط في استخدام آلات موسيقية لا تتناسب مع الموسيقى العربية كالبيانو، والماندولينة، والبانجو والدربوكة وغيرها من الآلات، والتخلي في الوقت نفسه عن الآلات القديمة كالقانون، والكمان أو الربابة، والڤيثارة صغيرة الحجم أو الكويترة وآلات أخرى. وأخيرا، تشتت بعض الموسيقيين الجيدين في عدد كبير من الجمعيات المتنافسة التي تضم موسيقيا جيّدا أو اثنين في وسط مبتدئين ضعيفي المستوى، عدم الاكتراث المتزايد بهذا النوع من الموسيقى نتيجة تراجع مداخيله، وهذا بفعل ملل الجمهور منه وشغفهم بالموسيقى الشرقية حسنة الأداء رغم ضعف مستواها. ينبغي أيضا التنويه أن عددا قليلا من الفنانين (على الأرجح واحدا أو اثنين) لا زال لديه معرفة بالرصيد الموسيقي الحضري كلّه، الأمر الذي جعل الفرق الموسيقية تكتفي بإعادة عزف القطع الموسيقية نفسها بشكل روتيني، ما يقارب المئة لحن غير مكتمل، اشتمل عليها مؤلف يافيل غير الجيد والمليء بالأخطاء الجسيمة (ص. 11).

أكد جاك بيرك (Jacques Berque) (Berque, 1962, p. 408) أيضا هذه المسألة بالإشارة إلى تفكك "عوالم الفن" لدى موسيقيي مدينة الجزائر في فترة ما بين الحربين، بمعنى آخر، مسألة غياب التضامن بين مختلف الموسيقيين رغبة في إثبات الأنا، الفاقد للمهارة الفنية في غالب الأحيان.

لا تحظى التحـولات دوما بالقبول، كما يعتبرها بعض المهتمين بالحياة الثقافية علامـة انحطـاط وتقهقر ثقافي فعلي: «(...) فالموسيقى الجزائرية المعاصرة تمثل في مجملها فشلا كبيرا، إذ لا علاقة لها بما هو جزائري إلا الاسم. فمعظم الموسيقيين المعاصرين قد تخلوا عن الموروث الثقافي النّاتج عن قرون من الإلهام الجماعي، وفضّلوا تقليد أو نسخ ألحان معاصرة ورقصات وأغاني مصرية، مقتبسة عن الموسيقى الأوروبية أو موسيقى أمريكا الجنوبية» (Hadj Ali, 1960, p. 130).

في السياق ذاته، أبدت المؤسسة السياسية الاستعمارية[4] اهتمامها المبكر بالموسيقى الحضرية والشعبية في المغرب العربي. ففي عام 1904، أسْنَدت لجيل روانيه مهمة تحضير تقرير عن الموضوع، تم نشره عام 1922 في موسوعة الموسيقى للافينياك. كما أنّها انشغلت بوضعية الموسيقى الأندلسية، تقديرا منها "بقيمة الموسيقى كأداة للبروباغندا". فالهدف المعلن من المشروع يكمن في جمع موروث الموسيقى الأندلسية "لتحقيق تقدم فني دائم للسكان الأصليين" - حسب زعمهم -. بالتالي، قامت باستحضار الأعمال القليلة التي تمت حول الموضوع، منوهة "برغبة البعض من أصحابها – كالموسيقي اليهودي يافيل – تحقيق أرباح مادية، بدل الاهتمام بالجانب الفني المحض". لكن في الواقع، يتعلق الأمر برغبة صريحة في مراقبة نشاط جمع ونقل الموروث الموسيقي، في الوقت الذي بدأت تبرز فيه على وجه التحديد الجمعيات الموسيقية المسلمة. فالغاية تكمن في «وضعها تحت رعاية الإدارة الفرنسية وتخليصها من المبادرات الخاصة التي لا يقتصر هدفها على تحقيق المصلحة العامة فقط». في الأخير، تبرر الإدارة الفرنسية سبب مبادرتها في: «(...) فلكلور غير معروف لغاية الآن، نتيجة أدائه بشكل سيء من طرف فنانين مملين، يعزفون بطريقة عفوية على آلات غير كافية». على كل حال، باتهامها للموسيقيين بالتهاون واللامبالاة، تمنح الإدارة الفرنسية لنفسها حق التدخل في الشأن الموسيقي[5].

نلاحظ من خلال مختلف الآراء السابقة بأنّ النظرة الدونية للموسيقى العالمة (الحضرية)، وطول فترة ضعفها وعدم إيلائها الاهتمام الكافي، سيتيح المجال بشكل عكسي لنوع من التصور المثالي عن فن متكامل، منسجم مع مجتمع متحضر وذي حس فني. إذ يمكننا في نهاية المطاف أن نعتبر الخصائص السلبية متطابقة مع المجيبين الإيجابيين. فهنا لدينا استحضار لأساليب توثيق الموروث الثقافي، مع كل أزمة للمجال الفني.

الجدل الدائر بين إدموند ناثان يافيل وجول روانيه[6]

يشكل الخلاف أرضية خصبة للتعبير بوضوح عن أوجه الاختلاف التي تغذي السجالات، بل دعاوى المشروعية القائمة حول الموروث الموسيقي: من هو صاحب هذا الموروث؟ من له حق حمايته، وأدائه، وتثمينه؟ ما هي خلفيته المرجعية، هل من مصدر أصلي أو مصطنع، أو محصلة تراكمات؟

تخضع، كما هو معلوم، مسألة ملكية الموروث الثقافي لعدة اعتبارات تاريخية، وقانونية وأخلاقية. وإذا كانت هذه التساؤلات صالحة حتى يومنا هذا، فإن فحص حالات تاريخية، يكشف دائما عن تمثلات ثقافية وإيديولوجية وعن علاقات القوة
(Glasser, 2016, pp.135-141) [7].

حظي عمل إدموند ناثان يافيل (Edmond-Nathan Yafil) الذي أنجزه في السياق الاستعماري، والمتعلق بجمع وتثمين الموروث الموسيقي العربي الأندلسي بتقدير عدد من المتخصصين، على الرغم من بقاء اسمه غير معروف لدى عامة النّاس. فمع بزوغ القرن العشرين، اُعتبر من القلائل الذين كرسوا طاقتهم ونشاطهم لحماية تراث مهدد بالاندثار. فقد أدرج جوناثان جلاسر (Jonathan Glasser) في مقال صادر له عام 2012، عمل يافيل ضمن المحاولات الساعية لإحياء الموسيقى الأندلسية في الجزائر مع نهاية القرن التاسع عشر. فيما أكد مالكولم ثيولاير (Malcolm Théoleyre) على دوره في الحفاظ على التراث، قائلا: "يجب الاعتراف بأن خطاب الحفاظ على الموروث الثقافي قد لازم باستمرار مبادرة يافيل". كما لا يمكن فصلها عن تصريحات مساعده روانيه التي ألقاها خلال مؤتمر المستشرقين عام 1905: "لوقت ليس ببعيد، كاد الإرث الموسيقي العربي أن يختفي دون أن تتمكن الأجيال اللاحقة من اكتشاف جماليته وعراقته، والتي ماثلت في مجدها الفن المعماري". فالراجح انتماء روانيه إلى مدرسة الإثنوموسيقيين-مصممي المتاحف، فهو قد استصعب على غرار تيارسو، تقبل النماذج التوفيقية الناجمة عن " الاندماج ". لكن، تأكيد روانيه على مساعدة يافيل له، قادنا إلى ربط هذا الأخير بالمقاربة المتحفيّة» (Théoleyre, 2016, p. 118).

أوضح جلاسر في كتاباته وبعد اطلاعه على الأعمال الأولى لألكسندر كريستيانوفيتش وفرانسيسكو سالفادور دانييل (Francisco Salvador-Daniel)، المواقف والرهانات والرؤى التي تبناها مختلف ملحني، ومتخصصي الموسيقى وكُتّاب هذه الموسيقى. وقد خلُص إلى اعتبار مشروع يافيل لإحياء الموروث الثقافي بلا منازع، الأكثر اتساقا والأطول زمنا (تجاوز الثلاثين عاما).

أما بالنسبة للباحثة كارولين لادرو (Caroline Ledru)، فقد تناولت في مقال أنجزته حول جيل روانيه كيفية اكتشاف هذا الأخير للثقافة الموسيقية الحضرية في الجزائر مع نهاية القرن التاسع عشر، وإطلاقه تسمية "الأندلسية" عليها لأول مرة، بدلا عن الموسيقى المغاربية الموصوفة بها إلى ذلك الحين، الأمر الذي أثار في سنوات لاحقة عددا من الاحتجاجات وأدى إلى اقتراح بدائل أخرى. «ففي الفترة الممتدة من 1905 وإلى غاية 1927، قام كل من روانيه وإدموند ناثان يافيل بنشر مجموعة من الكراريس، بلغ مجموعها سبعة وعشرين (27) كراسا تحت عنوان فهرس الموسيقى العربية والمغاربية، قاما فيها بتدوين النوبات بالرموز الموسيقية الغربية. وفي عام 1911، أصبح عضوا مساهما في صحيفة البرقية الجزائرية. ابتداء من عام 1927، وعلى الأرجح نتيجة خلاف مع يافيل، تخلى روانيه عن كل نشاط موسيقي وتفرغ نهائيا للنشاط النقابي وللدفاع عن الجزائر» (Ledru, 2008, p. 843).

يمكن أيضا التنويه بالدور المهم الذي قام به الموسيقيون من ضمنهم اليهود خلال هذه الفترة، في الحفاظ على الموروث الموسيقي، حيث تجلى إسهامهم خاصة في تعميم عملية التسجيل. فمع نهاية القرن التاسع عشر وبداية القرن العشرين، باشرت شركات التسجيلات حملاتها لتسجيل الموسيقى التقليدية والحديثة في الجزائر والمغرب العربي، كان لإدموند ناثان يافيل دور فيها بصفته مستشارا رئيسا، كما باشر هو أيضا منذ 1907 التسجيل تحت أول علامة جزائرية[8]. ولد إدموند ناثان يافيل المعروف بيافيل بن شباب عام 1874 في القصبة بمدينة الجزائر، لأب يمتلك مطعما، كان سببا في اكتسابه لقب مخلوف لوبيا. تمكن من الحصول على شهادة البكالوريا ودبلوم اللغة العربية. خلال الفترة الممتدة من عام 1904 وإلى غاية عام 1927، عكف يافيل على نشر جزء مهم من الموروث الموسيقي العاصمي مستعينا بالرموز الموسيقية الغربية، حيث بلغ مجموع ما تم نشره 29 كتيبا. قام عام 1909 بتأسيس أول مدرسة للموسيقى العربية العاصمية، ثم أتبعها بإنشاء أول جمعية موسيقية عام 1911 المسماة بـــ"المطربية". توفي بالثامن أكتوبر من عام 1928.

سياقات المواجهة

في شهر أوت من عام 1905، قامت المجلة الأسبوعية بالتنويه بمنشورات يافيل وروانيه المتعلقة بالموروث الموسيقي العربي والمغاربي، مشيرة في هذا الصدد إلى تأخر المبادرة لدرء دمار جزء كامل من الثقافة الجزائرية بفعل الاستعمار، فـ: «في النصف الأول من القرن الذي أعقب احتلال الجزائر، وحتى خلال الفترة اللاحقة، تركزت جهودنا أساسا في إفريقيا على تدمير ما أمكن من الثقافات المحلية» (ص. 81).

عكس ما تم ذكره سابقا من استنتاجات، يتضح أنّ مرد ضعف مستوى الموسيقى المحلية يعود إلى السياق الاستعماري، وليس البتة إلى العوامل الداخلية. ففي هذه الفترة، ارتبط في أذهان المتخصصين اسم يافيل وروانيه بمبادرة الحفاظ على الموروث الموسيقي، دون فصل نشاط أحدهما عن الآخر.

في عام 1913، قامت جريدة "صدى الجزائر" بعد اطلاع قرائها على نشاطات المدرسة الموسيقية التي أنشأها يافيل مع مطلع القرن، بالتذكير بمكانة موزينو المهمة، باعتباره أحد أفضل الممارسين اليهود للموسيقى الحضرية، لكنها في ذات الوقت نوهت بأن فضل اكتساب يافيل وموزينو لهذه المكانة يعود إلى معلمهما سفنجة. كما أعقبت بهذا التنبيه: «أفضل من كل تلك النعوت الرنّانة والدعائية التي يلصقها بعض الموسيقيين بأسمائهم»، والذي يتجاوز على ما يبدو كونه مجرد تلميح، بل يستهدف على الأرجح جيل روانيه. بالتالي، يتضح جليا بأن شرعية التراث الثقافي آنذاك، تقوم على السند والمرجعية المحلية. وسنورد فيما يلي النص الأصلي الذي جاء في الجريدة:
المطربية – السيد صاؤول ديران (Saül Durand) المعروف بموزينو زعيم الموسيقيين المحترفين العرب حاليا بلا منازع، يلبي بعد إلحاح دعوة السيد إدموند يافيل مدير ورئيس المطربية للتعاون معه في تقديم دروس للأعضاء الناشطين بالجمعية.
القول بتتلمذ كل من السيد ديران والسيد يافيل على يد المرحوم الشيخ محمد بن علي سفنجة، أفضل من كل تلك النعوت الرنّانة والدعائية التي يلصقها بعض الموسيقيين بأسمائهم (...)(Echo d’Alger, 1913, p. 4).

يمثل المقال الصادر بالصحيفة الصغيرة بتاريخ 16 يونيو 1926 – إلى حد ما – أحد الأدلة الرئيسية على الخلاف الذي سينشب علنا بين يافيل وروانيه في السنة الموالية (ص. 44، 1988)[9]. فمقال الجريدة الباريسية سيتخذ من تكريم سلطان المغرب على زيارته باريس ذريعة للإشادة بمبادرة يافيل، مشيرا في الصفحة الأولى إلى دور ومشروع يافيل بعنوان رئيسي "كيف تم إنقاذ الموسيقى العربية من النسيان"، ثم بعنوان فرعي: "إنجاز الموسيقي والمغني والمؤلف العاصمي يافيل". يستهل جون كوبي سارايل (Jean Coupet-Sarrailh) مقاله بتوجيه العتاب إلى شيوخ الموسيقى التقليدية على تقصيرهم في نقل معارفهم الموسيقية، فحسب رأيه: «تعتمد الموسيقى العربية الأندلسية في انتقالها من جيل إلى جيل على النقل الشفهي. لكن يأبى كبار الموسيقيين بسبب أنانيتهم تكوين الطلبة ويصرون على حمل رصيدهم الغنائي معهم إلى قبورهم، في الوقت الذي تتلاشى تقاليد هذه الموسيقى وتكاد تندثر». فبالنسبة للكاتب، ساهمت مبادرة يافيل في تفادي "الغرق" بفضل إنجازاته التي عددها في: إنشاء مدرسة للموسيقى مع بداية القرن العشرين، جمع 2500 لحن موسيقي، نشر 200 لحن، مدونات نصية باللغتين العربية والعبرية، وأخيرا تسجيل ألفي 2000 أسطوانة فونوغرافية. مختتما نصه بإشادة صريحة ليافيل، ذكر فيها: «هذا باختصار العمل الذي قام به مجدّد الموسيقى العربية، الشخص الذي أفنى حياته في سبيل إنقاذ تراث أجداده الفني من النسيان». والملاحظ في هذا النص الطويل غياب ذكر اسم جيل روانيه ومساهمته.

محتويات الملف

في الثالث من سبتمبر عام 1927، خصصت صحيفة البرقية الجزائرية مقالا، أثنت فيه على العرض الموسيقي المُقام من طرف جمعية المطربية على شرف يافيل، كما أشادت بأداء مساعديه المباشرين محي الدين وبنيسيانو وعازف البيانو ميمون. بعدها بيومين، قامت الصحيفة بنشر رسالة تلقتها من جيل روانيه، تناول فيها الانشغال الذي أبداه بعض النبلاء المسلمين حول تجاهل اسمه خلال العرض الموسيقي المقام تكريما ليافيل. يرى روانيه أن الأمر لا يتعلق بالنسيان، وإنما بانسحاب طوعي، جاء كرد فعل على عدم رغبته «الانخراط في مؤسسة تجارية هدفها احتكار مجال تابع للفولكلور الإسلامي، بغرض تحقيق أرباح مادية». فقد رفض اعتباره ملحنا لموسيقى يتم تناقلها من معلم إلى متعلم منذ القدم. فهو يقر بدراسة هذه الموسيقى فقط، الشيء الذي أكسبه اعتراف الأقران(النُّظراء) في فرنسا وفي العالم بأكمله.

في الفاتح من أكتوبر عام 1927، قامت الصحيفة بنشر ردة فعل يافيل على رسالة روانيه، وإجابة هذا الأخير عليه، مبدية نيتها غلق هذا الجدال الدائر بينهما. أكد يافيل بأن رده العلني جاء باسم محبي الموسيقي من ضمنهم المسلمين، المصدومين حسب قوله من آراء روانيه، فقد استنكر "التلميحات والإيعازات" الموجهة ضده حول نيته تحقيق أرباح تجارية من مبادرة جمعه للموروث الثقافي. كما أنه يؤكد عدة مرات على أولويته وامتيازه ففيما يبدو له "حق" ملكية هذا الموروث:

(...) الكل يعتقد إلى يومنا هذا، بأنني المروج والمالك الوحيد للموروث الموسيقي العربي... فقد اعترف السيد روانيه كتابيا بملكيتي التامة له وحقي في استغلاله، دون أن يحول ذلك من استفادته منه وتلقي الثناء بدلا مني.

وقد ختم كلامـه قائلا:

 «لا جدوى من أي جدال مستقبلي حول ملكية هذا الموروث لكوني المالك الوحيد له، والمؤلف الوحيد لجزء كبير منه».

بأسلوب عدائي وساخر، قام روانيه بالرد على يافيل في 30 من سبتمبر، قائلا: «هناك أشخاص مغرورون من هم بحاجة بين الفينة والأخرى إلى ضربة قوية، فهم قد بلغوا مستوى انهيار كبير». مردفا بأسلوب تهكمي ومستخف: «(...) إنه جاهل بالموسيقى، رغم اعتقاده بأنه ملحن مشهور، وأستاذ، وناشر، وعارف بالنصوص الأدبية». ليواصل رأيه بأسلوب فظ حين ذكره للأصول الاجتماعية المتواضعة ليافيل ولمهنة أبيه. ثم يعيد التذكير بما جاء في رسالته الأولى، بأن قرار الانسحاب من الجمعية كان اختياريا، مشيرا في هذا السياق إلى رسالة وجهها إلى يافيل بتاريخ 4 يوليو 1914، أعرب له فيها عن عدم رغبته الاشتراك في عمل ذي طبيعة ربحية. كما أنه يبدي اعتراضه على يافيل حين اعتبره مجرد "مسجل تقني للموسيقى" وبجهله التام بالموسيقى الأندلسية قبل لقائه عام 1903: «لم أتباك على "الرمل" أو "الزيدان" يوم ولادتي، ولم أحتفظ في ذاكرتي بموسيقى غرناطة، ودمشق، وطهران واسطنبول وغيرها من الأماكن، كي أستفيد منها ماديا لاحقا».

وقد أصر على التذكير بأن يافيل هو الذي ناشده عبر رسائله بين عامي 1903 و1914، وأثنى عليه لمساهمته في جمع هذا الموروث. كما أضاف، لدحر مخالفه، أن الأمر كان يتعلق في تلك الأوقات بـ: «مسودات يكتبها له خوفا من الوقوع في الأخطاء اللغويّة والنحوية، وبمضاعفة المساعي لإرضاء تعطشه للتشريف والدعاية... المجانية». وسيشير إلى جميع المحاولات التي قام بها يافيل في سبيل حصوله على اعتراف السلطات الاستعمارية وقبوله في الأوساط الثقافية الرسمية. لكن ما حز في نفس روانيه خاصة، هو عدم احترام مكانة هذه الموسيقى والأخلاقيات المرتبطة بها. كما اتهم يافيل بأنه قام بإضفاء الطابع الفولكلوري عليها لأسباب مالية بحتة. ولكن دون سخرية، هناك شيء يميزه، ألا وهو كبرياؤه المفرط وعدم وعيه بحماقته المستمرة، كما هو الحال عندما يرتدي شاشية عربية، ويقوم بتشويه لقبه العلمي (أستاذا في المعهد الموسيقي بالجزائر)، بالذهاب لأجل رسم، يترنم أمام تمايل خصور الراقصات أو حينما يستجدي بمجرد بدء العزف على مزمار القربة أو الكمان وغناء "ابقاو على خير" أو "رنا جيناك".

في نهاية المطاف، لم يكن لهذا الجدال صدى يذكر في وقته، وتوارى باختفاء أصحابه، بعد انسحاب روانيه من الساحة الفنية ووفاة يافيل عام 1928.

وقد أُشير إليه في Notre rive (ص.21، 1927) بإيجاز مع تحيز ضمني لروانيه: «اليوم السيد يافيل المستفيد الوحيد من نشر هذه الموسيقى، يتهم السيد روانيه بأنه كان مجرد أداة تسجيل. الموضوع غريب، لكن في هذا الصراع بين العقل والمادة، ألن يكون من المنطق الوقوف إلى جانب من يمسك القلم وهو يستحضر من الذاكرة أغاني الفنانين؟». من جانبه، أوعز كتاب شمال أفريقيا المصور (ص. 9، 1928)، في كلمته التكريمية ليافيل المتوفى حديثا، الفضل دون غيره في جمع وإعادة تأليف هذه الموسيقى: «(...) كمؤلف، لم يرغب أن تظل الموسيقى العربية تحت تصرّف الأداء العشوائي للمهرجين، واستطاع نسخ الموروث الشفهي على الورق، تاركا للأجيال اللاحقة عنصرا إضافيا لفهم الإسلام».

ستأتي ردود أفعال أكثر توازنا وتوضيحًا بعد استقلال الجزائر، على وجه الخصوص شهادة محيي الدين باشطارزي (1968) الذي تتلمذ على يد يافيل، وتحليلات الباحثة في الموسيقى نادية بوزار قصبادجي (1988 و1990). كلاهما أشادا بعمل يافيل ومثابرته في إنجاز مشروع كهذا على مدى ثلاثين عامًا: «لم يكن لفطنة يافيل أن تجعله يتجاهل التوجه الاستعماري الداعم للمبادرات الثقافية: حيث قرب إليه موسيقيين متميزين أمثال لاهو سرور (Laho Seror)، موزينو (Mouzino)، سعيدي (العربي) وطلب العلم من المفتي بوكندورة. باشر إثرها دراسة منهجية للموسيقى الأندلسية قصد وضع جرد رصين ومفيد، سمح بمقارنة مختلف النسخ وتصحيح بعض الأخطاء المدرجة من طرف موسيقيين أصحاب مستوى ضعيف. فعلى الرغم من عدم شمولية العمل أو كماله (وفقًا لأساتذة آخرين)، غير أنه سمح للمؤلف بإيداع مئات الألحان الأندلسية لدى جمعية المؤلفين والملحنين وناشري الموسيقى SACEM بصفته موزعا موسيقيا. إن الحماس الذي أبداه يافيل لدراسة وجمع الموروث الثقافي طوال حياته المهنية لا يمكن إنكاره، فقد أشادت الصحافة بصفاته المستمدة من رغبة التميز في أوساط المؤسسات الاستعمارية» (Bouzar, 1988, p. 44).

يدافع باشطارزي من جانبه عن ذكرى شيخه ويدين ردة فعل روانيه الأنانية والحاقدة: «لم يرغب السيد روانيه الاعتراف بدينه تجاه يافيل، الذي لولاه لما كان باستطاعته الكشف للعالم عن موسيقى يجهل مصدرها. منزعج من عدم ذكر اسمه خلال رحلتنا إلى فرنسا، أدى به الغضب من رؤية يافيل يحقق بعض الشهرة الذي أراد الاستئثار بها لوحده، إلى مهاجمته في أعمدة جريدة البرقية الجزائرية. ويجب القول بأنّه قام بذلك بشكل غير لبق» (Bachtarzi, 1968, p. 89). كما أنه يرفض بشكل قاطع تهمة المتاجرة والربحية بالموروث الموسيقي الموجهة ضد يافيل (Bachtarzi, 1968, p. 89)، نفس فكرة بوزار قصبادجي (Bouzar, 1988, p. 48) التي أشارت إلى ضعف المداخيل المحصل عليها. غير أن هذا الجدال حسب رأي بوزار قصبادجي، واستنادا لتقييم نقدي لعمل روانيه ويافيل المشترك، كان سببا في حجب مساهمة المساعدين سواء المعروفين أو المجهولين، في الحفاظ على التراث الموسيقي الشفهي الحضري.


مفارقات التراث

تندرج دراسة بعض المواقف التي أثارتها وضعية الموسيقى الحضرية في الجزائر أثناء الحكم الاستعماري في سياق متواصل، رغم تغير الظروف والرهانات. يتعلق الأمر، بشكل كبير، بالأشكال الخطابية والمواقف "الملتزمة" لـــ"عوالم الفن" رغبة في الدفاع عن موروث موسيقي، تملُّكُهُ وإعادة تأهيله. فقد اطلعنا في الجزء الأول على رؤية محبطة لفن في وضعية حرجة، بسبب إهمال محبيه له وممارسيه، وأيضا نتيجة ظهور ممارسات ثقافية جديدة والتكيف مع أشكال موسيقية حديثة، تباينت الآراء حولها بين داعم ومعارض.

أما الجدال بين يافيل وروانيه، فقد أبان عن وجهة نظر متناقضة للحكم الاستعماري أين يقوم المجال الاستعماري المهيمن بفرض غلبته الرمزية على المجتمع المستَعمر. فقد كشفت هذه المواجهة، عن تحديات ترتبط في آن واحد بالنقل الشفهي واسترجاعه، وعن ترجمة الموروث بمصطلحات الحداثة الغربية والمؤسساتية (النسخ وتوزيع الألحان الموسيقية). إذ تمكن جوناثان جلاسر بتلخيص الطبيعة العميقة والمعقدة لمسألة الحفاظ على الموروث الموسيقي: «فتح هذا الجدال المجال للنّقاش حول الاحتواء، الشفهية، وقوة التكنولوجيا الكامنة في قلب مسألة التجديد بالظّهور للعلن» (Glasser, 2016, p. 141).


Bachtarzi, M. (1968). Mémoires. Tome 1. Alger : SNED.

Berque, J. (1980). Langages arabes du présent. Paris : Gallimard. Berque, J. (1962). Le Maghreb entre deux guerres. Paris : Le Seuil.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1988). L’émergence artistique algérienne au XXè siècle. Contribution de la Musique et du théâtre algérois à la renaissance culturelle et à la prise de conscience nationaliste.
Alger : OPU.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1990). La musique arabe au miroir de l’Occident. Naissance d’une nouvelle littérature musicale européenne, XIXe-XXe siècles – Algérie/France. Université
Euro-Arabe Itinérante
. Juillet. Crète.

Christianowitsch, A. (1863). Esquisse historique de la musique arabe aux temps anciens. Avec dessins d’instruments et 40 mélodies notées et harmonisées. köln.

El Boudali, S. (1949). La musique arabe en Algérie. Documents algériens (36) - 20 juin.

Glasser, J. (2010). Andalusi Music as a Circulatory Practice. Anthropology News, (Vol. 51, issue 9), 9-14, december.

Glasser, J. (2012). Edmond Yafil and Andalusi musical revival in early 20th- Century Algeria. Int. J. Middle East Study. (44), 671-692.

Glasser, J. (2016). The Lost Paradise. Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Hadj Ali, B. (1960). Quelques idées sur les caractéristiques, les sources, les tendances de la musique algérienne. La Nouvelle Critique. « La culture algérienne », 112.

Ledru, C. (2008). Jules Rouanet (fin XIXè siècle- début XXè), Musicologue spécialiste de la musique algérienne. Dictionnaire des orientalistes de langue française (Sous la direction de François Pouillon). Paris : IISMM- Karthala.

Marouf, N. (2014). Le chant arabo-andalou dans l’Algérie de l’entre- deux-guerres. Dans (Bouchène, A. et Peyroulou J.-P. et Siari-Tengour, O. et Thénault, S. Eds). Histoire de l’Algérie à la période coloniale (419 - 422). Paris : La Découverte.

Miliani, H. (2000). Fabrication patrimoniale et imaginaires identitaires. Autour des chants et musiques en Algérie. Insaniyat, (12), 53-63.

Poché, Ch. (1999). Tradition orale algéroise et notation musicale. Autrement, (55), Alger 1860-1939. Le modèle ambigu du triomphe colonial.

Thénault, S. (Eds). Histoire de l’Algérie à la période coloniale (419 - 422). Paris : La Découverte.

Théoleyre, M. (2016). Musique arabe, folklore de France ? (Thèse de doctorat). IEP, Paris.


La Revue hebdomadaire, août 1905.

L’Echo d’Oran, 4 janvier 1925.

Le Petit Journal, 16 juillet 1926.

La Dépêche Algérienne, 13/23/25 septembre 1927 et 1er octobre 1927.

Notre rive. Revue nord-africaine illustrée, octobre 1927.

Echo d’Alger, 24 septembre 1913 et 1er décembre 1927.

L’Afrique du Nord illustrée, n° 389, 13 octobre 1928.

La Gazette Nord Africaine, 25 octobre 1928


La controverse Rouanet-Yafil 1927, extraits de

La Dépêche Algérienne

13 septembre, p. 3 :

La Musique Arabe.

Le secrétaire général de la Société « El Moutribia » nous adresse, avec prière d’insérer, la note suivante:

La mort du célèbre Sfendja, plongea les amateurs de musique arabe dans une perplexité très grande. En effet, hors lui, personne ne semblait avoir l’envergure et la compétence nécessaire pour sauver celle-ci de l’oubli.

Les pessimistes la voyaient déjà appelée à une disparition prochaine. Mais Sfendja, avait formé des élèves, et l’un d’eux, M. Yafil, qui avait été spécialement dressé par le vieux maître, comprit le danger et entreprit la rénovation de la musique arabe.

Musicien consommé et aimant la musique arabe pour elle-même, ce dernier ne voulut pas sa disparition. Par un travail acharné et opiniâtre, il parvint à fixer celle-ci sur le papier.

L’effort fut long et coûteux ; mais, ne reculant devant aucun sacrifice, M. Yafil réalisa des prodiges pour recueillir le plus possible d’airs qu’il mettait en musique aussitôt.

Cette œuvre accomplie, il comprit qu’il en avait une autre plus grande encore à accomplir. En effet, son effort serait resté stérile, s’il n’avait cherché à divulguer les trésors de cette antique musique aux variations si nombreuses et aux si harmonieuses modulations, qu’il avait si magnifiquement reconstituée.

A cet effet, il créa tout d’abord l’école gratuite ; mais les cours furent vite désertés. Se pénétrant alors de cette vérité qu’on s’affile plus facilement à une Société que l’on ne s’inscrit à un cours,
M. Yafil fonda « El-Moutribia ».

Sous son impulsion, cette jeune Société prit facilement de l’ampleur et le prélude du succès [sic] se dessina bientôt à l’horizon.

C’est à ce moment qu’ayant tout réglé le rénovateur de la musique arabe, qui composa lui-même plusieurs œuvres fort goûtées, se retira, laissant la place à des activités plus jeunes.

Ses premiers élèves ayant à leur tête le sympathique ténor Mahieddine, continuèrent son œuvre de diffusion.

Qui n’a entendu et apprécié la voix chaude et puissante de ce célèbre chanteur ?

Sous une telle direction « El Moutribia » prospéra rapidement, et les encouragements du public ne tardèrent pas à se manifester pour cet essai de vulgarisation.

Il serait vain de rappeler ici le succès remporté par cette Société à chacun de ses concerts.

L’accueil qui lui fut réservé à Paris, tout dernièrement encore, et dont la presse s’est faite l’écho, est encore présent à notre mémoire.

Mais « El Moutribia » ne se laisse pas griser longtemps par le succès. Ainsi que nous l’avons déjà fait connaitre, l’actif conseil d’administration de cette Société a décidé de frapper un grand coup, pour démontrer de façon péremptoire, que la musique arabe est accessible à tous.

A cet effet, elle organisé pour le 20 septembre prochain, au Square Bresson, un grand concert ou seront exécutées les œuvres les plus remarquables du répertoire du grand compositeur Yafil.

« El-Moutribia » organise seulement, mais son orchestre ne paraîtra pas dans le kiosque. Elle a voulu et c’est là l’innovation, confier l’exécution d’un concert arabe à un orchestre français.

C’est en effet l’Orchestre municipal, sous la direction de son distingué chef, M. Riva, à qui a été confiée la tâche de mener à bien l’exécution du programme.

La première partie de ce programme comprendra l’exécution par l’orchestre de différents morceaux spécialement choisis pour donner satisfaction aux plus difficiles. Au cours de la deuxième partie, pour la première fois depuis toujours, l’orchestre municipal accompagnera M. Mahieddine, le réputé ténor, que tout Alger a déjà applaudi, dans l’interprétation de quelques morceaux réservés pour les dilettantes.

Pour rendre sa démonstration d’accessibilité plus concluante, le conseil d’administration d’« El Moutribia », a décidé de faire entendre également M. Bensiano, qui a été fort applaudi durant toute la saison des concerts d’été, dans l’interprétation de quelques œuvres tirées du répertoire Yafil.

Nous publierons ultérieurement, le programme complet de cette soirée.

19 septembre, p. 2:

C’est demain mardi, à 8 h. 30, au square de la République, qu’aura lieu le grand festival oriental organisé par « El Moutribia », en l’honneur du compositeur Yafil. 

Parmi les morceaux inscrits au programme et qui seront exécutés par l’orchestre municipal, sous la direction de son distingue chef M. Riva, nous relevons :

Une fantaisie sure « L’Aissaoua du Désert », pièce à grand spectacle, spécialement écrite par M. Yafil, pour être jouée à Paris l’an prochain, après sa création à l’Opéra d’Alger.

« Bonds de Gazelle », ou le compositeur a essayé de concilier l’art ancien et moderne. « Medlhoum ou Mouchtaki », melodie arabe du 9e siècle, dont les khalifes de Bagdad firent leur regal, etc…

Mahieddine, ténor se fera entendre dans : « Cherrad Ettit » (chant d’oiseau), qui remporta à Paris un succès sans précédent ; « Men H’Ebbi Had Ghazala », autre mélodie qu’il interprètera avec tout le talent que nous lui connaissons ;

« Ya Racha Fettane » et « Oua Menli Bidjeminne », seront interprétés par M. Benssiano, le ténor des Concerts d’Été, accompagné par les musiciens arabes : Mimoun (pianiste) et Driss (flutiste).

Avec un programme aussi complet, nul doute que les amateurs de la belle musique, ne viennent nombreux manifester leurs encouragements aux organisateurs de cette manifestation artistique.

Nous rappelons que la location est ouverte à Bilou-Concert, rue d’Isly et chez Bachtarzi, 24, rue Randon.

23 septembre, p. 3 :

La Musique Arabe

Le succès remporté mardi soir par le concert oriental organisé par « El-Moutribia », en l’honneur du célèbre compositeur Yafil, dépassa toutes les espérances. En effet, une foule inconnue encore au square de la République se pressait aux abords des portes, bien avant l’ouverture.

Ceux qui se dérangèrent ne furent pas déçus. Les choix du programme et la valeur des artistes donnèrent satisfaction aux plus difficiles.

Pendant la 1re partie, l’Orchestre des Concerts d’Eté se surpassa dans l’exécution de divers morceaux qui recueillirent les applaudissements du public. Sous la direction d’un chef tel que M. Riva, il ne pouvait en être autrement.

  1. Mahieddine, le célèbre ténor déjà connu et apprécié, remporta dans la deuxième partie, le succès auquel il est depuis longtemps habitué.
  2. Benisiano qui chantait pour la première fois devant le grand public, recuillit les bravos qu’il sut mériter par l’interprétation parfaite de morceaux particulièrement pénibles.

Citons encore M. Mimoun (pianiste) qui accompagna M. Benisiano, et dont les solos furent hautement appréciés.

Pour terminer, il nous reste à remercier M. Yafil, dont le talent musical nous permit de vivre cette soirée qui marquera un point dans l’avenir de la musique arabe, et « El-Moutribia » de l’avoir organisée.

 25 septembre, p. 7 :

La Musique Musulmane. Notre excellent collaborateur et cher ami, Jules Rouanet, nous adresse la lettre suivante :

Mon cher directeur,

Plusieurs de mes amis, parmi lesquels des notables musulmans, m’expriment leur étonnement de n’avoir pas vue mon nom mentionne lors de récentes manifestations de musiciens arabes d’Alger.

Rappelant la part que j’ai prise, il y a plus de vingt ans, aux premiers travaux de transcription du répertoire de nos indigènes, ainsi, qu’aux premières auditions publiques sur la place du Gouvernement, au Théâtre Municipal et au square de la République, évoquant le souvenir des conférences et des écrits par lesquels j’ai ramené l’attention sur l’art musical des peuples de l’Islam, ils trouvent singulier qu’aucune mention n’ait été faite de cette œuvre indéniable par ceux-là même qui, manquant de culture musicale, avaient dû recourir à mon modeste concours.

Permettez-moi de rassurer ceux qui m’ont apporté l’expression de sentiments si touchants.

Je ne suis pas victime d’un oubli coupable, car cet oubli c’est moi qui l’ai voulu.

Depuis plusieurs années, en effet, j’ai demandé formellement que ma personne ne fut en rien mêlée à une entreprise commerciale qui tendrait à accaparer pour le monnayer un domaine qui fait partie du folklore musulman. Il ne pouvait me convenir de laisser croire que j’approuvais certaines formes, même très habiles, de cette exploitation d’une musique qui appartient à tout le monde parce que anonyme et fort ancienne.

Je n’ai pas voulu crier sur les toits que j’avais créé des airs andalous du IXe siècle ou d’autres époques lointaines. Je n’ai pas consenti à me traiter moi-même de grand et illustre compositeur pour toucher des droits sur des mélodies plus vieilles que notre
« Au Claire de la Lune » ou sur les airs que Mohammed ben Ali Sfindja, Ben Farachou et autres maîtres d’une célébrité de bon aloi, avaient dictés à leurs élèves comme ils les avaient reçus de leurs prédécesseurs.

Laissant a d’autres ces pratiques ou j’ai refusé de les suivre, je me suis contente d’étudier l’histoire de la musique musulmane, ses visages et ses caractères et de mettre tous mes soins, en dehors de tout calcul mercantile, a des travaux de musicologie qui m’ont déjà valu les suffrages les plus flatteurs des Sociétés Savantes de la France et de l’étranger et dont certains ont eu le grand honneur d’être couronnés par l’Institut.

Le silence fait fur mon nom, depuis cette époque et dans les circonstances récentes, est donc conforme à la volonté formelle que j’ai exprimée à ceux dont j’avais le devoir de me séparer.

Voulez-vous, mon cher Directeur, donner cette explication aux personnages qui ont pu croire à une injustice concertée, et agréez, avec mes remerciements, l’expression cordiale de mes meilleurs sentiments d’amitié dévouée. JULES ROUANET

1 octobre :

Comme suite à la lettre de notre excellent collaborateur et ami Jules Rouanet, publiée ici-même le 25 septembre, M. Edmond Nathan Yafil nous a demandé l’insertion de la réponse suivante :

Alger, le 28 septembre 1927.

Monsieur le Directeur de la « Dépêche algérienne »

Dans le numéro du 25 septembre dernier de votre honorable journal et sous la rubrique : « la Musique Musulmane », vous avez fait insérer une lettre de M. Jules Rouanet à laquelle il est de mon devoir de répliquer.

Je viens donc vous demander respectueusement de vouloir bien m’accorder l’hospitalité de vos colonnes, à la même place que celle où a paru la lettre de M. Rouanet, pour publier la réponse suivante :

Dans le monde des musiciens qui s’intéressent à la musique arabe, ainsi qu’auprès de tous les musulmans, notables ou non, la lettre de M. Rouanet a causé la plus profonde stupéfaction. Chacun s’est étonné de l’ostracisme dont M. Rouanet se plaignait d’avoir été la victime, alors que chacun pensait jusque là que j’étais le seul propagateur et propriétaire du répertoire de la musique arabe.

  1. Rouanet expose dans sa lettre qu’il n’a jamais consenti à se traiter lui-même de grand et illustre compositeur, parce qu’il lui rebutait de se livrer à une exploitation ‘mercantile’ ; qu’il préférait laisser à d’autres ces pratiques, se contentant de se livrer à de simples travaux de musicologie désintéressée.

Je me suis trop senti visé par les insinuations et les allusions de M. Rouanet ; en même temps que j’ai été trop indigné par les contre- vérités dont sa lettre est émaillée pour ne pas avoir, dès la lecture de celle-ci, formé le dessein d’y répliquer.

Toutefois, j’aurais laissé les erreurs et les accusations de M. Rouanet sans réponse si de très nombreux amis qui connaissent mon œuvre n’étaient venus m’exprimer leur indignation et m’inciter fortement à remettre au point les faits intentionnellement dénaturés par lui.

Je tiens donc à proclamer ici, ce que d’ailleurs, je suis prêt à prouver à quiconque voudra bien m’en demander la justification, que M. Rouanet, avant la date du 4 novembre 1903, ignorait tout de la musique arabe.

Que c’est à cette date que, alors qu’il y avait longtemps que j’avais déjà imaginé de recueillir les airs arabes qui se perdaient dans l’oubli, faute de notation musicale, j’ai engagé à mon service
M. Rouanet, moyennant un salaire hebdomadaire, qui a été fixé lors de ce contrat de louange des airs arabes que j’avais recueillis et sélectionnés ou composés et que moi-même ou mes élèves, ou encore les maîtres musiciens arabes qui m’avaient consenti le monopole de leur répertoire, venions chanter devant lui.

  1. Rouanet n’a donc agi que comme un enregistreur mécanique de musique après avoir d’ailleurs formellement reconnu par écrit, que la propriété de la musique ainsi transcrite et son exploitation éventuelle me restaient entièrement acquises aussi bien que la propriété de l’idée de faire transcrire la dite musique.

Le rôle de M. Rouanet s’est borné à la seule tâche de la transcription, moyennant une rétribution qu’il a régulièrement touchée.

Quant aux conférences ou aux écrits qu’il a pu faire, M. Rouanet n’a jamais fait que répéter les enseignements que je lui avais donnés et suivre mes directives.

  1. Rouanet prétend encore que s’il est resté depuis longtemps dans l’ombre, et s’il n’a plus été question de lui à l’occasion de la musique arabe, c’est qu’il a refusé d’être mêlé à une exploitation commerciale d’un art qui, dit-il, est anonyme et appartient à tout le monde.
  2. Rouanet a reconnu par écrit, mon entière propriété du répertoire arabe et de son exploitation, ce qui ne l’a pas empêché de retirer de cet art de beaux profits et de se faire attribuer les plus flatteurs suffrages qui me reviennent en réalité à moi seul.

Considérant que M. Rouanet dépassait le cadre de ses fonctions, je l’ai invité à cesser ses services et c’est ainsi qu’il est retombé dans l’oubli.

J’espère qu’il m’aura suffi de publier la présente rectification, pour que désormais M. Rouanet cesse de s’attribuer des mérites qu’il n’a jamais eus et qu’ainsi toute controverse ultérieure sera inutile sur la propriété d’un répertoire dont je suis le seul propriétaire et, en grande partie, l’unique auteur.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Directeur, mes remerciements et l’expression de mes sentiments les plus respectueux Edmond Nathan Yafil Professeur au Conservatoire municipal d’Alger, éditeur, compositeur de musique arabe ; membre de la Société des Auteurs.

Conformément à l’usage établi dans la presse, nous avons communiqué, avant son insertion, la lettre de M. Yafil à M. Jules Rouanet, qui nous a prié d’en faire suivre la publication des quelques réflexions que voici :

Alger le 30 septembre 1927

Mon cher directeur,

Je vous remercie d’avoir bien voulu me communiquer avant de la publier, la lettre que M. E. Nathan Yafil a cru devoir vous adresser et de me permettre ainsi de l’accompagner des quelques commentaires qu’elle comporte. Il y a des fatuités qui ont besoin de temps à autre d’un bon coup de sécateur : elles pourraient en arriver à des éclatements déplorables.

  1. E. Nathan Yafil, qui est connu depuis toujours comme illettré musical, bien qu’il se croie un célèbre compositeur, professeur, éditeur, etc., étend cette indéniable prérogative aux textes littéraires. Pour peu qu’on sache lire le français, on aura pu voir que dans ma lettre parue le 25 septembre, je ne me suis pas plaint de l’oubli de mon nom dans les séances publiques de musique arabe sur lesquelles il étend sa main désintéressée. J’ai expliqué à mes amis que cet oubli « c’est moi qui l’ai voulu », « c’est moi qui l’ai demandé » et j’ai donné les motifs de cette décision. M.E. Nathan Yafil, le célèbre compositeur, etc. (voir plus haut), n’a donc pas eu à me casser aux gages et à m’inviter à rendre mon tablier (ceci dit pour me mettre à l’unisson des expressions que lui inspire l’éducation raffinée qu’il a reçue des marmitons de feu son digne et honorable père, M. Makhlouf, le restaurateur bien connu de la rue Bruce). Par ma lettre du 4 juillet 1914, qu’il n’a pas encore comprise, je lui signifiais « qu’il ne me convenait pas de m’associer ni de prêter mon nom plus longtemps au caractère mercantile de ce qu’il appelait lui-même « ses évolutions de la musique arabe ». Je refusais de signer une prolongation de mon concours, de ma « direction artistique », de mes interventions pour obtenir de la réclame gratuite « dans les journaux » (style Yafil), pour solliciter des distinctions honorifiques ou des subventions. « Permettez-moi, lui écrivais-je, de rester étranger à votre trafic et de ne pas avoir l’air, même par une adhésion purement nominale, de donner mon assentiment à vos combinaisons ». Ma position était bien nette : je refusais de suivre le célèbre éditeur dans ses avatars et ses monopoles. J’entendais cesser complètement depuis ce jour toute collaboration avec lui.

Je m’en tiendrais à établir ce point d’histoire si M. E. Nathan Yafil, abusant de l’hospitalité et de la courtoisie de la « Dépêche », n’avait pris dans la lettre ci-dessus un ton que je ne saurais permettre à un homme que j’ai sorti de l’ombre et de la médiocrité et qui, parce qu’il était en ma compagnie, a pu être pris au sérieux par certains.

Si cela ne prenait pas trop de place, je lui jouerais le vilain tour de publier les lettres qu’il m’écrivit de 1903 à 1914 pour m’assurer de sa reconnaissance éternelle. Il n’y était pas encore question de contrat de louage, mais de gratitude, d’amitié inaltérable, de brouillons à lui rédiger parce qu’il avait peur des fautes de français et d’orthographe, de démarches à multiplier pour satisfaire sa soif d’honneurs et de réclame…gratuite.

Le 5 octobre 1908, il ma parlait « de notre entreprise de vulgarisation de musique arabe, à laquelle je ne dois le succès actuel (sic) qu’à votre habile et savante direction ». Le 5 novembre 1908, il me pressait de faire toutes les démarches auprès de M. Jonnart, afin d’obtenir les Palmes Académiques « distinction qui vous honorera autant qu’à moi (sic) puisque récompensant notre œuvre commune ».

Le 7 décembre 1911, il écrivait que « si l’année prochaine sera (sic) plus heureuse pour moi, nous reprendrons notre œuvre commune, si vous le voulez bien ». C’était encore l’époque où mon nom figurait sur la collection Yafil en tant que directeur artistique, où les programmes de la musique du 1er zouaves, de 1907 à 1908, inscrivaient des morceaux de musique arabe de « Rouanet et Yafil ».

Bref, j’étais l’ami précieux, le conseiller, le confident, le collaborateur avoué. Il paraît qu’il y avait maldonne. D’après ce qu’il fait écrire par son scribe, je n’étais qu’un salarié à qui on donne ses huits jours comme à une femme de ménage. Mais il y a plus grave. Je n’étais qu’un « enregistreur mécanique de musique ». Cette révélation m’a un moment inquiété, je me suis tâté sur toutes les coutures pour voir si quelque fée malfaisante ne m’avait pas transformé, à mon insu, en carton perforé ou en plaque de phonographe. Veuillez rassurer mes amis. Je sais encore tenir une plume pour faire des dictées musicales et au besoin, pour donner les étrivières à qui les mérite.

M.E. Nathan Yafil me fait grief d’avoir ignoré la musique arabe avant 1903. Je ne rougis pas de l’avouer. Je n’ai pas eu comme lui, le monopole de pleurer en « remel » ou en « zidane », le jour même de ma naissance et de porter dans mon cerveau toute la musique de Grenade, Damas, Téhéran, Stamboul et autres lieux pour la monnayer plus tard. Je m’en console en constatant que même en 1927, M.E. Nathan Yafil ignore encore la reconnaissance et les premiers éléments de la civilité puérile et honnête.

M.E. Nathan Yafil veut être « le seul propagateur de la musique arabe ». C’est sa marotte et son obsession. La musique de tous les pays d’Islam, c’est lui. Tout ce que se chante de musique arabe c’est lui et à lui. Pour un peu il demanderait des droits d’auteur sur la musique admirable, dont parlent les mystiques musulmans, « qui ont les astres par leurs mouvements cadencés ». Ses prétentions dans ce sens n’ont pas de bornes et vous le voyiez tout à l’heure revendiquer « comme lui revenant à lui seul « les récompenses et les suffrages flatteurs que m’ont valu mes travaux de musicologie qu’il n’a pas lu et qu’il ne comprendrait pas. De pareilles balourdises arriveraient à nous donner la notion de l’infini.

Mais sans rire, une chose est bien lui et bien à lui, c’est son orgueil démesuré et son inconscience du ridicule dont il se couvre ici et ailleurs, comme quand, affublé d’une chéchia arabe, il galvaude son titre de professeur au Conservatoire d’Alger, en allant scander, pour un cachet, les trépidations du nombril des almées indigènes ou quand il tend la sébile dès qu’une musette ou un violon entonne le « Bekaou ala K’her » ou le « Rana djinak ».

C’est sur cette note qui caractérise si parfaitement mon honorable interlocuteur qu’il nous faut en rester. Il est regrettable que Berlioz soit mort : il aurait, en étudiant le célèbre compositeur, professeur, éditeur, etc., M. E Nathan Yafil, ajouté quelques pages infiniment savoureuses à son livre : « Les Grotesques de la musique ».

Croyez, mon cher directeur, à mes vifs regrets d’avoir été obligé de parler de moi si longuement dans la « Dépêche » et agréez l’expression cordiale de mes sentiments dévoués.

Jules Rouanet.

N.D.L.D.- Les deux contradicteurs ayant chacun exprimé leur avis dans notre journal, nous considérons, en ce qui nous concerne, l’incident comme définitivement clos.

حاج ملياني[1]


[1] ترجمة سعاد العاقر (الكراسك)، صدر هذا المقال باللغة الفرنسيّة تحت عنوان:Déplorations, polémiques et stratégies patrimoniale. A propos des musiques citadines en Algérie en régime colonial

في مجلة إنسانيات في العدد 79 ، عام 2018، في الصفحات 27-41.

[1] توفي في 02 جويلية 2021.

[2] خصص جونثان جلاسر الجزء الثاني من كتابه "الفردوس المفقود. الموسيقى الأندلسية في المناطق الحضرية في الشمال الإفريقي (2016)" للمعالجة التاريخية، والنقدية والموسيقية لإحياء الموسيقى الأندلسية في الجزائر. وقد تناول بالتفصيل مسائل المحافظة على الموروث الموسيقي الأندلسي بفضل الفاعلين الأساسيين، خلال القرن العشرين.

[3] علّق مالكولم ثيولاير مطولا على تقرير أزرور في رسالته للدكتوراه: الموسيقى العربية، فلكلور فرنسا؟ (2016)، ص ص. 445-476. وقام بإدراجه كاملا في الملحقات، ص ص. 705-720.

[4] مكتب "الحكومة العامة" بتاريخ 20 سبتمبر 1941: "مذكرة مشروع خاصة بقرار تنظيم مهرجان للموسيقى الأندلسية المنسوخة والمؤداة من طرف أوركسترا فرنسية".

[5] قامت بتأكيده لاحقا عبر رسالة وقعها الأمين العام للحكومة الفرنسية في الجزائر بتاريخ 18 نوفمبر 1942، تضمنت قرار إنشاء ثلاث مدارس للموسيقى الأندلسية في كل من الجزائر، وتلمسان وقسنطينة.

[6] تم في عام 2014 عرض قراءة لهذا الموضوع تحت عنوان "الخلاف بين يافيل وروانيه: من هو صاحب الموروث الثقافي؟" وهذا بالتعاون مع جوناثان جلاسر في إطار اللقاء المنعقد بجمعية دراسات الشرق الأوسط، والموسوم بـ: "ماذا يعني كاتبا في جزائر ما بين الحربين؟ الموسيقى المسجلة ومشكلة الملكية المشتركة"، واشنطن، 2014.

[7] يوضح ملابسات الخلاف بين يافيل وروانيه.

[8] سيجمع في كتيبه "مجموع زهو الأنيس المختص بالتباسي والقوادس" نصوص الأغاني (خاصة الحوزي والعروبي) المسجلة على الأقراص والأسطوانات في الفترة الممتدة من عام 1900 وإلى غاية عام 1906، الصادر بالجزائر، عام 1907، في 68 صفحة. أعاد الباحث دلاي أحمد أمين إعادة نشره سنة 2007 ضمن منشورات مركز البحث في الأنثروبولوجيا الاجتماعية والثقافية.

[9] هذا ما أثاره قصبادجي في تعليق له: «نتيجة عدم دعوته لعروض رسمية مميزة، وشعوره بالاستياء من مدح الآخرين لمساعده، قام روانيه بإثارة جدل حول بدايات يافيل بخصوص نقل الموروث الثقافي وبعض ملامح شخصيته».

Decentering the Colonial in Ghaouti Bouali’s Kashf al-qinā ‘of 1904

The past two decades have seen unprecedented scrutiny of the work of colonial-era European scholars of Maghribi music, a reexamination that has helped to uncover the ideological and pragmatic contexts underlying much of North Africanist and Arabist musicology in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth (Barbacane, 2012; Matsushita, 2021; Pasler, 2006, 2012-2013, 2016). In looking to Rodolphe d’Erlanger (Ben Abderrezak, 2018; Davis, 2004; Ghrab, 2018), Patrocinio García Barriuso (Calderwood, 2018), Alexis Chottin (Pasler, 2006), Henry George Farmer (Katz, 2015), and Jules Rouanet (Glasser, 2016; Khellal, 2018; Miliani, 2018) not only as sources of information about the Maghrib but as objects of study in their own right, many of the authors of this recent body of scholarship have drawn music into the critique of Orientalism that was initiated by Edward Said some forty years ago, and which arguably continues today in decolonizing guise.

If the self-reflexive contextualization and critique of colonial-era scholarship is necessary and productive, it also carries some dangers. Looking back on my own earlier research about musical revivalist discourse and practice in early twentieth-century Algeria, I recall the initial temptation, circa 2004, to treat European discourse about the Maghrib as hermetic, self-reinforcing, and, above all, powerful. This temptation was overdetermined in all sorts of ways. There was the cache of the Foucauldian paradigm. There was the archive itself, whose vast bulk was written by colonial officials, making access to indigenous voices a seemingly lost cause (it was of course convenient that this archive was in a language that at the time was more accessible to me than was Arabic!). It was far easier to treat the colonial discourse as a sealed-off whole, with the few indigenous voices that could be accessed fitting neatly into either “collaboration” or “resistance.”

One way around this problem is to counterbalance the weight of the archive with heightened sensitivity to the Maghribi musicians and scholars on whom colonial-era European scholars relied, sometimes with little or no acknowledgment. The strategy of working against the archival grain adopted in some recent works (see, for example, Ben Abderrezak, 2018, pp. 123-124; Calderwood, 2018; Glasser, 2016) has much to recommend it, but it too has its share of potentially awkward aspects. It can present Maghribi figures simply as adjuncts to a primarily European scholarly impulse. At worst, one can imagine such an approach framing the former as dupes of the latter, thereby pushing us once again into a totalizing antinomian trope. And this approach tends to continue to rely on official archives, threatening to distract us from the more subtle projects that existed alongside, were entangled with, or even preceded the more high-profile European publications.

How might we work around these traps, which risk reproducing a colonial logic under the guise of challenging it? One is to tune into Maghribi scholars’ work, both inside and outside direct colonial situations. For example, Carl Davila’s work has reconstructed the vigorous manuscript culture of Fes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (2013; 2016). Coming closer to the Moroccan encounter with modern European colonialism, Ibrahīm al-Tādilī’s work, written in the 1880s in Rabat, Morocco, has finally begun to receive scholarly attention (Benabdeljalil, 2011; Kara and Göpkinar, 2013). And there remain various figures inside clearly colonial situations who merit closer attention than they have so far received.[2] We can also start thinking more transnationally, both about European and Maghribi musicians and scholars: there are connections, sometimes quite subtle, across the Maghrib, both in the sense of local and translocal forms of discourse, inspirations, and rivalries, and there are connections further afield, pointing toward Western Europe but also to Egypt, the Levant, and Istanbul.

These pages try to sketch what a layered, spatially varied approach to contextualization can look like by exploring a single text, Kitāb kashf al-qinā‘ ‘an ālāt al-samā‘ (The Book of Lifting the Veil from the Instruments of Listening, henceforth Kashf al-qinā‘), written by Ghaouti (Ghaoutsi) Bouali (Abū ‘Alī al-Ghawthī), a teacher and prominent scholar of Arabic grammar and literature from Tlemcen. Although Kashf al-qinā‘ has been counted as the “first Algerian essay of a musicological character” (Guettat, 2004, p. 67), and its publication in 1904 coincided with several landmark works on the Algerian and Egyptian scenes, it has received minimal scholarly attention, and what little it has received tends to treat it as an oddity. Guettat has described Bouali’s notation as “rudimentary and unusable” (p. 67) and has pointed out his idiosyncratic technical vocabulary (p. 68). In Bouali’s own day, the book received a patronizing summary and review in the Revue Africaine by Mohammed Ben Cheneb, as part of his survey of Arabic publications of 1904-1905 (1906). On the other hand, Rouanet’s treatment of it in 1922 is superficially positive: Kashf al-qinā‘ is the only work by a Maghribi writer included in the sparse bibliography of eight “modern Arab authors” (pp. 2681-2682) in his La musique arabe essay, and in La musique arabe dans le Maghreb, Bouali is presented as the sole modern theorist in the Maghrib. However, unlike some of the modern theorists from the Mashriq with whom Rouanet engages at some length, such as Mikha’īl Mashāqa and Kāmil al-Khula‘ī, Rouanet is dismissive of Bouali’s work, effectively shunting the Maghrib to the margins of Arab musical theory while placing Maghribi music (and to a lesser degree, Arabic music more widely) under the monopoly of himself and his European colleagues:

Dans tout le Maghreb la partie théorique de la Musique arabe a échappé aux praticiens ; tous ceux que nous avons connus ignoraient même les petits traités publiés en Egypte par les modernes. Un seul essai a été tenté par le petit livre d'Abou Ali El Ghaouati [sic] (Alger, 1320). Kitab kashf al-qinā‘ ‘an ālāt al-samā‘ [sic] ; mais nous n'y trouvons, comme chez tous tes chanteurs et instrumentistes maghrébins, que des notions vagues, le plus souvent altérées et employant des termes dont la signification n'a plus de rapport avec la théorie qui existe encore en d'autres pays musulmans. (p. 2920)

In the following pages, rather than treating Bouali’s work as a marginal curiosity, or sequestering it on one side of a sharp civilizational divide,
I attempt to engage with Kashf al-qinā‘ as a cosmopolitan work that emerges from three overlapping contexts: one that is primarily French colonial (Tlemcen-Algiers-Paris), one that is primarily Arab (Tlemcen-Algiers-Cairo-Beirut), and one that is more specifically Maghribi (Tlemcen-Algiers-Tlemcen). By situating Kashf al-qinā‘ in these contexts, and by specifically linking these contextualizations to the structure of the text itself, I hope to show Bouali’s book to be simultaneously less anomalous and more remarkable than it might appear at first glance. In the process, I aim to demonstrate the possibilities and challenges of the broader investigative roadmap sketched above.

The structure of Kashf al-qinā ‘

Before placing Kashf al-qinā‘ in its three contexts, it is necessary to briefly sketch its structure. The purpose of this is both to orient the reader to the text—to think about the shape and internal composition of the text as object, so to speak—and to provide a conceptual vocabulary for linking the text to its contexts.

Printed autographically in Algiers in 1904 in the author’s own hand in a run of just 250 copies, Kashf al-qinā‘ presents itself as a study of music (2-3). Structurally, however, it is largely about poetry: after a short preface and introduction, the text consists of a sixteen-page chapter about prose and spoken Arabic, followed by a long chapter on poetry that is divided into a three-page discussion of classical metrical poetry, a 24-page section chiefly comprised of a collection of muwashshaāt, and a 49-page section that is largely a collection of colloquial poetry. It is only in the last third of the book that the author turns toward music per se, with a 33-page chapter about pitch and its representation, the form of musical instruments, rhythm and its representation, the melodies used for several pieces in the nūbat sīka and nūbat ghrīb (notated using a system of the author’s devising), and contemporary performance practice in Algiers and Tlemcen. This chapter on music apparently concludes the work, with the author dating it Thursday, Jumada II 3, 1321, corresponding to August 17, 1903. However, it is followed by an eighteen-page conclusion, dated nearly a year later, in which the author translates a long section drawn from the opening of the 1879 edition of Francisco Salvador Daniel’s 1863 La musique arabe and introduces the fundamentals of standard European staff notation. A rough sketch of the overall structure of the treatise, taking into account the author’s own division of the text into chapters and sections, is as follows, with the page numbers marked beneath:

Decentering the Colonial in Ghaouti Bouali’s Kashf al-qinā ‘of 1904 Revue Turath CRASC

This representation is helpful for seeing the thematic layout of the book.
It is also helpful for distinguishing various nested components of the text. We can conceptualize the title page, the preface, the introduction, and the conclusion as the outer frame of the text as a whole. In turn, we can conceptualize each chapter as being framed with its own unnamed introduction and conclusion and its various named subsections. Finally, the text can be conceptualized temporally in terms of a process punctuated by various moments: the moment before its writing, in which the author-to-be inculcates various other texts and genre frames upon which he will be drawing in the creation of his text, the moment of the writing of the work itself, and the moment of its publication (beyond what I have already mentioned, I will be largely leaving aside what Hanks has called the “after-text,” 1989, p. 96). As we start to place Kashf al-qinā‘ within its various contexts, it will be important to keep in mind its internal structure as well as these moments in the textual production process. 


Not surprisingly for a book printed in Algeria in 1904, the ties of Kashf al-qinā‘ to its high colonial context are hard to miss. The internal evidence for this is concentrated in the work’s framing material, particularly on the title page and its preface: printed at the Imprimerie Jourdan, an Algiers-based press that specialized in government publications, the book begins with a dedication to Governor-General Charles Jonnart, “who has filled our country with justice and propagated landmarks and hospitals” (p. 5). Such a dedication is not unusual for Arabic-language publications of this period. Nor should this be seen as entirely an exercise in flattery, in that Jonnart was widely seen as a fair-minded reformer sympathetic to urban Muslim elites.

If we move beyond the words of the text itself to instead consider the correspondence surrounding its publication found in the archive, we quickly find that the coloniality of the text runs quite deep. Although it is not mentioned directly in the text itself, Kashf al-qinā‘ was printed through the support of the Service des affaires indigènes, recently established within the Gouvernement Général d’Algérie. By weaving between the text and what remains of the correspondence between Bouali and the officials from the Service des affaires indigènes, we can arrive at a fairly detailed reconstruction of the process of revision and negotiation that culminated in the book’s publication.

At the time of the book’s writing and printing, Bouali was a teacher of Arabic in the mosque of Sidi Bel Abbès. He completed the main body of Kashf al-qinā‘ in his home city of Tlemcen, ending just before the conclusion, in August 1903, after which he transmitted the text, with a dedication to Governor-General Jonnart, to the Service des affaires indigènes in Algiers for consideration for publication. It was then passed along for perusal to Abdelhalim Ben Smaïa from the Algiers médersa, who recommended that it be published. Dominique Luciani, the head of the Service (1901-1919; Pouillon 2008: 616), expressed to the Secretary General of the General Government his support for printing the work, citing his desire “to get the natives out of the routine of their old religious instruction.”[3] However, there was a refusal to do typeset printing on the basis of cost, and in April 1904 discussion was continuing as to whether printing would even be possible.[4] Autographic printing appears to have been the solution.[5]

Around this time is when officials from the Service des affaires indigènes began to request certain revisions to the manuscript. On June 7, 1904, Bouali sent the following short letter to Muhammad al-hafnāwī, who seemed to be the point of contact between Luciani and Bouali:

Praised be God the One

Our learned shaykh Sayyid Muhammad al-hafnāwī, upon you perfect peace. Since the arrival of your second letter I began doing what you indicated to me. It is hoped from you that you will send me what you have now so that I might add what I must add and then return it to you, God willing, right away. Upon you peace, from [me], al-Ghawth Abu ‘Alī, 7 June 1904.[6]

We can surmise from the shape of the published version that what had been requested of Bouali was the addition of a new conclusion. This closing section is a translation in two senses. First, the author quotes at length from the first nine pages of Salvador Daniel’s La musique arabe, largely a direct translation, with some omissions, rearrangements, paraphrasing, and emendation; this section is Salvador Daniel’s recounting of his own initiation into the indigenous music of Algeria and his general argument about the link between the latter and the music of medieval Europe. Second, Bouali follows this with a section introducing European notational conventions with regard to melody and rhythm/meter, which he presents as a summary of certain unnamed French texts with which he is becoming acquainted (p. 143). Bouali ends with a page about compound forms and ensemble playing with a conductor (p. 143).

On June 20, 1904, Luciani prepared a letter in Arabic addressed to Bouali. The heavily annotated draft reads as follows:

We were very pleased by your attempt to give [crossed out: a new method in the known style] an example of [melodies] in European musical [crossed out: language] notation, which expands the usefulness of your one-of-a-kind work that gathers together that which was dispersed [crossed out: illegible] elsewhere. I have requested the return of the book to you so that you might make this addition to it, which the petitioners/scholars/students [al-tullāb] await impatiently. We have sent it to you and God appoint that you might not delay in gracing us with it [crossed out: fully crowned]. Goodbye.

From the director of the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs in the Governmental General, Mr. Luciani.

In the margin, the letter reads, “It is requested of you that you [leave] your first example in the original version of the book [ahl al-kitāb], keeping them together, and that this not be neglected--most important.”[7]

Luciani’s letter suggests that it was important to him to set up a contrast between Bouali’s initial homespun if ingenious attempt to notate the melodies, on the one hand, and the standard European conventions for doing so on the other. It also suggests that Bouali sent them a draft of the addition, and then made this addition to the copy that had been in the hands of the Service. Luciani’s request also helps to explain the fact that Bouali ends the text twice, once in August 1903 (p. 125), and again a year later on the potent date of July 14 (p. 143). However, at least part of the introduction appears to have been rewritten to include mention of this new conclusion (p. 4); it is likely that Bouali simply recopied the entire text, with the added conclusion and either a new or updated preface.

Four days later, Bouali sent the completed book to the sous-préfet of Tlemcen, to be passed along to Luciani.[8] Shortly after, Bouali left Algeria to work at the Ecole Franco-Arabe at the French Legation in Tangier, returning some six months later due to illness, apparently resuming his work in Sidi Bel Abbès in 1905.[9] Meanwhile, the book had been printed; however, Bouali did not receive copies until July 1906, in response to his plea in March for a few copies.[10] He received twenty out of the 250 total, with the other copies being distributed to the médersas, military officers attached to the Service des affaires indigènes, the préfectures, the Résidence Générale in Tunis, plus various individuals, including the Orientalists Ignác Goldziher, Edmond Doutté, and Gaétan Delphin.[11]

With its publication and distribution, the archival trace of the connection between Bouali and the Service naturally ends. On the basis of subsequent writings, however, we know that by 1908 Bouali was teaching at the Grand Mosque in Tlemcen (Bel, 1908, p. 439). And by 1914-1915, Bouali was teaching at the Médersa of Tlemcen (Bouali and Marçais, 1917, p. 1), where he would remain (now a professeur and not simply a mouderrès) for the rest of his career. From his position at the Médersa of Tlemcen, Bouali engaged in a variety of scholarly projects, including the translation of Ibn al-Ahmar’s Histoire des Benî Merîn (1917), which he co-authored with Georges Marçais. He was also a close associate of William Marçais and provided expert advice regarding local poets of Tlemcen to the linguist Georges Colin.[12]

While Bouali’s book received little attention, it is certainly possible that its publication helped Bouali advance in his career. But neither this possibility nor the heavy involvement of the colonial apparatus in the reshaping and publication of Kashf al-qinā‘ is to accuse Bouali of cozying up to the colonial apparatus. Like many other reformist intellectuals teaching in the médersa system, Bouali was centrally concerned with the transmission of Algerian Arab-Islamic culture, a symbolic repertoire that would become a central discursive pillar of the independence struggle that developed decades after his death in 1933. After the Second World War, he would be warmly remembered as an effective and compassionate teacher by his student Mohamed Kazi Tani, a militant in the Association des Oulémas Musulmans Algériens (Kazi Tani, 1952, pp. 38-41). And Bouali was quite literally a grandfather to the post-independence Andalusi musical revival in Tlemcen thanks to the central role played there by his son, Mohamed Bouali. The foregoing narration of the publication history of Bouali’s book simply serves to point out its close entanglement with the colonial apparatus, and the way in which that entanglement influenced aspects of the text itself.


This first contextualization is enriching but by no means sufficient. Note that it focuses largely on one moment in the process of textual production, that of publication. Note too that the revisions that arose from the negotiation of publication are confined to the conclusion. This entanglement with the colonial apparatus is of course important; indeed, we would likely not know of Kashf al-qinā‘ had it not reached print, and the relationship with the Service reshaped the text in important ways. However, it is necessary to reach beyond the fine detail of the colonial archive and the effects of colonial power on the text’s framing material and its realization in print if we are to tune in to some subtler connections embedded in the text, most of them beyond the conclusion added at Luciani’s behest. These connections involve a lateral, East-West matrix that links Algeria to Egypt, to Beirut, to the Mashriq more broadly, and likely to Istanbul as well. These connections also happen to show Bouali to have had more access to current Arabic print culture from the Mashriq than is typically acknowledged in the literature on turn-of-the-century French Algeria.

Kashf al-qinā‘ is peppered with references to Arabic-language works coming from a wide range of periods. Throughout, Bouali cites classical authors associated with diverse fields, including, in the preface and introduction, al-Ghazālī, al-Isfahānī, Ibn Khaldūn, al-Tabarī, al-Mas‘ūdī, and al-Wāqidī; in the section on prose, Abū Tammām and al-Harīrī; in the section on metered poetry, al-Khalīl and Ibn ‘Abd al-Rabbih; in the section on tawshīh, the authors of the seven canonical muwashahāt; and in the section on music, Ibn al-Nabīh, al-Haskafī, Ibn Khallikān, and Ibn Rashīq. While Bouali may conceivably have known the writings of these authors through manuscript versions, it is more likely that he knew them through printed versions coming from Cairo and Beirut in the second half of the nineteenth century, either through travels outside Algeria or through nodes of entry within Algeria (such as Ahmed Ben Mourad Turki’s bookstore on rue Randon in Algiers; Ben Cheneb, 1906, p. 262n1). Bouali also shows himself to be aware of recent developments in Egyptian and Ottoman Arab intellectual circles, as is evident in his introductory discussion of Egyptian innovations with regard to punctuation (p. 6) and his quotation from the contemporary Palestinian jurist and poet Yūsuf al-Nabhānī (p. 5).

On its face si, the long chapter on music is focused on the Maghribi and more specifically Algerian context. The x pages Bouali devotes to instruments is centered on those used in the Algerian nūba practice, and his discussion of modes, performance practice, individual musicians, and specific melodies all focus on the nūba tradition of Tlemcen and Algiers. At the same time, Bouali shows himself to have also been aware of musicological works coming from Egypt, which had become relatively numerous since the 1856 publication of Shihāb al-Dīn’s Safīnat al-mulk wa-nafīsat al-fulk (The Ship of State and the Vessel’s Gem). Bouali cites only one by name: ‘Uthmān ibn Muhammad al-Jundī’s 1895 treatise Risālat rawh al-masarrāt fī ‘ilm al-naghamāt (Treatise on the Garden of Delights in the Science of Songs) (96). However, he also mentions another one—likely Muhammad Darwīsh’s 1902 safā al-awqāt fī ‘ilm al-naghamāt (The Serenity of Seasons in the Science of Songs)—without giving its title:

I saw a book of a learned Egyptian in which the author testifies to the perfection of his culture by adopting in it the practice of naming the soft sound in the percussion the tak and the loud sound the tum, and he used a simple dot for the tak in this manner (.) while the symbol for tum is a small circle like this (o). And there is no shame if I follow in his tracks and I adhere to his usage. (p. 106; for the corresponding convention in Darwīsh, see 1902, p. 21)

Beyond Bouali’s direct quotation from al-Jundī concerning the Persian names for the steps in the scale (p. 96), there are several passages that suggest that Bouali found inspiration from his work. For example, Bouali seems to paraphrase al-Jundī in discussing the strings of the ‘ūd (compare al-Jundī p. 7 and Bouali p. 107), as well as in his discussion of the adab of the singer (al-Jundī p. 21 and Bouali p. 94). In turn, al-Jundī’s and Darwīsh’s works borrow liberally from the stream of printed musicological publications reaching back to Safīnat al-mulk (and very likely a stream of manuscript writings that preceded and ran alongside those printed works).

While an extensive comparison of Kashf al-qinā‘ with al-Khula‘ī’s Kitāb al-mūsīqā al-sharqī (The Book of Eastern Music) is not possible here, it makes sense to think of these two publications of 1904 together, despite their considerable difference in length and detail. Both works were emerging from a largely Egyptian musicological conversation of preceding decades that nevertheless drew extensively on medieval models (Popper, 2019). Both combine attention to music theory, poetry, adab, religious considerations about the morality of music, contemporary performance practice, and instruments with an eagerness to use notation to preserve music from what they view as the threat of loss. Of course, Bouali is attuned to Algerian and Maghribi specificities, but this is very much in keeping with the attention to Egyptian specificities evident in al-Khula‘ī and his predecessors. In this sense, Kashf al-qinā‘ can be read as an Algerianization of a nascent Arab musicological model arising primarily from Egypt.

So far, I have been pointing out connections to Egypt that show up in various ways in the main body of Bouali’s text. However, such connections might be found as well in his concluding section that focuses on European staff notation. While Bouali states that he is drawing from French sources (p. 143), it is also possible that he drew from Arabic manuals printed in the Mashriq as well. His language in the preface suggests at least an awareness of Arabic-language “imitators” with regard to European staff notation:

And the conclusion is an illustration and interpretation of this art among its European practitioners and their imitators, extending its usage eastward and westward, universally. The Muslim disregarded it, and [this conclusion] spreads this universal convention once again, so that the book may be, with God’s help, unique in its kind. (p. 4)

Broaching the possibility that Bouali was drawing from the Mashriq does not mean that he was somehow bypassing France in these sections. French enjoyed great prestige in Egypt, and some of the Mashriqi printed works dealing with music drew on French models and vocabulary. This is evident in Ghārdūn’s 1855 treatise (Poché, 1994, p. 62n4), as well as in Amīn al-Dīk’s 1902 Nayl al-arab fī mūsīqā al-afranj wa-l-‘arab (The Attainment of Skill in the Music of the Europeans and Arabs) and al-Khula‘ī’s 1904 Kitāb al-mūsīqā al-sharqī. Ironically, the prestige of the French language in the Mashriq was also a way in which Arabs in the Mashriq came to be aware of Algerian music, as in the case of Philippe El Khazen’s preface to his printed collection of muwashahāt from an early modern Algerian manuscript, where the author cites a correspondent’s description of music-making in Algiers in the Paris-based daily Le Temps (El Khazen, 1902, p. vi). In other words, the crucible of French Algeria existed within a wider, more diffuse regional situation in which French was serving as an intellectual lingua franca for a wide range of Arabic speakers. This may still be an imperial France, but its language may have been entering into Bouali’s text via Cairo and Beirut as well as via colonial Algiers. Despite this other possible itinerary, for now it is a safer assumption that Bouali’s direct guides with regard to European staff notation were coming from France rather than from the Mashriq.


Moving into the East-West Arab context has permitted a somewhat closer engagement with an aspect of Kashf al-qinā‘ that goes beyond its framing material and the moment of publication. In turn, turning toward the third and final context—that of the Maghrib itself, and of Tlemcen more particularly, both colonial and precolonial—allows us to start to engage with the text as a whole, and not only with its chapter on music.

Ironically enough, there are ways in which the Maghribi dimension of Kashf al-qinā‘ is the most difficult to trace. Given the fact that Bouali’s book was the first of its kind in Algeria, it is not so surprising that his citation of other printed books from the Maghrib is very slight: the one direct reference I found is to Al-anīs al-mutrib fīman laqiyahu mu’allifuhu min udaba’ al-maghrib (The Singing Companion to Those the Author Met of the Maghrib’s Men of Letters), an eighteenth-century collection of biographies of Moroccan poets, including samples of their oeuvres, that had been printed lithographically in Fes in 1898. This collection includes a section centered on Muhammad al-Bū‘aṣāmī (pp. 168-193), a key compiler of Moroccan nūba poetry and music theorist active in the first half of the eighteenth century. Part of this section is a discussion of the playing of the ‘ūd, but it does not appear to be a direct source for Bouali’s own discussion of the instrument. Another printed work by a Maghribi writer that Bouali cites is al-Nāsirī’s Kitāb al-istiqsā li-akhbār duwal al-maghrib al-aqsā (The Book of Investigation into the Annals of the Moroccan Dynasties), a groundbreaking history of Morocco that had been printed in Cairo in 1894/1895. A conspicuous absence is the Ibrahīm al-Tādilī’s recently penned musicological tour-de-force, Aghani al-siqa wa-maghani al-musiqa, awal-irtiqa ila ulum al-musiqa (The Songs of the Waterskin and the Abodes of Music, or the Ascent toward the Sciences of Music), which was circulating in multiple manuscript copies in Morocco at the time.

But these silences and tenuous links to the modern Maghribi literary field should not distract us from the firm rooting of Bouali’s work in the Maghribi social and artistic world. I have already mentioned that we can read the musicological aspects of the book as an Algerianization of a modern Arab musicological tradition centered on Egypt. This does not do justice to the work as a whole, however, which is weighted more toward poetry than to music, despite its ostensible focus on the latter (pp. 2-3). In turn, taking seriously the priority of poetry in this work allows us to begin to understand Bouali’s logic, which is oriented firmly toward the Maghrib while seamlessly connecting his cultural world to the Mashriqi past.

The key theme of Kashf al-qinā‘ that facilitates the vast geographic and thematic reach of the slim volume, and that helps to account for the intense focus on language in a book ostensibly focused on music, is the defense against loss over time and space. Bouali posits that the science of Arabic grammar arose from the danger the Arabic language faced from its rapid dispersal through the expansion of the Arab-Islamic empire (p. 11). Verse is likewise presented as a protection against the dispersal that everyday prose faces (p. 92), and Bouali likewise frames al-Khalīl’s meters as an attempt to protect against the loss of the ancient Arabic poetic tradition (p. 23). For him, the dangers that the grammatical and metrical tradition worked against were tied up with the rise of various Arabic vernaculars. While Bouali laments the problems posed by the diglossic situation in Arabic (p. 11) and paints the grammarians and al-Khalīl in heroic colors, he also treats the Arabic vernaculars as a fact of life worthy of scholarly inquiry. Even if he is often eager to point out the derivation of colloquial speech from classical sources, Bouali devotes sustained attention to Arabic dialectology, with attention to Egyptian, Hijazi, and, most of all, Algerian and Moroccan pronunciation and lexicon (pp. 12-21).

His comparative impulse allows Bouali to differentiate broadly between Maghribi and Mashriqi taste and aesthetics. It also allows him to move from classical Arabic verse in Khalilian meters to the Andalusian strophic tradition, and from there to its transformation into the colloquial poetic tradition specific to western Algeria and eastern Morocco, with its own metrical exigencies tied to the particularities of Maghribi spoken Arabic. This is what then allows Bouali to turn his attention to specific poetic texts from the hawzī tradition of Tlemcen, with some attention to the musical performance practice surrounding these poems in western Algeria (p. 93) and Morocco (pp. 88-89).

When Bouali finally pivots to direct discussion of music, his focus is on the nūba practice that highlights mainly the muwashahāt, not the malhūn poetry. But the logic of the turn to music in the last section follows the logic of the rest of the book, in that here again he is spurred on by the danger of dispersal. In this case, it is not the dispersal of poetic texts themselves so much as the dispersal of the melodies to which they are sung. It is because of the lack of musical notation that the melodies of poetic texts have either been lost or are in danger of disappearing. The melodies here are understood emphatically as a dimension or adornment of the poems, so that singing and instrumental music are treated primarily as a vehicle for poetry. For example, in describing the tūshiya, Bouali writes that it is “a movement with instruments alone, without intoning [takallum] a metered poem or zajal over it,” whereas an msaddar is“a slow movement in which the notes are held longer, over which he [the leader of the ensemble] and those with him intone [yatakallim] a metered poem” (p. 123).[13] But just as poetry has staying power that prose lacks (p. 92), Bouali treats sung poems that lack notation as melodically ephemeral (p. 108). This is what leads him to offer his notational system, which he then uses to transcribe pieces from two nūbāt (pp. 113-122).

The impulse against dispersion of melodies is in turn tied to the impulse against the loss of other kinds of musical knowledge, particularly with regard to modes. Bouali is intrigued by the story of the loss of modes and nūbāt, and he also shows a philological fascination with comparative knowledge.
A localized, intra-Maghribi comparative impulse is particularly acute in the discussion of dialectology and, most of all, music. With respect to the latter, Bouali’s residence for a time in Algiers, and his contact with students and scholars from other parts of Algeria (and possibly from Tunisia as well), is generative, both with regard to understanding how the nūba tradition differs between Tlemcen, Algiers, and Constantine (p. 101n,
pp. 122-124) and with regard to how the tradition experienced decline:

I have found reports that indicate that in the lands of al-Andalus this art contained 24 modes/suites, while in our age what remains of these are only twelve modes in the mouths of the singers. There was in Tlemcen a Jew named Maqshīsh who I used to spend evenings listening to, and he had command of sixteen modes, and today we have those who are deemed praiseworthy and skilled for knowing but four.

While I am a Tlemcenian by residence and birth I lived in Algiers for two years in pursuit of noble learning at the upper college. With my peers there, who were from all the Algerian regions and from the vicinity of Tunis, we were bound to talk about what is now practiced in our regions, on the basis of eyewitness or by hearsay, and we would say, “Confirmation is with God.”

What is required in this art is the fixing of melodies and the placement of notes in conventionalized form. I have happened upon more than 1,003 qawā’id and azjāl where the record is content to convey only the words of the first hemistich, and that it is sung according to the dhīl or māya mode, for example, but all one understands by the word dhīl or māya is that the final note will be dhīl or māya, leaving us without an understanding of when the singer should ascend, descend, stay in the middle, and so on. If we had a system of conventionalized symbols for making all this precise, then a hundred choice melodies from the age of dynasty of Fes would have been conserved, and the people of al-Andalus would have taught us how their tawāshīh were sung. This convention would be for the preservation of melodies in the same way that writing preserves words and pronunciations. (pp. 108-109)

Bouali was by no means the only indigenous Algerian writing about music in this moment, nor the only invoking the danger of loss as a spur for his work. Edmond Nathan Yafil’s famous compendium of nūba texts appeared in the same year, as did nūba texts published by Mahmoud Ould Sidi Said in cooperation with the Arabist Joseph Desparmet (Desparmet 1904). Closer to home for Bouali, the Tlemceni musician, schoolteacher, and scholar Mostefa Aboura was in this very moment engaging in an ambitious project of musical transcription of the nūba repertoire and its adjuncts, mainly as he encountered it in Tlemcen but with some comparative attention to Algiers, where he too had studied. It is difficult to imagine that Aboura and Bouali would not have known one another and have known of one another’s projects, and a comparative study of their work would considerably enrich our understanding of musical and intellectual life in Tlemcen and the wider country in this period. While Aboura never directly published his labors, some of them would see the light of day in Rouanet’s 1922 essay, where the author wrote in a footnote,

Les textes musicaux de Tlemcen ont été recueillis par M. Mostefa Aboura, instituteur, musicien très distingué non pas seulement en musique arabe, mais en musique européenne, excellent clarinettiste, qui nous a donné une collaboration intelligente et dévouée. (p. 2876) 

On the one hand, the story of Rouanet and Aboura—a story that has yet to be told in full—points to entanglement between Algerian and French figures, between colonized and colonizer. I will return to this possibility in a moment. But for the time being, I want to underline the fact that there was a lively scene of indigenous Algerians engaging in musicological thought and writing, and who drew on textual practices associated with Europe while at the same time drawing on textual traditions that had long been indigenous to the Maghrib. Not unlike al-Tādilī a few decades earlier, they were all to varying degrees expressing an acutely comparative and, by extension, philological curiosity that was oriented primarily to the Algerian and Maghribi context while also drawing on broader Arab traditions of scholarship. The work of Ghaouti Bouali is the most fully elaborated example of this indigenous musicological thread at this turn-of-the-century moment.


The foregoing meditation on Bouali’s book has emphasized the importance of contextualizing it within various frames: a French Algerian frame that emphasizes coloniality, a Maghrib-Mashriq frame that emphasizes lateral connections to Egypt and the Levant, and a more specifically Maghribi frame that situates Bouali within an Algerian and Moroccan context that partly predates French intrusion. None of these contextualizations cancel out the others. Rather, they highlight three different dimensions and frames of reference in which Bouali was working.

At the same time, these dimensions are not equally weighted, and what we make of them depends on what kinds of sources and what parts of the text we attend to. If we focus on its framing material and the process of bringing it into print, the colonial dimension comes to the fore. But if we pay attention to the intertextual links, the East-West connections between Maghrib and Mashriq loom large, particularly when we focus on Bouali’s chapter devoted to music. And if we pay attention to the linguistic, poetic, and musical materials and personages with which Bouali is engaging throughout his text, the Maghribi and more specifically western Algerian dimension of the work is highlighted. Note that the paper trail and the interior of the text stand in inverse proportion: the deeper we move into Kashf al-qinā‘structurally speaking, the further adrift we become from the state archive and the printed word.

The foregoing exercise is, then, a plea to keep multiple contexts in mind, and with them multiple sources. One possible critique is that thinking in terms of three distinct (even if overlapping) contexts unfairly partitions actors and discourses from one another along lines of language, civilization, culture, and ethnicity. After all, can we really separate Aboura or Yafil from Rouanet, or Bouali from Luciani, or Mashāqa from the American missionaries in Beirut, or al-Khula‘ī from Thomas Edison? The answer, of course, is no. But at least temporarily thinking in terms of multiple contexts is helpful for constructing a narrative that is more complex than an overdetermined story of Westernization or colonial imposition. Furthermore, it allows us to start imagining more localized stories of modernism and modernization (Seggerman, 2021). If it is possible to think of Bouali in terms of an Algerian Arabophone domestication of European modernist discourses, in part translated via Egypt, it is also possible to think of him in terms of a Maghribi modernist discourse that emerges seamlessly from indigenous sources and forms, some of them of considerably antiquity.

It is also helpful to reverse the terms of some of the preceding questions. Is it possible to think about Rouanet without Yafil and Aboura, for example, or Chottin without Moulay Idriss? In these particular instances, we can again answer no, in that Rouanet and Chottin depended on the work of their Maghribi interlocutors to make their own work possible. But I would like to conclude by airing the possibility of answering in the negative from yet another angle. For example, what if we thought about European musicological interest in Arab music as following in the footsteps of Arab scholars who were their contemporaries? To move eastward and a little backward in time, what if we read al-‘Attar and Mashāqa as the starting point for J.P.N. Land and others, for example? What if we read Aboura and Yafil as the proximate starting point for Rouanet? In other words, instead of uncovering the Arab scholars and musicians working behind the scenes for d’Erlanger, Rouanet, and Chottin, what happens if we flip the script, and view the Europeans as rushing to catch up with the work of their Arab counterparts, and perhaps in some instances even absorbing and transforming indigenous narratives of loss? Of course, one could then counter that their Arab counterparts were in turn inspired by trends originating in Europe. But the point is that we probably cannot stop at some clear moment of origination. Equally, we cannot simply treat the field of discourse as an undifferentiated whole. In order to uncover a dialectic, we will need to recognize multiplicity. In such matters, Ghaouti Bouali remains an effective and compassionate teacher. 


Archival Sources

Centre d’archives d’outre-mer, Gouvernement Général d’Algérie, 9H/37/18.

Centre des archives diplomatiques de Nantes, Archives des Postes, Tanger, Légation et Consulat, 517, Série A.

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(pp. 2676-2812). Delagrave.

Rouanet, J. (1922a). La musique arabe dans le Maghreb. In A. Lavignac
& L. de la Laurencie (Eds.), Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire (pp. 2813-2939). Delagrave.

Said, E.W. (1979). Orientalism. Vintage Books.

Salvador Daniel, F. (1879). La musique arabe : ses rapports avec la musique grècque et le chant grégorien. Adolphe Jourdan.

Seggerman, A.D. (2021). Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary. University of North Carolina Press.

Shihāb al-Dīn, M.I. (1856/1857). Safīnat al-mulk wa-nafīsat al-fulk. Cairo.

al-Tādilī, I. (2011[1884-1885]). Aghānī al-siqā wa-maghānī al-mūsīqā,
aw al-irtiqā ilā ʻulūm al-mūsīqā. Akādīmiyyat al-mamlaka al-maghribiyya.

Yafil, E.N. (1904). Diwān al-aghānī min kalām al-andalus. Yafil.

Yafil, E.N. (1904). Majmū‘ al-aghānī wa-l-alḥān min kalām al-andalus. Yafil.


Jules Rouanet (1858-1944): An Ideological Biography

Jonathan GLASSER[14]

A close look at Rouanet’s career as a journalist, musicologist, and jack-of-all-trades intellectual illuminates a great deal about the colonial cultural politics of Third Republic Algeria and vice versa. Born in Saint Pons in Clermont-l’Hérault in 1858, Rouanet arrived in Algeria along with his wife, children, and parents in the 1880s.[15]From a middle-class milieu (his father was a dyer), Rouanet found in the colonial Algerian context fertile ground for social advancement by combining his background as an agricultural engineer with his skills as a journalist and cultural critic.[16] He also found in colonial Algeria a cause into which he threw himself with great energy, making him not only a commentator but also a booster and militant for settler interests. His early editorial and journalistic work at the Gazette du Colon and L’Akhbar, where he specialized in agricultural affairs, intersected with his role as secretary of the Comice agricole de Boufarick and his efforts to establish a musée commercial in Algiers.[17] After the death of one of his sons in 1890, Rouanet appears to have briefly tried his hand at journalism in Paris, before settling there for a time in 1892 as sous-directeur at the Musée Commercial de l’Algérie, a venture of the Government General.[18] By 1897, however, he was back in Algiers, continuing to write largely about agricultural matters and settler affairs. Despite a period beginning in 1899 as editor of the short-lived weekly Journal des Colons, Rouanet was now mainly associated with La Dépêche Algérienne, where he would take on an increasingly prominent role over the next four decades.

Much of Rouanet’s journalistic output was focused on agriculture and on economic affairs more broadly, sometimes under the name Mestré Ramon.[19] But from the beginning of his journalistic career, Rouanet also wrote frequently about art and music, sometimes signing his articles as Raoul d’Artenac.[20] As was the case in his agricultural boosterism, Rouanet’s musical interests were not confined to the newspaper columns. In 1898 Rouanet threw himself into musical activities on his return to Algiers through his founding of the Petit Athénée, a “Société Littéraire Artistique et Scientifique.”[21] Serving as a library and a pedagogical and performance space, the Petit Athénée was an important promoter of European classical music in the capital at the turn of the century. Indigenous Algerian music was decidedly absent from the Petit Athénée, as were indigenous Algerians themselves—no Muslims seem to have been members, and in keeping with the ubiquitous and virulent antisemitism of the moment, its regulations explicitly excluded Jews.[22] Rouanet’s association with the Petit Athénée did not last long—ill health and internal disputes spelled the end of his leadership by 1904, and a year later the association had disbanded, its space now renamed the Salle Barthe.[23] Nevertheless, Rouanet would continue to be closely connected to European classical music, both as a reviewer and as a teacher of piano, well into his old age.[24]

Rouanet’s experience in the Petit Athénée coincides with the beginning of his involvement in Arab music. His attention to indigenous artistic forms starting around 1904 did not come entirely out of the blue: in 1897 Rouanet had published “Pour les tapis algériens,” which called for the revival of Algerian textile art. His engagement with Arab music, however, would go much deeper and extend over several decades. It began at the behest of the Government General, which set him the task of studying “la musique arabe et la constitution d’un recueil des pieces originals et intéressantes qui subsistent en Algérie, en Tunisie, en Sicile, en Espagne et chez les divers peoples musulmans” right around the time when he was leaving the Petit Athénée.[25] The impulse to study Arab cultural production was very much in keeping with the zeitgeist surrounding the tenure of Governor-General Charles Jonnart, whose administration’s interest in documenting and promoting a Hispano-Mauresque aesthetic earned him the affection of many elite urban Algerian Muslims, even if Jonnart’s leadership ultimately proved ineffectual in improving the everyday life of most Algerian Muslims. This project brought Rouanet into direct and sustained contact with the young Algerian Jewish musician and scholar Edmond-Nathan Yafil, and through Yafil, Rouanet came to know a range of leading Algerian musicians, including Mohamed Ben ‘Ali Sfindja, the doyen of the nûba repertoire of Algiers. The following excerpt from a letter to the Governor General published in the columns of La Tafna in 1905, signed El Magharbi, gives a sense of how Rouanet’s work was being received in some circles:

Depuis quelques temps, il semble qu’un esprit nouveau - rien de celui de Spuller - règne en Algérie.

C’est un esprit fait d’apaisement, de bonne entente, de concorde entre les divers éléments composant la population algérienne…

Mais, chose encore particulièrement digne de remarque et comme un signe bienfaisant des temps : l’on dirait que le colon et l’indigène dont l’accord avait toujours paru utopique vivent aujourd’hui dans un esprit de mutuelle cordialité. Serait-ce à la suite de quelques concessions tacites réciproques ?

En vérité ce nouvel état de choses moral est dû à votre politique sage, bienveillante et tolérante. Grâce à des mesures administratives très habiles et très appropriées à la situation générale du pays, et, d’autre part, appliquant la doctrine de Lissagaray : soyons arabojustes, vous avez su ramener la confiance et faire renaître l’union dans tous les milieux : les colons ont trouvé en vous le défenseur éloquent et ardent de leurs multiples intérêts, tandis que les indigènes, eux, se plaisent à reconnaitre en vous l’administrateur juste et impartial en même temps que l’ami et le tuteur dévoué et bienveillant.…

Tout récemment encore, afin de donner aux indigènes une preuve de plus de vos sentiments aimables à leur égard vous avez résolu de vous faire hardiment le protecteur et le conservateur de leur musique qui tendait à disparaître : un homme de talent, d’une compétence indiscutable, M. Jules Rouanet fut chargé officiellement par vous de la mission difficultueuse entre toute de la diffusion et de la conservation de la musique arabe.

Outre que l’intention est éminemment louable, j’y vois encore pour ma part un but d’ordre plus élevé : en confiant à notre distingué confrère le soin de noter et d’écrire la musique arabe pour en faire jouer de temps à autre quelques morceaux par nos musiques régimentaires, vous avez sans doute pensé et avec raison qu’en groupant autour de celles-ci des auditeurs de différents cultes, ce serait un moyen de les rapprocher et de créer entre eux un certain courant de sympathie et de bonne harmonie (sans jeu de mots).

Mais il faut espérer que la mesure prise par vous pour la ville d’Alger sera étendue à toute l’Algérie et qu’il sera bientôt donné à toutes les grandes villes algériennes de pouvoir applaudir à chaque concert un ou deux airs arabes choisis dans le répertoire de M. Rouanet : les indigènes qui sont très impressionnables et très sensibles seront des premiers à vous en être reconnaissants.

Et puis n’oublions pas que la musique qui adoucit les mœurs peut également servir ici de train d’union entre l’élément colon et l’élément indigène…

Over the next few decades, Rouanet’s work with the indigenous musical scene would bring him in two directions. On the one hand, he began to write and talk directly to scholars, including the attendees at the 1905 Congress of Orientalists in Algiers and the readers of leading musicological journals in Paris, bringing him into a more rarefied atmosphere than his usual journalistic interventions.[26] On the other hand, Rouanet began to closely collaborate with indigenous musicians. His collaborations with Yafil resulted in the publication of a series of transcriptions from the urban repertoire, the formation of an Arab music ensemble sometimes known as Orchestre Rouanet et Yafil (which would later morph into the Société El Moutribia), and involvement in the early recording industry in Algeria.[27] These scholarly and applied aspects of his activity were two sides of the same coin: just as his scholarly publications emphasized the danger of disappearance that Arab music faced, his transcription, recording, and performance activities were geared toward the salvage and revival of this allegedly frozen and decadent music through “modern” methods associated with the French civilizing mission.

The Encylopédie essays are the culmination of Rouanet’s writings and lectures on Arab music, even if he subsequently published shorter works.[28] The two essays were generally well received in the European press, and in 1925 they garnered him the Prix Bordin from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (Anonymous 1925).[29] By this time, however, Rouanet’s “applied” activities around Arab music had receded. It is striking, and was striking already at the time, that Rouanet’s recognition in scholarly circles in Europe roughly coincided with the success of Yafil’s Société El Moutribia, as well as with the very public falling out between Rouanet and Yafil that took place in the pages of La Dépêche Algérienne in 1927 (Miliani 2018). While the proximate cause of the rupture was Rouanet’s charge that Yafil had claimed authors’ rights over the traditional repertoire, it is also possible to read this as a violent assertion of settler difference from the urban indigenous milieu and as a break from Rouanet’s connections with more humble indigenous counterparts who were now sharing the limelight. It is also striking that this was the moment when the Jeunes Algériens who Rouanet so despised were beginning to engage in the public musical revival in which Rouanet had originally had such a hand.[30] 

In retrospect, the various sides of Rouanet’s public persona raise some broader questions. It is certainly not surprising to find patronizing, Orientalizing tendencies in relatively sympathetic Jonnart-era treatments of “Hispano-Mauresque” culture, as seen in the letter in La Tafna quoted above. But it is another matter to find a sustained interest in Algerian Arab music in a figure who was a relentless defender of the settler cause against indigenous reformers and Paris-based critics. Even if Rouanet occasionally bowed to mild reform in France’s indigenous policy, throughout his career he remained an implacable foe of the enfranchisement of Algerian Muslims. While he was willing to accept the accession of individual “evolved” Muslims into the charmed circle of full citizenship, he held firmly to a notion of two distinct “races” on the same soil, necessarily divided by culture and therefore by political rights. Why, then, would someone so dismissive of indigenous Algerians be so involved with their arts and artists?

Responding to this question requires a consideration of the substance of Rouanet’s musicological writings in dialogue with the substance of his views on “indigenous affairs.” We have already acknowledged the political import of his emphasis on Arab stagnation and the revivifying power of French tools and methods. But a tracing of the grand argument of his essays in the Encyclopédie underlines just how closely tied the image of Arab stagnation and French power were to his particular melding of musical philology and racial theory (see Chami in this issue). Read as one continuous argument, the two essays present a striking narrative of Arab musical origins, early development through borrowing fueled by rapid expansion of the Muslim empire, medieval crystallization in Spain, the musical culture’s “turning in on itself,” slow decay after 1492, and finally rapid deterioration in the face of European dominance—a temporal sequence that he maps onto the Maghribi landscape itself (see for example p. 2819). This deeply Orientalist narrative of arrested development and decay is of course quite convenient for Rouanet, in that in one fell swoop it solves the problem of how to access the musical past: all one must do is engage in an act of “musical archaeology,” since one can find in present-day musical practice the remnants of the medieval past.

As Bouhadiba has pointed out (2019: 67), a major acknowledged influence on Rouanet is Ernest Renan’s writing on “Semitic” mentality. This is particularly evident in Rouanet’s assertion that Arab Muslim music reflects an Arab Muslim mentality rooted in desert life. If this aspect of his argument feels pulled directly from the second half of the nineteenth century, other aspects of it feel more familiar, and even reflect questions in sociomusicological thought that remain quite current. For example, is music immune to outside influence, or is it a site of outside influence (p. 2748)? Rouanet’s uncertainty with regard to the Arab case speaks to a tension running through both essays regarding the endogenous and the exogenous—the endogenous being about the eternal mentality of a people (here equated with Islam), and the exogenous being about give-and-take, change, influence, and even contagion (Pasler 2012-2013: 54). Throughout, Rouanet combines an insistence on a perennial Muslim “mentality” with an insistence on the importance of borrowing—in other words, according to him, music (particularly sacred music) reflects something original and specific while simultaneously reflecting (particularly in profane music) various accretions, influences, and physical movements. But is this borrowing a source of vitality, or is it a threat to musical integrity? Is music that tends to remain “pareil à lui-même” a sign of decay or of strength (Bouhadiba 2019: 68)? This balancing act complicates Rouanet’s confident narrative of stagnation and decadence, even if he ultimately brushes the tensions under the carpet.

Rouanet’s grand musical argument, despite its contradictions, made sense with regard to his broader colonial politics. His vision of French Algeria was as a settler colony that could only survive in the long term through massive French colonization and through maintenance of a docile Muslim population through what he considered good governance, who might undergo a very slow “evolution” under strict French control but without any extension of citizenship rights. This helps to account for Rouanet’s attention to the nûba repertoire, associated as it was with the “vieux turbans” and the bourgeoisie. In addition, this tradition was treated by him, in print and in his other musical activities, as the most assimilable to European classical conventions. But it is also important to consider some of his broader arguments about essence and influence, which go well beyond the nûba repertoire. Rouanet’s argument about profound Greek influence on Arab music was an elaboration of Salvador Daniel’s argument some six decades earlier, wherein “North African music seemed a potential source of knowledge about Greek music: knowledge of the Other was capable of enhancing knowledge of the self” (Pasler 2012-2013: 28). As in Salvador Daniel’s argument, Rouanet’s emphasis on Greek influence opened a deep connection between Arab and European musical traditions. The temporal depth of Greek influence worked well with Rouanet’s narrative: if Greek theory enriched an excessively simple Arab Islamic music at an early date, and if those imprints can still be heard in a wide variety of music in the Maghrib, particularly in the countryside, then digging back beyond the decadence and decay of the intervening centuries might in fact be an act of de-Orientalization and of drawing closer to something compatible with European music. In this sense, the Greek substrate offers a model of positive influence as well as a substantive link between Arab Islamic music and European music, one that parallels the linkage he makes between Kabyle music and Roman music explored in Nacim Khellal’s contribution to this issue. In its gesture to the deep past, this move also provides a future for Rouanet’s colonial vision of association without assimilation. 

Even in his settler milieu, Rouanet’s positions regarding the future of Algeria were profoundly conservative. Whether writing about music or politics, his work played on turn-of-the-century colonial themes all the way to the end of his career on the eve of the Second World War. In his last four years, Rouanet fell uncharacteristically silent. Less than a year after his death in Algiers, the foundations of his paternalistic vision of Algeria’s future would be profoundly shaken.


Anonymous. (1887, 8 March). Création d’un Musée commercial à Alger. La Dépêche Algérienne, p. 3.

Anonymous. (1898, 20 November). Le Petit Athénée. Le Radical algérien, p. 2.

Anonymous. (1898a, 25 November). Le Petit Athénée. Le Radical algérien, p. 2.

Anonymous. (1904, 12 May). Au Petit Athénée : La question Rouanet. La Dépêche Algérienne, p. 4.

Anonymous. (1904a, 18 August). La musique arabe. L’Echo du soir, p. 2.

Anonymous. (1905, 22 October). La fermeture de la bourse du travail. Les Nouvelles, p. 2.

Anonymous. (1922, 14 June). Tribunal Correctionnel d’Alger : Le droit de critique et le droit de réponse dans la presse. Le Tell, p. 2.

Anonymous. (1925, 4 May). Echos-A l’Institut de France. La Dépêche Algérienne. May 4, p. 6.

Anonymous. (1926, 25 September). L’étude du piano. La Dépêche Algérienne, p. 6.

d’Artenac, Raoul. (1892). L’Actualité : C. Saint-Saens. La Gazette algérienne. February 17, pp. 1-2.

Bouhadiba, F. (2019). Etique vs émique dans la conceptualisation et la mise en exergue des spécificités des musiques modales : contextualisme désignatif et descriptif dans les textes de la musicologie francophone, propositions conceptuelles et impact musical. Revue des traditions musicales 13, 63-76.

Candide. (1914, 30 July). La Dépêche Algérienne. Le Progrès,
pp. 1-2.

El Magharbi. (1905, 1 March). Diffusion et Fusion. La Tafna, p. 1.

État civil. (1890). Commune d’Alger. Archives nationales d’outre-mer.

Glasser, J. (2016). The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. University of Chicago Press.

Jean-Darrouy, L. (1926, 26 April). Premier récital de piano de Gaby Bascans. L’Echo d’Alger, p. 3.

Laloy, L. (1922, 1 January). La musique : Reprise des concerts symphoniques, la musique arabe. La Revue de Paris, 401-409.

Miliani, H. (2004). Le cheikh et le phonographe : notes de recherche pour un corpus des phonogrammes et des vidéogrammes des musiques et des chansons algériennes. Turath 8, 43-67.

Miliani, H. (2018). Déplorations, polémiques et stratégies patrimoniales : á propos des musiques citadines en Algérie en régime colonial. Insaniyat 22(79), 31-47.

Pasler, J. (2012-2013). Musical Hybridity in Flux: Representing Race, Colonial Policy, and Modernity in French North Africa, 1860s-1930s. Afrika Zamani 20-21, 21-68.

R.B. (1892, 12 August). Une nomination. L’Indépendant de Mostaganem, p. 2.

Renan, E. (1855). Histoire générale et système comparé des langues sémitiques. Première partie, Histoire générale des langues sémitiques. Imprimerie Impériale.

Rouanet, J. (1897). Pour les tapis algériens." La Vie Algérienne et Tunisienne 8, 227-229.

Rouanet, J. (1905). La Musique Arabe. Bulletin de la Société de géographie d’Alger, 327.

Rouanet, J. (1906). Esquisse pour une histoire de la musique arabe en Algerie-III. Mercure Musical 15-16, 127-150.

Rouanet, J. (1913, 11 August). Les Problèmes Algériens : Documents pour l’Enquête : Le nationalisme musulman, par André Servier (1). La Dépêche algérienne, p. 4.

Rouanet, J. (1922). La musique arabe. In A. Lavignac & L. de la Laurencie (Eds.), Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire (pp. 2676-2812). Delagrave.

Rouanet, J. (1922a). La musique arabe dans le Maghreb. In A. Lavignac & L. de la Laurencie (Eds.), Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire (pp. 2813-2939). Delagrave.

Rouanet, J. (1923). Les Visages de la Musique Musulmane. Revue Musicale, 34-58. 

Rouanet, J. (1927). La « Suite » dans la Musique Musulmane. Revue Musicale, 279-291.

Vuillermoz, E. (1923, 23 February). L’édition musicale : La Musique Arabe par Jules Rouanet. Le Temps, p. 3.

Jonathan GLASSER[1]


[1] Virginia University USA.

[2] For example, Bunnan for Tunisia; Yafil, Aboura, Bensmail, and Boudali Safir for Algeria; and Moulay Idriss and Bin Salam for Morocco.

[3] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18. Direction des Affaires indigènes « Note. Projet d’impression d’une brochure arabe, » undated.

[4] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18. Letter from Direction des Affaires indigènes to Mohammed ben Rahhal, 18 April 1904.

[5] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18. Letter from Imprimerie Jourdan, 26 August 1904.

[6] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18.

[7] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18.

[8] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18.

[9] CADN, Archives des Postes, Tanger, Légation et Consulat 517, Serie A. Folder on Ecole franco-arabe Benghabrit, Tanger, 1894-1905. Letter from Cherisey in Tangiers to Governor General in Algiers, 15 March 1905.

[10] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18. Ghaouti Bouali to the Directeur des affaires indigènes, 23 March 1906.

[11] ANOM/GGA/9H/37/18. Minutes of letter, Government General Service des publications arabes, « Repartition de l’ouvrage sur la musique arabe d’El Ghaouti, mouderres à Sidi Bel Abbès. »

[12] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Letter from Ghaouti Bouali 19 avril 1928 Tlemcen. In Colin, Dossier 8, Langue des chants andalous du Magrib, 218 fol., In Tome IV Hispanique.

[13] I thank Dwight Reynolds for his input regarding my translation of this passage.

[14] University of Virginia, USA

[15] For his place of birth, see Etat Civil, Archives nationales d’outre-mer, Acte de mariage for Jules Rouanet and Georgette Bory, 16 February 1909, Alger,

[16] For his father’s profession, see Etat civil, Archives nationales d’outre-mer, death record for Paul Rouanet, 4 fev. 1890.

[17] See Anonymous 1887; E.V. 1890.

[18] Citing from L’Akhbar, see R.B. 1892.

[19] See for example the cutting attack on Rouanet and La Dépêche Algérienne more generally, originating in La République Sociale, in Candide 1914.

[20] Ibid., as well as d’Artenac 1892 and Anonymous 1922.

[21] Anonymous 1898.

[22] Anonymous 1898a. I thank Ouail Laabassi for bringing this to my attention.

[23] Anonymous 1904 and Anonymous 1905.

[24] Anonymous 1926; Jean-Darrouy 1926.

[25] Anonymous 1904. 

[26] See Rouanet 1905; Rouanet 1906; Glasser 2016.

[27] Miliani 2004: 44n5.

[28] Rouanet 1923; Rouanet 1927.

[29] For example, see Laloy 1922; Vuillermoz 1923.

[30] For Rouanet on the Jeunes Algériens, see Rouanet 1913. 

A musician from Elsewhere in Quest of Knowledge : Past and Present in Armas Launis’s Ideas on the North African Musical Traditions

Rouanet, Chottin, d’Erlanger… When thinking about musicological research on Maghrebi music as practiced during the colonial period, French scholars and writers come naturally to many minds at first. In the 1920s, research on North African and Arab music was well established among French scholars, even if it was not practiced widely (Poché & Lambert, 2000, 7, 49–51, 135–136). It is not well known that a man from Northern Europe, the Finn Armas Launis, was likewise active in this scholarly domain. Let me point out at once that his interest in the music of Maghreb distinguishes him from his native Finnish context: in the 19th century and even during Launis’s time of university study, Finnish scholars tended to concentrate on the Finnish-language folk-poetry and folksongs, in keeping with the Romantic ideal of a common national past. Armas Launis, on the other hand, was a European cosmopolitan; not even French research was out of his scope. All in all, looking at Launis introduces a fresh angle to the scene under scrutiny here, not least since he entered it from outside the colonial powers. 

Experiences in 1924–1926 in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco left a mark in three domains of the professional activity of Launis (Hämeenlinna, Finland 1884 – Nice, France 1959): those of a musicologist, a writer and a composer. In the Maghreb region, in cities and in rural areas alike, he learned about local music traditions not only through personal observation and by interviewing local musicians and other residents, but most probably also from scholarly writings and other written sources. It will become clear from what follows that the eventual influence of French scholar Jules Rouanet and his famous encyclopedia article ‘La musique arabe dans le Maghreb’ (Rouanet, 1922) cannot be disregarded. This concerns above all Launis’s trial lecture ‘Traits of the Arabo-Moorish music’ (in the original Finnish, ‘Piirteitä maurilais-arabialaisesta musiikista’, Launis, KK Coll. 123.18) that he gave in 1928 at the University of Helsinki. Let us note already that the very notion ‘Arabo-Moorish music’ Launis used for referring to the classical repertoire under his observation is close to the one that Edmond Nathan Yafil and Rouanet used for their publications from 1905–1927, Répertoire de musique arabe et maure (Poché & Lambert, 2000, 138).[3] Personal observation is more obvious in Launis’s Finnish-language travel book, Murjaanien maassa (In the land of the Moors, Launis, 1927). There, it seems, his observations merge with the training in Greek and Roman literature he had gained at the University of Helsinki, and probably also with information from printed travel guides. The Maghrebi influences on Launis’s operas Jehudith and Théodora, on the other hand, do not enter into the confines of this chapter.[4]

I aim, in the present essay, to investigate how impulses from Launis’s earlier reflection and practical experiences shaped his ideas on North African music. However, to be sure, some of the relevant background information will remain veiled for a scholar working at the distance of a century.

It is important to first understand how Launis’s passage from northern Europe to North Africa took place and how his musical identity evolved. A composer, musicologist, writer, and founder of popular conservatories, Armas Launis received his practical musical training in the Orchestral School of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society, where Jean Sibelius taught him music theory, and subsequently as a composer in Berlin and Weimar.[5] He also studied at the Imperial Alexander University, renamed University of Helsinki after Finnish independence (1917).[6] In 1910, he completed a German-language doctoral dissertation in Musicology entitled Über Art, Entstehung und Verbreitung der estnisch-finnischen Runenmelodien
(On the type, origin and spread of the Estonian-Finnish runo tunes, Launis, 1910). After defending this work in public at the beginning of the following year, he became in 1911 the first person to obtain a doctorate in Musicology from the University of Helsinki.[7] His supervisor was the internationally renowned Ilmari Krohn, the first Professor of Musicology appointed by this university and an early leading figure of comparative musicology. [8] Already before his doctorate, alongside his teacher and with his encouragement, Launis took part in international musicological gatherings. Before the First World War, both of them had been noticed in the fora of comparative musicology and of the Internationale Musikgesellschaft (International Music Society). It is also striking that they had contacts with the Berlin representatives of comparative musicology who developed an interest in Arab music (Laitinen, 2014, 78–80).

It may be partly a consequence of the life’s work of the renowned Finnish explorer and orientalist Georg August Wallin (1811–1852), who settled in Egypt for many years, that the depiction of Arabs was already relatively positive in the 19th-century Finnish travel writing (Varpio, 1997, 55–58, 232.). The well-known Finnish suffragette Adelaïde Ehrnrooth (1826–1905) had her travel book regarding experiences in Algeria published in 1886; it was based on her travels in 1876–1877 and 1884 and was compiled from articles first published in the Swedish-language Finnish daily Nya Pressen (Melasuo, 2008, 241–243). The social anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862–1939) spent eight years in Morocco after 1898. Ilmari Krohn took some interest in Arab music (see e.g., Krohn, 1915), but the first Finnish music professional to have actually visited Algeria could be the concert pianist Selma Kajanus (1860–1935), sister of the famous conductor and composer Robert Kajanus. In a press article, she portrayed, with Eurocentric prejudice, the dances she and her companion Lilly Londen had witnessed in Biskra in 1914 (Selma Kajanus, 1916, 76). As for Launis, his views on what he called the “Arabo-Moorish” and the popular music traditions of the region are very positive.

When considering Armas Launis’s encounters in North Africa, it must be underlined that he was quite experienced in fieldwork among rural populations when he settled there. Indeed, in 1904, 1905 and 1922, Launis crossed the Northern borders between Finland, Sweden and Norway, and stayed with the Saami, stays which resulted in several articles and his groundbreaking edited collection Lappische Juoigos-Melodien (Launis, 1908) with a remarkable 64-page introductory text. He deciphered the social signification of these tunes, as they were typically dedicated to specific persons, things, animals, or events, and valued their rhythmic structure (later, their metre) to the extent of taking it, extraordinarily, for the basis of his classification of them (Laitinen, 2014, 82, 89; Jouste, 2014, 32). On the Russian side of the Finnish border he worked among Ingrians in 1903 and 1906, gathering materials for his dissertation.[9] This work suggested a classification of Estonian-Finnish runo tunes according to spread, style and age. During the dissertation project he started to consider the simple, indeterminate, gradually evolving tunes as the oldestype
(Kallio, 2014, 5).

Launis’s excursions were considered of national interest and were financed by Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (Society for Finnish Literature), Imperial Alexander University, and university Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Linguistics Otto Donner; for the 1906 and 1922 excursions, he was allowed to take along the phonogram of the Finnish Literature Society (Kallio, 2014, 9, 10; Jouste, 2014, 30, 32, 37; Laitinen, 2014, 95).[10] In 1918, Launis was appointed Docent of music analysis and research on folk music at the Universty of Helsinki, but he gave up this position only four years later. He made a short trip to Tunisia in 1924 and spent the next two winters in Algiers, from where he made journeys to various Algerian regions and to Morocco (Taival jonka vaelsin, Launis, KK Coll. 123.20).

Launis came to realise that gathering information was far more difficult for him in the Maghreb countries than it had been in Finland and its neighbouring regions. But a curiosity about the presence of the distant past in the present marked his quest for knowledge regarding the music of the region just as his interest in the past of the musical phenomena had marked his work on the North European traditions. My attention to influences of earlier thought and practical experiences on Launis’s ideas on North African music requires a consideration of the epistemological background of his accounts and at the same time of their relevance as a source of scientific knowledge. Along the way, this essay might also help recover cultural phenomena that existed in the Maghreb area but might since then have changed or even disappeared.

Jules Rouanet was a major influence among music scholars who were supported by the French state (Pasler, 2012, 21–26, 56–57). It would certainly be strange had Armas Launis not learned to know his reputation. Launis’s position in the Maghreb, on the other hand, allowed him to enjoy a more individual relation with the indigenous people than what the French colleague and many other Frenchmen had. When interacting with the very same indigenous Maghrebi persons who had been Rouanet’s informants, the encounters were not defined by the relation of colonizer and colonized—which may have been helped by Launis’s long experience with field work. But as a learned European in the Maghreb, he was a more solitary actor than his well-known French colleagues. His institutional relations were remote, and he seems not to have been well aware of the French discursive practices either politically or scientifically. While Rouanet was a prominent player and national figure in France, Launis on his side transmitted his observations in the Finnish language to the Finnish public to whom nearly all information regarding Maghreb music was new, as it was for him. 

Differing views on the past of music

Launis’s interest in the past of the musical phenomena was nourished both by the Finnish scientific practice and the international musicological cooperation in which he took part. At the 1906 congress of the International Music Society (Internationale Musikgesellschaft, IMG), in Basel, Launis’s teacher Ilmari Krohn gave several lectures. One of his topics was ‘Über das lexikalische Ordnen von Volksmelodien’ (On the lexical organisation of folk melodies). In that paper, he referred extensively to the master’s thesis of his gifted 22-year-old pupil Armas Launis who was not present, and more particularly to its solutions for organising Lappish (Saami) and Ingrian folk tunes. The organisation of folk tunes, indeed, was a central target of the early comparative branch of musicology. Erich von Hornbostel, a pioneer of the orientation, heard Krohn’s presentation and asked him whether a comparison of the tunes helped to make conclusions about their evolution. Krohn answered that since the Finnish tunes had, for the great part, only been collected after 1880, it was not possible to make any genetic conclusions about them. The Finnish scholar Heikki Laitinen has asked whether that exchange of ideas, which no doubt was brought to Launis’s knowledge, motivated Launis to include conclusions on an evolution covering hundreds or even two thousand years in the melody analysis of his doctoral dissertation on Estonian-Finnish runo tunes (Laitinen, 2014, 78, 79).

Krohn’s and Hornbostel’s views on the aims of comparative musicology soon diverged. Hornbostel wanted its scope to be worldwide, with a focus on the origins and evolution of music and the essence of musical beauty. In the 1909 IMG congress in Vienna, Hornbostel and Krohn co-chaired a session entitled ‘Exotische Musik und Folklore’ (Exotic music and folklore) in which Launis gave a paper of his own entitled ‘Die Pentatonik in den Melodien der Lappen’ (Pentatonicism in the tunes of the Lapps) (Laitinen, 2014, 79).

Regarding these early contacts, it is likely that Launis was aware of Hornbostel’s work in Tunisia. Launis’s interest in the past also had many incidental angles; not all concerned tunes and their comparison, as will be shown below. Remarkably, already in the reports of his youthful collection journeys to Lapland and Ingria, drawing from conversations with local people, Launis included multifaceted information on folkways and various topics related to music (e.g., Kallio, 2014, 12; Jouste, 2014, 31; Laitinen, 2014, 94). This even included mysterious mythological accounts, such as a koltta Saami belief according to which some of their ancient tunes originated from remote times ‘when light was made’ (Launis, 1922, 32; Jouste, 2014, 39). Such observation was far from being common at the beginning of the 20th century. Launis’s insight proved useful for scholars working on the same repertories a century later (see e.g., Kallio, 2014, 11; Jouste, 2014, 33).

Launis’s early reports also indicate that, as often happened with collectors of folk heritage, he sometimes met with mistrust among rural populations, at least at the beginning of an encounter. On his arrival in Ingria, he was obviously aware of the circumstance that the collectors’ interest in pre-Christian repertories could make them appear as “pagans” and “anti-Christs,” and thus unwelcome, in the eyes of the locals. Therefore, in Ingria, Launis was clever enough to associate with clergymen, to sing together with the people and to help them in their work. He normally gained the confidence of his informants easily and even when he did not speak their language (Kallio, 2014, 9, 11). Such was not always the case in the Maghreb.

In the Land of the Moors

Launis’s travel book on his experiences in the Maghreb area contains many allutions to the presence of the past in the present. One could maintain that “In the Land of the Moors” should be discussed in the context of travel narratives rather than in the context of the history of musicology; accounts on music occupy a relatively small place in it. The book has been compiled, at least in part, of separate press articles written for a general readership. Unlike Béla Bartók’s article based on his visit to the Algerian Biskra region (Bartók, 1920), the information, in Launis’s travel book, about the geographical location of his musical experiences are often as good as non-existent. That state of affairs, it should be added, in no way implies a doubt regarding the experiential background of the travel book’s accounts on popular traditions.

While his view of the North African society is often Eurocentric, probably following the image of his Finnish readers to some extent, he does not measure the value of the rural music of the area using European styles as his yardstick. One of the most extensive accounts in Launis’s travel book concerns the music at a wedding that took place “in an oasis of the Sahara” – Launis leaves the specific location unspecified. His guide, Rabah ben Omar, took him to the wedding of his cousin, a young cultivator of dates who was marrying the daughter of a date wholesaler. Launis was impressed, among other things, by a musical parlour game demanding “a great instrumental intelligence.” The game started with his guide Rabah leaving the room. Those who remained negotiated and designated a task Rabah would have to perform. The task was to use one candle to light another hidden candle that he would in turn have to place in an inset in the wall. Rabah, on his return, was given no instructions except for two motifs executed on the kuitra: one affirmative, the other one prohibitive. The playing contained changes of volume and tempi, as well as hesitations and sudden turns. (Launis, 1927, 164–165.) Launis writes:

The Arabs, as far as can be judged by this group gathered in the wedding party, proved to be an instrumentally gifted people. Their ancient music too, which until now has been very little noted on the music paper, stands up to a comparison with similar Western music. (Launis, 1927, 166.)

Following a happy coincidence, Launis comes to observe the rituals of fire eaters in his own words “deep in Sahara”, but he does not indicate the actual place. These are likely to have been sufi rituals of the Issawa brotherhood. The historical origin of the ‘Issawa movement dates back to the Moroccan city of Meknes five centuries ago, but it had spread out to Algeria. These rituals were also practiced in the Bou Saâda oasis, a popular recreation center two hundred and fifty kilometres south of Algiers.[11] Launis relates how, during a popular festival, surrounded by a crowd of people and accompanied by two drums beaten by hand and a delicate-sounding pipe, one “sorcerer” after another jumps, makes strange gestures and finally, collapses. Launis, owing to his work in Lapland, is familiar with similar states of trance. Here, an old sorcerer, a saint, beats himself with a burning branch, the musicians stand up, the drummers beat their instruments with all their might, and the flute attains its highest volume.
A dancing female witch draws near the players and pushes her ear against the instruments. The sorcerer and the witch swallow burning wads of yarn and glowing charcoal (Launis, 1927, 139–144).

Launis explains that the Islamic faith has absorbed traits from earlier religions. He believes he has witnessed remnants dating from times of the great power of Carthage, or from even more remote Phoenician times and worship of Moloch, the god of fire. Similarly, he writes, the Catholic church has accepted, partly out of necessity, pagan ceremonies of the ancient Romans or has, at least, tolerated them. He exclaims: “[In comparison to the lifeless objects in the museums of the great cities,] is it not much more wonderful to see the living action of antiquity, petrified and immutable in its isolation: to see with our eyes and hear with our ears samples from the lives of peoples of historical interest to us who lived thousands of years ago.” (Launis, 1927, 139, 144.)

In Morocco, Launis observed the events of the Marrakech Jamaa el-Fnaa, the square of the storytellers. There, he felt as if he were contemporaneous to “Homeric times” or to “the pharaohs of Egypt.” What was new to him in particular was the dance of ten young chleuch Berber boys, all of feminine beauty; their faces were partly covered by fringes. Accompanied by a drum, a flute, and, as Launis puts it, a kind of “negro violin,” they danced serenely with two middle-aged men; the serene dance was punctuated by vivid and even wild climaxes accompanied by drumming. The leading senior dancer, who also played the violin, proceeded along a curve-like pattern, occasionally throwing his red bow in the air and skilfully catching it again. The boys wore white robes. Red ribbons were wrapped around their heads and supported their small handbags. They hopped in place, advanced and backed off in two or three rows and turned serenely. Little silvery plates clanged in their hands, Launis said; in reality, they were probably made of brass.[12] One boy at a time came hopping before a spectator so as to collect a fee for the performance. Launis heard a French tourist mockingly call the boys the wives of the older men. (Launis, 1927, 328–329.)[13]

Launis found that the distinguished, stylised forms of the dance as well as the streamlined robes suggested a temple in some civilised country, maybe ancient Egypt. They brought to his mind petroglyphs in the Nile valley. Or else, the dance could stem from the times of Roman rule. It is true, he added, that the southern tribes never entered into peaceful contacts with the Romans. (Launis, 1927, 329.)

Launis gets an opportunity to familiarise himself with many kinds of popular music making. In a Tunisian Qur’an school, the boys perform for him “a religious tune” at his request, a tune that is hardly more songlike than Qur’an reading but despite its melodic simplicity is nevertheless memorable (Launis, 1927, 14). The work of a snake charmer in a nearby café is accompanied by a hollow drumbeat; the beggars play so as to gain a living; “a negro” plays a kind of a violin; the café orchestra gives a performance (Launis, 1927, 25–31). In Algiers, it is apparently a blind beggar who sings his sorrowful song with the accompaniment of a delicate flute (Launis, 1927, 47), and accompanied by the nagharat drum the “ghaita blower drops – – his wild tunes” (Launis, 1927, 71). When observing an Arab funeral (without indicating its location), Launis hears singing in which two alternating groups participate and which he finds the most impressive funeral song he has ever heard. The listener marvels at the song’s precision, the solemn monophonic quality and the sonorous voices. In his mind, “the artistic means are too profound and at the same time too artificially imaginative to come from the people.” The attitude and the spirit make Egyptian tomb images come to his mind (Launis, 1927, 295–296). The listener is sure of one thing:

The origin of those songs and festivities dates further back in time from the times of the prophet of the wilderness. Just as little as the learning that he had put together from various religions he knew was new, its religious songs and rituals were not new either. (Launis, 1927, 286)

The melancholy idea of a supposed decadence that the Oriental music has suffered with time does not appear in these portrayals of rural music. This marks a difference from Launis’s tone in the 1928 trial lecture regarding his portrayal of the Arabo-Moorish music, as will be shown.

On the lookout for trust and the qanun, ‘the Arab kantele’

Let us stop for a while at Launis’s portrayals of his encounters with the practitioners of Andalusi music. While the examples above contain no indication of any interviews carried out by Launis with the indigenous population of the Maghreb area, other accounts in his travel book contain many such things. An interview with Edmon Nathan Yafil (1877–1928) concerning the historical Algerian masters of Arab music Menemesh and Sfindja, published separately in this volume, is of extraordinary value (Launis, 1927,77–83).t is very probable that another interview in the travel book concerning the musicians’ fees was also made with Yafil. Namely, Launis relates in his autobiographical sketch that getting acquainted in Algiers with Yafil, “that time’s best connoisseur of Oriental music” and the director of the Arab department of Algier’s conservatory, gave him an opportunity to penetrate “the mysterious labyrinths of the Oriental music” with which he was “already provisionally acquainted.” That familiarization happened through mutual intercourse with Yafil and through hearing his “instrumental and vocal Arab concerts”. The famous tenor mentioned in this interview would be Mahieddine Bachetarzi (1897–1986) whom Launis also mentions in his autobiographical sketch; he would remain in contact with this “Caruso of the desert,” as he was widely called, for years to come. (Launis, KK Coll. 123.20 p. 18.)[14]

“An old acquaintance of mine, and old Moorish musician, told [me] about a couple of incidents that can give a hint of how high an Arab player values his art in money and how high his income can be.

It happened that the old musician himself was once invited to organize wedding music on the premises of an immensely rich Arab, the event taking place in a different city from where he [the musician] lived. It was agreed that he would bring along a certain well-known tenor and a couple of other musicians. The conditions were: travel reimbursement, two thousand francs, and the right to put a plate before the wedding-guests for collecting money. The most profitable requirement among these was, of course, the last mentioned. That is, none of the guests is allowed to put a smaller sum on the plate than what the mistress of the house gives to start with. Her investment crucially determines the musicians’ earnings. When these [musicians], having counted beforehand the number of guests, see the basic sum that was put on the plate, they already know the size of their share. In the occasion mentioned here, the starting point was fifty francs. The tour thus generated something like eight thousand [francs]. The musicians had been welcomed with much contentment. The conditions remaining the same, they were asked to repeat their performance the morning thereafter. The same outcome again. Thus their earnings equaled those of a European celebrity’s concert fee. Is it a wonder then that an Arab musician holds his skills veiled.” (Launis, 1927, 301–302)

A letter from Mahieddine to Launis dated 24 Octobre 1933 in Algiers testifies for these old relations. In this letter, the tenor transmits to Launis the greetings of Yafil’s widow.[15]

It was an obvious handicap for Launis that he only had an elementary knowledge of Arabic, but on the other hand, he did become fluent in French. Guides or occasional aides helped him with interpretation when needed. He managed to have sustained dialogues with the locals even in this way. (Cf. Launis, 1927, e.g., 83, 85–94, 163, 240, 304.)

Observing the practices of music groups in the North African cafés was normally unproblematic for Launis, but sometimes his investigations were disrupted. This is true in particular concerning his efforts to hear the qanun. In fact, his eagerness was further nourished by the idea that he heard according to which the qanun was about to disappear in favour of more modern instruments.[16] Launis knew by reputation an elderly Algerian singer who was a skilled qanun player, but she was constantly on tour and Launis never got around to hearing and interviewing her (Launis, 1927, 300). I shall say a few more words about this illustrious musician later.

To hear the qanun, Launis writes, he needed to travel back and forth between three cities where the old Moorish music had reputedly remained unchanged, but the names of which he neglects to mention. In two of the cities, he learned about a local orchestra that included a qanun, but the orchestras were on tour or, mysteriously, did not show up in their performance venues during Launis’s visit. He asked for advice and made appointments orally and by telegram, but meetings were strangely cancelled and the informants disappeared without leaving a trace. In the third city, he met amateur musicians one of whom was said to have a qanun at his home. But Launis’s interest evoked mistrust. The man said: “You seem to like the qanun, you want to learn to play it.” That, obviously, was not Launis’s intention. He still did not get to see the instrument. Having learned that for reasons of income and professional jealousy, the players of the Arab repertoire tended to hide their skills from others, he concluded that he was being perceived as a rival (Launis, 1927, 299–301).

Following the advice he received, after many failures, Launis finally met an old Jewish cobbler who played the qanun. He invited Launis to his home and played a lively, rhythmical piece for him. As we learn from Launis’s travel book, that experience – the musician’s way of handling his instrument, its sound, and the piece he played – reminded the Finn of an earlier one: this is how the famous Finnish kantele player Jehkin Iivana had played for him some twenty years ago in the Suistamo region, now part of Russia. Interestingly, Launis here called the qanun ‘the Arab kantele’, thus referring to an ancient Finnish instrument used to accompany archaic runo songs (Launis, 1927, 304).

His remarks permit us to conclude that he was, at least to some extent, inspired by a wish to know about the evolution and transformation of musical instruments in time and place, and maybe even by Hornbostel’s and Curt Sachs’s 1914 classification of musical instruments (Hornbostel & Sachs, 1914). It seems strange that, in his travel book, Launis mentioned vast numbers of names of places he had visited but omitted extraordinarily interesting musical experiences from his map. This is how he concludes his account of the qanun player he heard: “I note the man’s address for another eventual future purpose and I leave” (Launis, 1927, 304). But he may have deliberately hidden the precise facts from his colleagues and rivals, intending to publish them later in a scientific form. We only learn from a later piece of writing by Launis that the place where he heard the qanun was the Algerian city of Tlemcen, according to Christian Poché a stronghold of this instrument (Poché, 1995, 115). In his interview from 1933 with the famous Algerian musician and theatrical figure Mahieddine Bachetarzi, the successor of Edmond Nathan Yafil as head of the Arabic department of the Algiers Conservatoire, Launis wrote in the Finnish journal Suomen Kuvalehti:

The Algiers Conservatoire also provides tuition in kantele playing, for this instrument is also part of the Oriental orchestra and indeed, a very important part of it. However, not even one kantele student exists at present. This instrument, once so prominent, is about to disappear from Northern Africa altogether. According to the estimate of Mahieddine, there is at present maybe only ten or so kantele players in the area consisting of Tunis[ia], Algeria and Morocco. The lady who was Algiers’ most prominent master of this instrument died a couple of months ago. The Tlemcen kantele player, whose virtuosity I had myself the opportunity of getting acquainted with – and besides, the playing of whom resembled surprisingly that of Iivana of Jehki which I had heard in Suistamo earlier – has too passed away recently from among the living. (Launis, 1933, 1239)

In 1933, Launis was no longer active as a musicologist and would not have worried about rival scholars.

When the Arab musicians shunned his curiosity about the qanun, we might ask, unlike Launis himself, if part of their problem was not his being a European. Finland was not a colonising country and had only recently gained its national independence after having been part of the Russian Empire since 1809, and before that, of the kingdom of Sweden. But European he was, while on the other hand, son of a Finnish carpenter, his social position, appearance and manners were probably different from those of the wealthy French-British nobleman Rodolphe d’Erlanger, the influential patron of research on Arab music who was based in Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunisia. Or else, maybe the explanation is the Arab musicians’ pride in their skills acquired during a long apprenticeship under the guidance of a master musician. But it is striking that it was an Algerian Jew, thus a French citizen, and not a Muslim Algerian, thus a subject of France, who helped him.

Launis relates in the 1933 interview that being asked whether the majority of his sixty or so students, one third of whom were Jews, were female or male, Mahieddine was close to indignation. “Of course, all of them are men,” he answered. “Whatever for would I take women to my school who have dragged in the street for ten years or so.” Launis explains that in an Islamic country, a decent woman is not supposed to practice singing or to play an instrument. Therefore, when eventually entering the honorable passage of a performing singer, she would at first have gained her skills during a less honorable phase of life and then left that phase behind her (Launis, 1933, 1239).

The trial lecture

It is when looking at Launis’s more academic endeavour following his Maghreb stay that Rouanet’s influence on him becomes obvious. The post of music teacher at the University of Helsinki, occupied since 1897 by composer and conductor Robert Kajanus (1856–1933), was vacated in 1926. In February 1928, as one among four aspirants for the post, Armas Launis submitted his application to the university. The topic of his trial lecture, ‘Traits of the Arabo-Moorish music’, was highly unusual for the contemporary Finnish context. The committee consisted of Kajanus and Ilmari Krohn. The trailblazer of Romantic nationalism of Finnish music since the 1870s, 72-year-old Kajanus assessed Launis severely, assigning him the modest third rank. As for Launis’s “exploration” to Northern Africa, he saw no relevance in it regarding the evolution of the art of music: it should be considered “an ethnographic music curiosity.” Kajanus also depreciated Launis’s operatic work. He assigned the first rank to Leevi Madetoja and the second to Selim Palmgren, both of them notable Finnish composers. Thus Kajanus’s conceptualization of the music teacher’s post was artistic, national, and romantic. Ilmari Krohn, on the other hand, ‘Extraordinary Professor’ of Musicology at the University of Helsinki, mentioned the topic of Launis’s trial lecture appreciatively: “The lecture of Dr Launis, ‘Traits of the Arabo-Moorish music’ was very interesting where its topic is concerned, all the more so since it was based on personal observations of the lecturer on the spot.” (HY KA 21 May 1928; Tyrväinen, 2014, 162–164.)

It must be asked to what extent Launis’s trial lecture was indeed based on personal observation. It is possible to get a relatively reliable idea of his lecture based on preserved papers, but it is impossible to know precisely how Launis presented his topic orally in April 1928. Manuscripts and fragments bearing the title “Traits of the Arabo-Moorish music” which obviously belong to the trial lecture, are conserved in the Armas Launis collection of the National Library of Finland. Typed, incomplete versions of the lecture are also included. (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18.) Their contents differ very little.

In these texts, Launis only evokes one informant, “an Algerian acquaintance”, “an old Algerian musician” whose name is not mentioned, but in this case too, Launis is apparently referring to Yafil, then 54 years of age. More generally, he neglects to specify the material that serves his presentation. Let us stop at this question for a while.

Launis opens his trial lecture by stating that “Arab music, and also Arabo-Moorish music has been relatively little studied.” As reasons for the paucity of research, he cites that “until recently”, Arab music has not existed in notated form. He attributes that scarcity of written Arab music to the socio-economic situation of its practitioners. Similarly to his travel book, he even introduces the esteem and the material success that eminent musicians have enjoyed “among Arabs” for long. It was economically advantageous for the musicians not to transmit their skills and their repertoire. The same conception is to be found in Rouanet’s encyclopedia article “La musique arabe dans le Maghreb.” (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; Rouanet, 1922, 2912–2913)

The lecturer goes through the three periods of the early history of Arab music: the first period, from year 600 to year 900, was marked by Persian influences and by the rise of a new centre of Arab music in Cordova, Spain, next to the Oriental capital Baghdad; the second period (900-1200) was marked by the fall of Baghdad, the isolation of Persian music, the continuing heyday and the scientific inquest on music theory in Spain; the third period (from 1200 to 1500) saw the rise of Arab music “to a high flowering in Spain in particular”, a vivid interest in music theory, the downfall of Granada in 1492 followed by the withdrawal of Arab music from Europe and “the beautiful late bloom” of that music “during several centuries” in the centres of rule of Western North Africa. Launis introduces the new centres of the Arabo-Moorish music culture in the Maghreb area: Fez, Tlemcen, Alger, Bougie, Constantine and Tunis – the same as Rouanet in his article (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; Rouanet, 1922, 2844).

Launis states that the evolution of that music came to a halt as if petrified in its isolated position, immune to any renewal; correspondingly, Rouanet emphasizes that it was rooted in the past and excluded any bold regeneration (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; Rouanet, 1922, 2842, 2914–2915, 2937). To be sure, that music had remained alive – Rouanet highlights its lasting social significance –, but it was sentenced to death under the pressure of Western civilization (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2814, 2911–2912). Such a development appeared in a particular manner in the domain of the tonal system: originally, it would have encompassed 24 “keys” (i.e., modes), of which only about ten remained; these “keys” had merged in part and lost some of their original character (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2911, 2915). Launis remarks that that change had occurred a long time ago. Both scholars quote an Arab theoretician who had lived centuries before: “There are keys that we know and others that we do not know. Among the last named is the isphahan key, the most beautiful of all. It is so beautiful that it is only known by Allah” (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2919). The tonal system of the Arabo-Moorish music, according to Launis, had been borrowed from the Western countries; Rouanet relates its modes, in particular, with the Greek modes (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18; cf. e.g., Rouanet, 1922, 2916–2919, 2939). Launis writes about the nouba, the most distinguished genre of the musical tradition in question:

According to an ancient lore, the Moorish music of Granada and Seville comprised 24 noubas which corresponded with the 24 keys of the Moorish music of the time. However, having merely abided in the musician’s memory, only one part of them has survived to our day. Even these have not been preserved in their entirety, a movement is missing from most of them. But so many excerpts of the various noubas remain known that it is possible with no difficulty to get a complete idea of the ancient Moorish nouba in its entirety. (Launis, KK Coll. 123.18)

Rouanet announces the same: “– – The old music of the Maghreb comprised 24 modes or scales: each of the 24 classical noubas of the Andalusian music was constituted on one of them” (Rouanet, 1922, 2915).[17] Launis presents the composition of the various orchestras as well as the structures of the nouba grenadine and the nouba neqlabat very similarly to Rouanet (1922, 2845–2861, 2861–2865). Like the Frenchman (1922, 2868–2873), he states that the qadria çenaa and qadria zendani are music destined for female Muslim performers and listeners while the great classical noubas were the men’s domain. He tells his compatriots who had given the voting right to the Finnish women already in 1906: “Confined to living inside the narrow domestic walls, the Arab female community is mentally less developed [than men].”[18]

Launis’s observations are close to those of Rouanet regarding both general and specific matters. Both know that Arab music is monophonic or proceeds in octaves and sometimes makes use of pedal points (cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2914), its basic melodic structure is simple but becomes richly ornamented by virtuoso musicians (cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2894) and – just like Western music – is governed by “a rhythmic and melodic tone motif” (cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2895–2896). An oriental musician aspires to movement; it is as if he were afraid of a sustained tone “or of the slightest pause in the middle of his playing”; according to Rouanet, the music of the Maghreb is marked by a ‘horror vacui’ and the fear of silence (in Rouanet in French, ‘horreur du vide’, cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2910), and the rhythm plays a central role in it (cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2939). “It once happened that the leader of a Moorish orchestra interrupted a musical performance and left the scene in furore for the reason that the player of the tar had absent-mindedly spoiled the performance by adding one, just one excessive stroke”, Launis writes. Rouanet tells the same story and mentions the witness of the incident: himself (Rouanet, 1922, 2910–2911).

It will not be necessary to read Launis’s trial lecture and Rouanet’s encyclopedia article side by side any further in order to be convinced of the similarities. It is quite obvious that Launis prepared his trial lecture by reading Rouanet’s article. This is revealed clearly by a marking in his concept concerning the embellishment of the simple basic motifs of instrumental Arabo-Moorish music: “example tune 2895.” Indeed, Launis’s concept in fact includes a partial notation of a tune published on the very page 2895 of Rouanet’s article. Thus it must be concluded, Ilmari Krohn’s assumption notwithstanding, that Launis’s trial lecture was not based to any essential degree “on personal observations of the lecturer on the spot.”

To conclude on the trial lecture, let us notice that next to data evidently borrowed from Rouanet, the lecture contains information that does not derive from the Frenchman. The points where Launis diverges from Rouanet are interesting and instructive in another sense. He introduces the detail, probably coming from Yafil, that Menemesh charged 300 to 500 gold francs for one day’s performance, but received in addition to that the same amount as tips from his enchanted listeners. What is more, the lecturer notes that the tonal system of Arab music has been borrowed from Western countries, but he does not follow Rouanet in bringing the Oriental maqams back to the Greek modes. When introducing the tonal system of Arab music, Launis does not use the notions mode or ecclesiastical mode or church mode at all. That choice could have been motivated, at least in part, by the different and contradictory interpretations of Greek and ecclesiastical modes in contemporary Finland; maybe Launis lacked courage to enter into a debate on this matter (cf. Tyrväinen, 2014, 17). On the other hand, he now seems to bring forth information on the Arabo-Moorish music he himself had obtained. In a hand-written hence apparently early version, he describes the scalar structures in question, relating them to the European minor and major. In the typed version, which obviously dates from a later moment, he does not refer to the formal aspect of the scales.[19]

Instead, Launis relates that the third key, ‘er-remel’ (sand), depicts the motion of sand in the desert. The fourth one echoes the crowing of a cock.
The sorrowful seventh key suits a funeral, while the eighth one, according to him, imitates the braying of a donkey. An objection to Launis might be voiced here; after all, according to a verse in the Qur’an, there is no worse sound than the donkey’s bray. But instead of the French word âne (donkey), could Launis’s informant have mentioned the word mulet, which Launis in turn would have mistaken for the well-known udd-toed ungulate mammal animal? However, the word mulet does not only designate a mule, but also a bird famed for its beautiful song. Thus maybe Launis was told that the eighth key imitated, not the bray of a donkey, but a beautiful birdsong. The twelfth key, he says, is gentle, and the thirteenth would imitate the sound of a camel. But a more appropriate interpretation seems to be valid for this case too: rather than the sound of a camel, the thirteenth key would imitate the camel drivers’ (hida) song; Launis’s original piece of information would have applied to the folk and archaic sphere of the Arabo-Moorish life.[20] It is quite plausible that musicians or music listeners spoke in this way during Launis’s interviews. Apart from these observations, Launis could in fact have written his trial lecture without ever setting his foot on North African ground.

There is no reason to take Launis’s interest in the symbolic aspect of the Arabo-Moorish music, as expressed above, for superficiality or for a lack of professionalism. Some time earlier, a similar reasoning based on the emerging ethnomusical methods had led him to decipher the symbolic implications of the Saami joik tunes (see Launis, 1908, V–IX).[21] Maya Saïdani has, as for her, published interesting information about symbolic content that, according to folklore and fantastic accounts, goes together with the different modes (Saïdani, 2005, 209–211). 

It is crucial to notice that the university post occupied in 1928 was not an academic scholar-teacher’s position. Launis hardly saw himself as running for such a post. This might explain the surprising fact that he scarcely showcased his own research in his trial lecture. Be that as it may, his trial lecture is descriptive and stylistically close to his writing for the press. It does not specify any scientific issues to be solved, the methods to be applied, or its source material. After the committee reports were released, Launis cancelled his application (HY KA 21 May 928). For him, the process brought a final goodbye to the University of Helsinki. In 1930 he settled in France for good.[22]

The professional challenges of a cosmopolitan man of music in the early 20th century

The assignment of composer Leevi Madetoja to the University of Helsinki music teacher’s post was not a consequence of the fact that Launis did not indicate Rouanet as the source. The committee members very likely did not know Rouanet’s article. Instead, Ilmari Krohn wrote in his report on Launis’s trial lecture:

But despite details which were indicative of an astute power of observation, [Dr Launis’s] presentation gave ground for severe remarks regarding some factual matters and, in particular, its formal aspect. – – Doctor Launis has enjoyed a leave of absence on his own request during the entire time [of his nomination] as university docent, focusing his work on composing his operas. During that period, he has not lectured in the university at all, his tasks having been limited to holding a couple of examinations during the trip abroad of the permanent office holder.
(HY KA 21 May 1928)

Thus I cannot reach any other conclusion than considering it advantageous to the university to propose the applicants in the following order:

1) Master of Arts [maisteri] Leevi Madetoja,

2) Doctor Armas Launis,

3) Professor Selim Palmgren.

It is reasonable to ask at this point what the professional motives of Launis’s Maghreb stays might have been. In addition, the above information gives reason to ponder the place of Launis’s activities with Maghrebi music in his career, and more generally, his contribution to the history of musicology.

Jann Pasler (Pasler, 2012) has pointed out that during its first decades, the Third Republic of France, established in 1870, nurtured the idea that the African element had an innovative impact on French culture and was greeted as welcome for inducing progress (the idea of an assimilation of cultures). However, such an attitude began, by 1900, to give way to an emphasis on racial distinctions (association of cultures). In her article “Musical Hybridity in Flux: Representing Race, Colonial Policy, and Modernity in French North Africa, 1860s–1930s,” Pasler brings this change in the French way of thinking about North African music back to the colonial process, of which new meanings and functions were a part. Pasler explains how the new attitude of the French – including French music scholars – pointed to their uncomfortable experience of loss of vitality and even fear of racial degeneration. As the French reflected on the relationship between race, culture and nation, their focus shifted to cultural differences. They also looked for “purely African” music. The French valorisation of local cultures increased, especially the valorisation of the urban classical musical tradition in North Africa brought from the
Andalusian courts. At the same time, the French participated in shaping the musical histories of their North African colonies as well as the tastes of their elites (Pasler, 2012, 21–26). 

It is striking that Launis’s early scholarly thinking during the time when Finland remained the stronghold of his activity does not embody such categories of thought as racial hierarchies based on stereotypes, valuation of ‘authenticity’, a solemn respect for tradition, and an opposition to innovation, such models of thought which, according to Pasler, are characteristic of French colonialism (Pasler, 2012, 22–25, 50–57, 60). For Launis as a researcher, the culture of his native country consisted of many elements and cultures, even of different ethnicities. Research on Finnish folk poetry, held in especially high esteem in the 19th and early 20th-century Finland, also highlighted the ancient age of that poetry, thus seeking the unwritten history of Finnishness. Launis had joined that continuum in principle when he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the nationally most pivotal genre of folk music, the runo tunes. However, his work does not suggest any commitment of his own to the nationalist ideology, for he did not identify with those currents that sought and most intensely valued the roots of Finnishness. Viewing the simple tunes as ancient and typical did not, in his case, mean that he himself valued them most. In Ingrian runo singing, he appreciated the distinct polyphony which he took for an influence of Russian folk or church song. (Kallio, 2014, 14–15.) As a composer, he incorporated motifs of Russian origin in his opera Kullervo (1917) about a character from the national epic of Finland, Kalevala, and later he included North African inspiration in his operas Jehudith (1937–1940) and Théodora (uncompleted) (Kallio 2014, 15–23; Tyrväinen, 2014, 72–81). In that perspective, it is striking that in the 1928 trial lecture he adopted an organicist portrayal of the Andalusi music.

Launis’s travel book contains several indications of cross-border travel of impulses. He portrays abundantly several monuments of the Roman antiquity and evokes historical incidences of that era, but the links he points at are far from being exclusively Eurocentric. Remember that he distinguished an inspiration from ancient Egypt in the dance of Moroccan Berbers. Other times, the culturally hybrid nature of music is present, as in the surprising remark on the family relation of the qanun and the kantele, an observation which extends to matters of style and playing technique. On the other hand, in his trial lecture Launis emphasises, like Rouanet, that the Arabo-Moorish tradition is rooted in the past and places itself against innovation. Like Rouanet, he regrets that the omnipresent influence of Western music threatens to bring an end to this tradition and repertoire causing, as he writes, a great harm to the art of music generally.

The idea that the end of the Arabo-Moorish (or Andalusi) music is inevitably approaching marks Launis’s presentation just as it penetrates Jules Rouanet’s writings. But not only has Western but also North African scholarship portrayed the evolution of the nouba, the most valued genre of the Arabo-Moorish-(or Arabo-Andalusian, or Andalusi) music, as a gradual decline. Recently, Jonathan Glasser has brought out in detail that in the early 20th century, the French and the indigenous Algerians participated together in the revivalist project of Andalusi music, albeit basing on partly on different motifs (Glasser, 2016). Christian Poché and others have shown that that musical tradition evolved and transformed for centuries for being in contact with other traditions (Poché, 1995, 35–50; Reynolds, 2008).

It will be difficult in the end to evaluate rigorously Rouanet’s influence on Launis’s thought. As shown above, Yafil served as Launis’s informant, while the Algerian musician was also famously a close collaborator of Rouanet. It is an interesting coincidence that Launis resided in Algeria shortly before Yafil famously accused Rouanet of stealing his knowledge of the musical patrimony (cf. Glasser, 2016, 140–141). Secondly, Yafil too was a revivalist (Glasser, 2016). Thirdly and more generally, the Romantic myth of origin and the idea of civilisations rising and then declining and new ones taking leading positions was part of the thinking of Rouanet’s and Launis’s era. It was common to regret what was seen as the inescapable death of popular music traditions of various countries. I shall need to leave the specification of the particulars of Rouanet’s and Yafil’s cooperation to other scholars. 

Finally, how should one appraise the objectives and accomplishments in North Africa of Launis, in his youth a passionate professional in analysis, classification and compiling statistics (Laitinen, 2014, 108) and one of the most promising young European musicologists in the beginning of the century? Far from associating with the French colonial project, he communicated his knowledge of the Maghreb in Finnish language to Finns, thus enriching the world-view of his remote compatriots. His genuine appreciation is visible in another manner in that while in Algeria, he encouraged Mahieddine Bachetarzi to take the famous El Moutribia orchestra on a European tour, thereby experiencing much doubt and mistrust on behalf ofthemusician (Launis, 1933, 1239). El Moutribia made its successful first foreign tour to Paris in 1927 (Glasser, 2016, 140). In his memoires, Mahieddine relates that a contract entailing six concerts of El Moutribia, to take place in 1934 in the Finnish capital, was signed with an impresario whom Launis introduced to Mahieddine (Bachetarzi, 2009, 172). Regrettably, this Finnish tour seems never to have taken place.

Mahieddine implies that musicological research was the reason why the couple Armas and Aïno Launis settled in Algiers. More specifically, he relates in his memoires that the Finn was motivated by a wish to immerse himself in the Arab music of “all Oriental countries” (dans tous les pays orientaux), which Yafil helped him to do where Algeria was concerned (Bachetarzi, 2009, 172). True, Launis had visited Crimea and, in a press article, had portrayed the Dervishs of the area whom he also recalled during his trip to the Sahara (Salmenhaara, 1996, 388; Launis, 1927, 140). However, Bachetarzi’s recollection does not capture the totality of Launis’s motives.

Rather, Launis’s decision to travel to North Africa was the result of several factors; self-evidently, these included economic considerations. In the autumn of 1924, when their plan of a sojourn in Algiers was emerging, the couple Launis dwelled in the French Basque town Saint-Jean-de-Luz near the Spanish border. Armas Launis was totally immersed in his composer’s work. In the previous spring, the couple had made a quick trip to Tunis and Carthage by boat from Sicily. There, they had heard “an Arab orchestra” and “witnessed the strange performance of a snake charmer blowing his pipe.” Thus their interest in North Africa had already arisen when, in the summer of 1924, Armas Launis, working on several compositions, made the acquaintance of the family of Eugène Cannebot, a French civil servant of the Algerian railway administration, who also resided in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. It is the Cannebots who instigated the couple to travel to Algiers; their contacts continued in the white city. (Launis, KK 123.20 p. 17, 18.) In the middle of their travelling arrangements, Launis wrote to Krohn, perhaps a little humorously, that the agreeable winter weather of Algeria served as an attraction (SKS KA Ilmari Krohn, AL: IK 20 August 1925).

At that early stage of Finnish university musicology, a doctorate did not, as a rule, guarantee its holder a secure professional path and a solid income. The professional identities of these pioneers are generally hybrid.
(See e.g., Tyrväinen, 2017, 63–67.) It can be concluded that an inquisitive cosmopolitan way of life, rather than any specific professional reason, motivated Launis’s Maghreb stays. Hence, no conscious career strategy can be read into these sojourns or, for that matter, into the trial lecture. After 1910, having given up extensive scientific writing, Armas Launis had concentrated on composing and on establishing people’s conservatories in Finland (Kallio, 2014, 16). In 1915, he published the book Ooppera ja puhenäytelmä (Opera and spoken theatre, Launis 1915) the title of which is indicative of his own investment in composing operas. He was awarded the Finnish state’s composer prize in 1915 and 1919. In 1921, he was bestowed a composer’s pension for life by the state, which also enabled him to work abroad. When giving up his position of docent on 28 October 1922, Launis had, in the practical sense, already given up his academic career in favour of composing. (HY KA [curriculum vitae] 21 May 1928.)

The motive for running for the university post in 1928 could well have been that, after residing abroad for a long time, Launis missed his earlier prominent national status, and perhaps more particularly a closer connection with the Finnish Opera which had already staged his operas. As a skilfull writer for the press, he could expect the Finnish audiences to read, with curiosity, his paid reports from North Africa in this heyday of travel writing, but it is reasonable to think that he might have appreciated a more regular income. It would be a mistake to see in Launis’s trial lecture the expression of an active musicologist’s ambitious career strategy. The scientific works of his youth and the ideas of the trial lectures are separated by an abyss, the filling up of which he would not have dreamed of; it would have proved impossible. Owing to financial support from his native country, his high-level university education, an intense field work, and permission to use a phonogram during his excursions of 1906 and in 1922 (Kallio, 2014, 9–10; Jouste, 2014, 37), he had succeeded in his study of North European popular repertories in distinguishing transformations of tunes and their age relations, but he was not equippedtochallengeRouanet’s (and an entire epoch’s) thought on the history of the Arabo-Moorish music and the nouba.

In 1932, only four years after Launis’s trial lecture, a congress on Arab music organised in Cairo on the initiative of Mahmud Ahmad al-Hifni
(who had studied in the University of Berlin with the financial support of Ministry of Education of Egypt and had lived in this city for ten years) became a major historical event bringing together European and Arab scholars (see e.g., Racy, 1991). Ali Jihad Racy has brought to light how the different ideals regarding the future of Arab music collided in the Congress. There, European representatives of comparative musicology insisted that musical transformation was something organic, something that was rooted in the character and experience of the different peoples. This relativistic view fused with a vivid interest in “authentic” musical manifestations. Representatives of the local party aspired to the regeneration of music in accordance with the evolutionary models outlined by Western historians. Yet with the Western linear idea of historical evolution, they integrated the assumption that since Arab music had already reached the zenith of its evolution in the Middle Ages, it could rise from decline to a new ascent. Leading music from an unsystematic diversity to a simple uniformity was part of the adopted modernist evolutionary objective. (Racy, 1991, 70, 82–85.)

Launis is not one of those who engaged in the new musicological project inspired by the Cairo Congress. But surely, while anticipating the ethnomusicological methods that would emerge, the separate interviews and observation he practiced with Maghrebi people appear of scientific value from today’s perspective. High up in the North, as a byproduct of Launis’s unsuccessful application for the University of Helsinki music teacher’s post, Jules Rouanet’s ideas of the Maghreb music did not obtain a footing in Finland. To put Launis’s failure into a wider still perspective: research on Arab and North African music did not have a future there more generally after this broad-minded Finnish man of music settled permanently in France in 1930.


Archival sources

HY KA: University of Helsinki Central Archive [Helsingin yliopiston keskusarkisto].

Archive of the Chancelor’s Office. Arrived letters 1928/Dno 233.

- An extract from the protocol of the University of Helsinki consistorium academicum [konsistori], 21 May 1928.

SKS KA: Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, SKS), Helsinki, Collection of Literature and Cultural History.

Ilmari Krohn’s archive, received letters.

- Armas Launis to Ilmari Krohn, 20 August 1925.

KK: National Library of Finland [Kansalliskirjasto]. Armas Launis’ archive.

KK Coll.123.2.

Received letters, El Moutribia [signed Mahieddine Bachetarzi] to Armas Launis, 24 October 1933.

KK Coll. 123.18.

- Articles. Piirteitä maurilais-arabialaisesta musiikista [Traits of the Arabo-Moorish music, undated manuscripts, fragments, and typed pages mainly in Finnish and for a minor part in Swedish].

- A conference on Arab music.

KK Coll. 123.20.

- Biographica. Taival jonka vaelsin [The journey I made, biographical sketch, undated].

Ms.Mus.Launis. Armas Launis. Composition manuscripts.

- A VIII, box 34. Jehudith, orchestral score.


Mr. Abdelkader Mana, sociologist, Morocco, email dated 5 January 2016.

Mr. Youssef Touaïbia, coordinator, Groupe Yafil, Algiers, email dated 24 June 2011.

Published sources

Bachetarzi, M. (1968). Mémoires 1919–1939 suivis de Étude sur le théâtre dans les pays islamiques. ÉNAG Éditions.

Bartók, B. (1920). Die Volksmusik der Araber von Biskra und Umgebung [Arab Folk Music from the Biskra District]. Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft 2(9), 489–522.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1988). L’Émergence artistique Algérienne au XXe siècle: Contribution de la musique et du théâtre algérois à la renaissance culturelle et à la prise de conscience nationaliste. Alger : Office des Publications Universitaires.

Glasser, J. (2016). The Lost Paradise. Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. The University of Chicago Press.

von Hornbostel, E. M. & C. Sachs (1914). Systematik der Musikinstrumente. Ein Versuch [Classification of Musical Instruments], Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 46 (4–5), 553–590.

Jouste, M. (2014). Armas Launis saamelaisten musiikkiperinteiden tallentajana ja kuvaajana [The collection and description of Saami music traditions by Armas Launis]. Musiikki 3–4, 28–42.

Järvinen, M. R. [2010]. Armas Launis. Kansallisbiografia
[National Biography (of Finland), online publication]. Studia biographica 4. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura [Finnish Literature Socity]. Read 3 August 2021 on

Kajanus, S. (1916). Minnesbilder från Afrika I [Remembrances of Africa I]. Ute och hemma, 74–76.

Kallio, K. (2014). Armas Launis, inkeriläinen runolaulu ja Kullervo-oopperan venäläinen tausta [Armas Launis, Ingrian oral poetry and the Russian backgrounds of the opera Kullervo]. Musiikki 3–4, 5–27.

Krohn, I. (1915, 13 July). Vanhojen sivistyskansojen musiikki V–VII
[Intia, Muhamettilaiset, Kreikka] [Music of Old Civilizations V–VII: India, Muslims, Greece]. Uusi Suometar, 3–5.

Laitinen, H. (2014). Armas Launis ja vertaileva kansansävelmätutkimus [Launis and comparative folk music research], Musiikki 3–4, 75–114.

Lappalainen, S. (1990). Musiikki on viihtynyt Helsingin yliopistossa [Music has flourished at the University of Helsinki]. Musiikkitiede 2 (1): 159–189.

Launis, A. (1908). Lappische Juoigos-melodien [Lappish yoik melodies]. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.

Launis, A. [1910]. Über Art, Entstehung und Verbreitung der estnisch-finnischen Runenmelodien. Eine Studie aus dem Gebiet der vergleichenden Volksmelodienforschung [On the type, origin and spread of the Estonian-Finnish runo tunes: a study in the domain of comparative research on folk tunes]. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ourienne, 31. Druckerei der Finnischen Literatur-Gesellschaft.

Launis, A. (1913). Über Art, Entstehung und Verbreitung der estnisch-finnischen Runenmelodien. Eine Studie aus dem Gebiet der vergleichenden Volksmelodienforschung [On the type, origin and spread of the Estonian-Finnish runo tunes: a study in the domain of comparative research on folk tunes]. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ourienne XXXI. Société Finno-Ougrienne.

Launis, A. (1915). Ooppera ja puhenäytelmä: Muutamia vertailevia piirteitä [Opera and spoken drama: some comparative traits]. Kansanvalistusseuran toimituksia, 171, [A Series 1]. Raittiuskansan Kirjapaino-osakeyhtiö.

Launis, A. (1922). Kaipaukseni maa: lapinkävijän matkamuistoja [The land of my longing: travel reminiscences of a wanderer to Lapland]. Gummerus.

Launis, A. (1927). Murjaanien maassa [In the land of the Moors]. WSOY.

Launis, A. (1933, 16 September). Arabialainen tervehdys Suomen Kuvalehdelle [An Arab greeting to Suomen Kuvalehti]. Suomen Kuvalehti 38, 1238–1239.

Melasuo, T. (2008). Merentakainen Ranska: siirtomaaimperiumista frankofoniaan [The overseas France: from colonial empire to francophonia]. In L. Clerc & K. Ranki (eds.), Suomalaisten Ranska: kaunis tuntematon [France of the Finnish: an unknown beauty] (pp. 237–256). Ajatus Kirjat.

Pasler, J. (2012). Musical Hybridity in Flux: Representing Race, Colonial Policy, and Modernity in French North Africa, 1860s–1930s. Afrika Zamani 20, 21–68.

Poché, C. (1995). La musiqe arabo-andalouse. Musiques du Monde. Cité de la Musique / Actes Sud.

Poché, C. & J. Lambert (2000). Musiques du monde arabe et musulman: bibliographie et discographie. Les Geuthner.

Racy, A. J. (1991). Historical worldviews of early ethomusicologists: an East-West encounter in Cairo, 1932. In S. Blum, P. V. Bohlman & D. M. Neuman (eds.), Ethnomusicology and modern music history (pp. 68–91). University of Illinois Press.

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Rouanet, J. (1922). La musique arabe dans le Maghreb. In L. de la Laurencie (ed.), Encyclopédie de la musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire. Première Partie : Histoire de la musique. Tome V (pp. 2813–1944). Librairie Delagrave.

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Tyrväinen, H. (2017). Ilmari Krohn and the Early French Contacts of Finnish Musicology: Mobility, Networking and Interaction. Res Musica 9, 45–74.

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Armas Launis, Murjaanien maassa (In the land of the Moors) (Helsinki: WSOY, 1927), pp. 77–83, traduit du finnois par Helena Tyrväinen[23]

Menemesh and Sfindja

Arabic art music, which greatly differs from the present-day Oriental folk music, has lived to a great extent based on memory, and indeed continues to do so. The student gets his skills from the teacher, preserves them, or, if he posesses a talent for composition, develops them further. But the teacher does not share all his skills with the student. He keeps a part of the musical pieces he masters as his own skill so as to prevent the student from rising to equal his teacher. What an immense amount of ancient, valuable music has this caused to disappear, together with the masters, into the depths of the earth.

About one hundred years ago a musician lived in the region of Algiers who was famed in the western part of North Africa. His name was Menemesh. In those times a great number of noble Moors, descendants of Arab patrician families who had fled from Spain, held important positions in these lands. Supported by these, Moorish music, which had attained such a full flowering in Andalusia, underwent its last late bloom in Algiers. The art of music was highly appreciated and its practitioners enjoyed a general esteem; they were acknowledged men of influence and, indeed, seemed like wise men of the saintly lineages in the eyes of the public. Among the musicians, Mohammed ben Menemesh was a head higher than the others.

Not far from Algiers, there is a peaceful little valley in the upland of the Sahel mountain, [p. 77/78] where the sumptuously built Arabian Hydra Palace is today located. The story has it that this is where a villa existed in Menemesh’s time that was specifically built in the style of a lodge in the wilderness. During certain weeks of the month of Ramadan, a group of the most wealthy merchants and the Moorish elite of the city gathered there to attend to days of musical performance.[24] Day and night and almost continuosly during the whole week, hazy sounds of Arabic music resounded there. Kamendja and kuitra echoed unceasingly and the magharat [naqqarat] and tar drums boomed, rich in nuances, amid the listeners immersed in contemplation and fully devoted to the charm of the music. The most important part of the music then played no longer exists. The Arab orchestra then performed pieces that, uninterrupted, took an entire night or day, twelve hours and even more. The person who told the writer about the events described in these lines pointed out in comparison that the present-day musicians can hardly produce a piece that would be longer than two hours, and in any case a piece loses its interest in that amount of time. These old masters instead had many strangely varying rhythmic turns in their playing that could sustain listeners’ interest. 

It is difficult for one of us to imagine such an Arabic festival devoted to instrumental music and singing. The participants, primarily being the most outstanding dignitaries of the city, sat there in a quiet circle eating, drinking, and refreshing themselves with various kinds of wine; the last-named product was forbidden in the city for religious reasons. The conduct of the revellers was dignified and reserved. The music was listened to in a deep, indeed almost sacred piety. The enjoyment was increased by the fact that each one [p. 78/79] had taken along his favourite female slave. In other words, good manners excluded the presence of the married wives, for they would have been obliged to be unveiled on such an occasion. However, the presence of the female slaves in no way lowered the high quality of the occasion.

The centre of this musical festivity was Menemesh. He was the lead player and the authority in everything. He performed and the others merely joined him in accompaniment. What an enormous amount of music might his repertoire have included. Indeed, it was supposed to last for an entire week, and each day included a whole new program. The most tenacious musician could not have memorised such an amount in a couple of hearings, and there was no other occasion to learn them. The master carefully guarded and oversaw the exclusive treasure of his skills in a gloomy jealousy.

But one day, he passed some shoemakers’ workshops. There, a young maker of slippers sang with such a beautiful voice that the master-musician could not simply walk by this hut.

– How much do you earn in a day, he asked the singer.

– Two francs, the singer named Sfindja replied.

– Come with me. I guarantee you five francs a day to start with, and later, when you advance in learning my skills, you will get even more. [p. 79/80]

Sfindja now became Menemesh’s pupil. Whichever singing numbers the master knew, he uncompromisingly taught them to his pupil. But the young beginner was only allowed to get acquainted with a limited number of the instrumental pieces of the old virtuoso. Besides, Sfindja did not have a proper training in handling his own instrument, the kuitra. This too was intended to prevent him from becoming a rival to his teacher.

Owing to his beautiful voice, Sfindja soon rose to become a favourite of the audience. But fame, as it often happens, went to his head, and the apprentice started even in public to compare his skills with the performances of the master.

Once a wedding took place in the house of Omar ben Tahar where Sfindja, too, was invited to sing. There, in the presence of Omar, who was a close friend of Menemesh, he again boasted about being a greater singer than Menemesh. Even the last-mentioned had promised to come to this occasion; however, in the last moment he had met with an obstacle. Omar the host knew where he was and urgently decided to go and fetch him to the feast.

A couple of proud Arab stallions were harnessed to the carriage. The journey thus led to a mountain village a couple of miles away in search of the famous musician. The latter had no intention of coming. Shrewdness was used to entice the musician into the carriage, and Omar told the coachman to drive back at full speed. Menemesh resisted and threatened to use his secret powers unless set free. But the host of the wedding house likewise came from the saintly lineage of wise men, thus he relied on his counter-spells and did not give in.

At the destination Menemesh heard what it was all about. The ingratitude of his student shocked him. [p. 80/81] However, he controlled his anger and waited for a suitable occasion to clearly demonstrate who was the master and who was the student. Such an occasion soon occurred when the music started. Menemesh, knowing the shortcomings of Sfindja’s playing, handed him the kuitra and asked him to perform a few pieces which were known to be difficult. The instrument was badly tuned, and Sfindja first set out to tune it. But Menemesh now pulled it from him and, changing the positions of his hands and thus overcoming the bad tuning, accomplished this very demanding piece with the ease of a great virtuoso.

Yet Menemesh further reprimanded his student in the Oriental manner with a symbolic gesture. He took a snuffbox from his pocket and served it to Omar the host, who took a pinch and handed the box back.

– Did you take already, uttered Menemesh at the moment of the return. The box is full, as if not touched at all, he added, looking stealthily at his student who was present.

The pinch taken out of Menemesh’s snuffbox was as small a portion as was the learning Sfindja had amassed, as compared to the totality of the knowledge of his master. When handled in the right manner, an Arab is sensitive and naively compliant. Sfindja understood all too well what this was about. He was ashamed, and, collapsing onto the cushions of the banquet room, he wept like a child. 

He never degraded his master ever again. On the contrary, he humbly acknowleged that in relation to his teacher, his own worth would never surpass that of a student. I am just a wisp on the head of Menemesh, he is said to have uttered in his old age. [p. 81/82]

When eventually Menemesh died, Sfindja was acknowledged to be the lone heir of his art. There was no one who could have contested his position. And now he in turn mistrustfully watched that no one would learn his repertoire.

But there was a rich Jewish boy, Nathan, who was eager to sit in an Algiers café in order to hear his playing. Greatly enthusiastic about music as he was, he attempted, by bribing the musician, to find a way to become his student. Little by little, Sfindja’s attention was drawn to the boy who willingly gave big tips to the musicians. At last Nathan dared to openly aspire to become his student. After a long hesitation, Sfindja agreed. According to the agreement then established, the student would have a lesson a day whenever the teacher had time. But it was part of the agreement that the student would pay the agreed ten francs – a considerable sum in those days – whether or not he had a lesson. He was not allowed to utter anything or to teach his skills to anybody during his teacher’s lifetime. Not even the names of the pieces should reach the ears of others.

Everything went well in the beginning, but as it happened, the poor boy once forgot his promise, even if it only meant mentioning the name of a piece that was part of Sfindja’s repertoire. The master heard about this. Sfindja now became infuriated. For three months poor Nathan was not allowed to appear in Sfindja’s sight. But during this time, waiting for better times, the shrewd student faithfully paid the agreed-upon daily fee. Yet a reconciliation never took place. In his despair, the decent Nathan finally got drunk and was publicly disgraced. [p. 82/83] This at last moved the offended master, and the instruction resumed.

Nathan, the last link in this chain of musicians and the one who told me about these matters, is a man of the present and he now governs the musical legacy of the famed Menemesh, or better, the tiny fraction of it that is left. [25] He is said to master about one thousand two hundred played and sung pieces. In him stands and falls the great art of music of the Moorish period of Spain, as preserved and developed by its best representatives, Menemesh and Sfindja. (English translation from the original Finnish by Helena Tyrväinen).



[1] This chapter is based on the paper ‘A musician from elsewhere in quest of knowledge – Past and present in Armas Launis’s ideas on the North-African musical traditions’ that
I gave on 21 March 2017 in Tokyo in the 20th Quinquennial Congress of the International Musicological Society, ‘Musicology: Theory and Practice, East and West’, and partly on my article in Finnish ‘Armas Launis pohjoisafrikkalaisen orientin kuvaajana: uran ja yhteenkuuluvuuden kysymyksiä’ (Armas Launis as a portrayer of the North-African Orient: Questions of career and affinity, Tyrväinen 2014). The English translations from Finnish are mine. I am very grateful to Dr. Maya Saïdani and Professor Slimane Hachi for having put me in contact with scholars of North African music during several conferences of the Centre National de Recherches Préhistoriques, Anthropologiques et Historiques, Algiers, to which they kindly invited me. I wish to thank Youssef Touaïbia, Dr. Jean Lambert and Professor Heikki Laitinen for a valuable exchange of information and Dr. Jean-Marie Jacono for helping me get hold of research literature on North African music. I am also grateful to the members of Dr. Matthew Machin-Autenrieth’s Middle East – North-Africa reading group and especially to Dr. Vanessa Paloma Elbaz for their comments in 2015 during my stay as Visiting Scholar in the Department of Music at the University of Cambridge.

[2] University of Helsinki, Finland.

[3] Rouanet started in the beginning of the 20th century to make use of the notion musique andalouse, but he also used musique grenadine to refer to more or less the same phenomenon. (Poché, 1995, 13–14, 21).

[4] The composer tells in his explanatory text to the orchestral score of Jehudith
(KK Ms.Mus.Launis A VIII, box 34): “had many stimuluses for his literary accomplishment from his travels to meet the The author has people of the desert and from his close personal contact with them, their daily lives and their popular habits, as well as from his familiarity with their poetry and their vocal and instrumental music.” I have commented on the North African impulses in Launis’s operas in Finnish in another context (Tyrväinen, 2014, 172–181).

[5] Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra School 1901–1906; University of Helsinki 1901–1906 (Ilmari Krohn); Berlin Stern Conservatory 1906–1907 (Wilhelm Klatte); Weimar Orchestral and Musicians’ School 1908–1909 (Waldemar Baussnern). In his personal record sheet from 1928, Launis lists his journeys for the University of Helsinki: “Study trips: to Berlin 1907–08, Weimar 1909, Paris 1911, Berlin, Munich and Rome 1912, Moscow and Saint Petersburg 1916, Germany and Italy 1920 and 1923–24, France 1925–26. Musicological studies: Berlin 1908, Copenhagen 1909, Estonia 1909, Saint Petersburg 1910, Paris 1914.” (Armas Launis Ansioluettelo [Record] HY KA 21.5.1928.)

[6] Launis had the highest grade laudatur in research on Finnish and comparative folk poetry and in History and Theory of music, and besides, approbatur grades in Greek and Roman literature, Aesthetics and modern literature, and Mathematics. In 1919, he gained the cum laude grade in Pedagogy (Järvinen [2010]).

[7] Heikki Laitinen (Laitinen, 2014, 99) has specified the moment in time replacing many false claims on the matter. Launis’s dissertation (Launis, 1910) was first published as a special edition in December 1910. Its public defence took place on 12 January 1911. The final official publication was released in 1913 (Launis, 1913). 

[8] Ilmari Krohn was Docent in History and Theory of music in the Imperial Alexander University in 1900–1918 and Extraordinary Professor in the University of Helsinki in 1918–1935.

[9] Ingria is a historical area in the North-West of Russia. It is today part of the city of Saint Petersburg and the district of Leningrad. It used to host a population of Baltic-Finnish peoples and, when under Swedish rule (1607–1721), received many Finns who are today called Ingrians. Today, only a small number of them remain in the area.

[10] Launis’s phonogram recordings are conserved in the archive of the Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura), Helsinki. Laitinen, 2014, 95, has concluded that the Society bought, in 1905, a phonogram upon Launis’s suggestion.

[11] I am grateful to Youssef Touaïbia and to Mohammed Khaled for this information. Jules Rouanet writes: “On connait, au moins du nom, les Aissaouas, adeptes d’une confrérie musulmane répandue dans tout le Maghreb, dont les pratiques religieuses ont souvent été présentées, dans les expositions, par d’habiles prestidigitateurs.” (Cf. Rouanet, 1922, 2830–2831.)

[12] I am grateful to Dr. Jean Lambert for this remark.

[13] Abdelkader Mana, Moroccan sociologist and ethnograph, writes to me (email from 5 January 2016): “C’est que dans toutes les formes du pré-théâtre marocain, ce sont les hommes qui « jouent » les rôles de femmes, dans une société traditionnelle où les femmes étaient bannies de l’espace public.” I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Mana for this information.

[14] Nadya Bouzar-Kasbadji writes: “S’il est une figure qui domine la vie artistique du XXe siècle en Algérie, c’est bien celle de Mahieddine Bachetarzi, dont la destinée est édifiante.”
(Bouzar-Kasbadji, 1988, 27).

[15] National library of Finland, Armas Launis’s archive, received letters (Coll.123.2), El Moutribia to Armas Launis. Three letters from Mahieddine remain in Armas Launis’s archive in the National library of Finland. The other two letters are dated 13 August 1935 in Paris and 20 May 1936 in Fez.

[16] Christian Poché writes: “Quant à la cithare sur table (qânûn), le canon medieval, bien qu’un modèle différent figure déjà dans les enluminures des Cantigas, elle semble avoir été une spécifité algérienne et plus particulièrement celle de la ville de Tlemcen. On ne possède pas de traces antérieures du qânûn, tombé en désuétude ailleurs, bien qu’il ait été décrit avec attention au XIVe siècle par Ibn Khaldûn dans ses Prolégomènes” (Poché, 1995, 115).

[17] Rouanet writes in French: “Ainsi qu’on l’a vu précédemment, la musique ancienne du Maghreb possédait 24 modes ou échelles tonales : chacune des vingt-quatre noubet classiques de la musique andalouse était construite sur l’une de ces vingt-quatre échelles.”

[18] This, obviously, is a generalization. In his travel book, Launis mentions that Kabyle wives are more independent than other Algerian women (Launis, 1927, 147, 163).

[19] There is a major exception, however. The typed version of the lecture is not quite consistent conceptually. Thus Launis writes: “For an example of such a transubstantiation of a key’s character, let us mention the sika key. As its original form, the old musicians recall the scale b–c–d–e–f–g–a–b. It has transformed no less than twice since. At first the tone f was raised by half a step and later, also the tone d. Its original form hardly remains known.” This too is straight from Rouanet.

[20] When on 14 June 2011, I had the opportunity to give a paper on Launis’s trial lecture in the CNRPAH conference ‘La nûba: empreintes passées et perspectives d’avenir’ in Tlemcen, Algeria, the audience voiced the remarks in question. It was my colleague Youssef Touaïbia who deciphered the origin of Launis’s misunderstandings. As the correct word for sand, he mentions al ramal, not er-remel. I remain in gratitude to Mr. Touaïbia for his statement during the debate and for his email of 24 June 2011. Al-ramal is simply a more graphocentric transcription of the Arabic, following modern orthographic convention. Er-remel is not wrong, it is just a bit quaint.

[21] I am grateful to Professor Heikki Laitinen for an oral exchange of ideas on this matter taking place in particular on 9 June 2012.

[22] The fact that the evaluation of the trial lectures then occurred in an academic spirit reveals the vagueness of the criteria set by the university. The concerned documents prove that the committee members’ opinions differed as to the relevance of practical and artistic vs. musicological merits for a successful holding of the post. In Kajanus’s mind, the artistic merits were decisive; scientific merits should only be taken into account if the artistic merits of two candidates were equal. Krohn thought, as for him, that the appointment should be considered from the viewpoint of musicological tuition: “The merits being more or less equal, priority should be given to the person holding the higher university degree in Musicology.” (HY KA 21 May 1928.)

The policies then applied in connection with the employment process defined the new course of University of Helsinki Musicology. While Kajanus as music teacher had concentrated on conducting the Academic orchestra, teaching music theory courses and supervising the relevant exercises now became the main task of the music teacher (Lappalainen, 1990, 183).

[23] University of Helsinki, Finland

[25] Throughout his work, Launis emphasises the idea that this repertoire is predominantly instrumental, and his phrasing in these pages frequently emphasizes instrumental performance when speaking of music. In this sentence,” musical legacy” could plausibly also be translated as” instrumental legacy.”

عرض كتاب لــ خوسي أنطونيو غونزاليز ألكنتود "الحدود المخيالية، الأسلوب الفني والصورة الفوتوغرافية في السياق الكولونيالي، المغرب/إسبانيا

يتكون هذا الكتاب بعنوان "الحدود المخيالية، الأسلوب الفني والصورة الفوتوغرافية في السياق الكولونيالي" من ثلاثة أجزاء: الأول بعنوان "صناعة الفرنسيين للأسلوب الإسباني الموريسكي في الرواق المتوسطي للمرايا المشوهة" والثاني حول: "جرائم ووعي ما بعد الاستعماري حول صور انتفاضة ومجازر 1912 فاس وإسقاطها ما بعد الاستعماري". والثالث بخصوص: "التصوير الفوتوغرافي الاستعماري في المغرب. مقال تأويلي أنثروبولوجي مقارن للصور". تقوم منهجية الكتاب على تحليل تاريخي للصورة ضمن العلاقة التي تجمع بين المشرق والمغرب في فترات الاستعمار والصراع كما في فترات الاستقلال والسّلام. وإضافة إلى صورة الغلاف التي تبرز مجموعة من المحاربين العرب في البيداء على متن أحصنتهم شاهرين سيوفهم وبنادقهم إشارة إلى الحرب وهي تحمل عنوان "الأندلس زمن العرب المغاربة (Les Maures)". يضم الكتاب ثلاثة مجموعات من الصور الفوتوغرافية والرسومات : المجموعة الأولى تشمل عددا من صور ووثائق (خرائط) المدن المغربية (فاس، تيطوان) تبيّن مظاهر العمران والفن الأندلسي. المجموعة الثانية متعلقة بالتمرد الذي حصل في فاس سنة 1912، يوجد بينها صور جنود مغاربة، فرنسيون، متمردون معدومون، متمردون مقتادون للمحاكمة، صور لدفن الجنود الفرنسيين، تكريم الجرحى… وأخيرا، المجموعة الثالثة وهي متنوعة، أغلبها ذات طابع اجتماعي، فيها صور فوتوغرافية لمغاربة أفراد وجماعات، صورة لعبد الكريم الخطيبي رفقةLouis de Oteyza لوي دو أوتيزا (1922)، صورة فوتوغرافية للريفي وأخرى للأمازيغي، صورة نساء في حفل زفاف...إلخ.

يرى جزيل فروند Gizèl Freund أن التصوير الفوتوغرافي فن فقير تحوّل إلى مهنة من أجل كسب الرزق. وقد كان للاحتلال الاستعماري دور في نشره، حيث وصل التصوير الفوتوغرافي غير الصحفي في البداية إلى الجزائر وتونس ومن ثمة إلى المغرب بداية من 1894. ولكن الثقافة الشعبية اعترضت انتشاره، نظرا لأنه يمكن استخدامه من أجل إلحاق أضرار/شر بالآخر ضمن ممارسات السحر والشعودة. ويمكن أن تصير الصور رهان معركة مهمة في حروب المخيال (مارك أوجيه Marc Augé). وحتى وإن أمكن التلاعب بالصورة الفوتوغرافية، فإن بعض لحظات الحقيقة يمكن أن تٌرى من خلالها. وعليه، لا يمكن تقليص العلاقة بين التصوير الفوتوغرافي والاستعمار في مجرد خطاب هيمنة لأن ذلك سيخفي الغنى الحقيقي للخلفية الإثنوفوتوغرافية للاستعمار (ص 149). ويحمل عدم وجود صور لأحداث معينة دلالة حيث أنه وبالنسبة لانتفاضة/تمرد جنود المخزن والأهالي في فاس 1912 ضد الملك مولاي حفيظ ورفض الحماية الفرنسية، يوجد فراغ فوتوغرافي ولكن يوجد أرشيف تلغرافي للأحداث. كما أن غياب بعض المظاهر من الصور له معنى، حيث أنه وفي سنوات 1940 و1950 من الصعب العثور على صور فوتوغرافية تظهر مشاعر المحبة والصداقة بين النخبة (الأهالي) والفرنسيين.

اعتبر المؤلف في البداية أن عالم الصور الفوتوغرافية متعدد التمظهرات يتجول ويسافر في المخيال المعاصر متجاوزا الحدود السياسية. والمخيال الناتج عن تفاعلنا مع تلك الصور هو من طبيعة مختلفة وكثافات إيديولوجية مشابه لما طرحته نظرية الانعكاس (الانكسار). ونوجد اليوم في وضع سياسي، أين تكون الحدود السياسية بين الدول مغلقة على خلاف العولمة التي تشير إلى الانفتاح وتحفز عليه، الشيء الذي يجعل حركة الصور مشكلة مركزية. في الحدود بين المغرب والأندلس (إسبانيا) يكون نظام صناعة الصور خاضعا للمنطق الاستشراقي في البداية وللمنطق الوطني ثانية. ويدعو المؤلف باستمرار إلى أنه من المهم التخلي عن ثنائية المخيال الشرقي والغربي، لأننا في نظام المخيال كلنا شرقيون وغربيون في الوقت نفسه. تزداد هذه العلاقات الثنائية تعقيدا بدخول طرف ثالث وهم الفرنسيون الذين فرضوا الحماية على المغرب سنة 1912 وأعادوا تشكيل خارطة التصورات والحدود بين الشرق والغرب. كان لو بون Le Bon إلى جانب غابريال تارد Gabriel Tarde وألفريد فويي Alfred Fouillée أحد أعمدة الوطنية الفرنسية ولكنه معروف أكثر بأنه من أكبر منظري لــ "سيكولوجية الشعوب" والذي اعتبر أن الإسبان برابرة بسبب طردهم ثلاثة ملايين مورسكي وهم بذلك محووا حضارة العرب الباهرة. ولكنه في نظر المؤلف بمجرد أن أزاح المنافسين الإسبان تناسى وأخفى الروعة الإسلامية. وادعى لوي أوبير ليوتي Louis Hubert Lyautey "الرجل الفرنسي المعجزة" الحفاظ على تقاليد الأهالي وفي الوقت نفسه تطويرها. وفي مقابل هذا الطرح يرى طوريس باربيس Torres Balbas الإسباني عدم وجود علاقات صراعية بين المسلمين والمسيحيين واليهود مند القرن 11م. وهو يعتبر أن فن الباروك امتداد لــ "موديجار" mudéjar الذي يمثل الاندماج والتمازج بين الأسلوب الشرقي والغربي والذي يعتبره أسلوبا وطنيا مجهضا. ويتكلم باربيس عن انتصار كامل للإسلام الأندلسي المترسخ في الثقافة الإسبانية. وعليه، فإن الأساليب التي أجهضته غريبة. أما المعماري موريس ترانشون دو لونيل Maurice Tranchant de Lunel، فقد اعتبر أن المغرب هو بلد الجمال السليم والذي لا يجب تلطيخه بالحداثة (ص 51). أما مسألة وصم الحرفيين المغاربة بأنهم منحطون، كان إما بسبب اختفاء القواعد نظرا لغياب تناقل أسرار العمل عند وفاة المعلمين أو بسبب التجارة الأوروبية. وهنا يتحدّث بروسبر ركارد Prosper Ricard عن فن تغليف الكتب في فاس، أين بقي فيها حرفي واحد يعرف أسرار المهنة ولكن لم يكن له وريث. (ص 57) اعتبر كل من بروسبير ركارد ومصلحة فنون الأندجين أنهم منقذو الموسيقى المغربية الشعبية العالمة. ورأى الأب غارسيا باريوسو Garcia Barriuso، الخبير في الموسيقى الأندلسية، أن "المٌغنّي المغربي لم يكن يكترث كثيرا في أدائه للسجل (المتن) الكلاسيكي ويظهر أن مدير الجوق (الأوركسترا) لم يكن ينتبه إلى تلك الأخطاء. (ص 62) وفي نظر بروسبر كان هذا مدعاة لتصحيح وتقويم الوضع بإنشاء معاهد موسيقى متخصصة كما هو الحال بإنشاء معهد الرباط سنة 1932 على شاكلة النماذج الفرنسية والعمل على تجريد هذا الأسلوب الغنائي والموسيقي من خلفيته الشرقية.

في مهرجان سنة 1925 انتصر نوع الغرناطي، حيث أن بن إسماعيل من مدرسة وجدة هو الذي قاد الأوركسترا. وصمود الموسيقى الأندلسية دليل على وجود تمازج بين الثقافة الإسلامية والإسبانية (hispano-mauresque). وكانت مجلة "أفريكا" داعمة للتوجه ذي النزعة الإفريقية والإسبانية وعملت على نشر الأسلوب الإسباني الموريسكي في سنوات الثلاثينات من القرن العشرين. أخفت التخيلات والأوهام الاستشراقية حقيقة شمال إفريقيا وحقيقة المدن فيه ولكن آخرون مثل أوندريه شوفرييون Andre Chevrillon وبيار لوتي Pierre Loti عملوا على إشهار مدينة فاس باعتبارها مدينة نموذجية غير أنّ فتح المدينة أبوابها للقنصليات الأجنبية أفقدها هويتها الإسلامية والأندلسية. ومع ذلك يبقى المغرب أكثر بلدان المغرب العربي وبلدان المشرق غربيا.

كيف تؤثر السياقات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية والسياسية على إعادة بناء مخيال جديد/مختلف عن الآخر؟ هذا ما يعمل صاحب الكتاب على توضيحه، حيث يدرج الحالة الآتية : بعد تخلص الإسبان من دكتاتورية الجينرال فرانكو والحرب الأهلية خلال سنوات 1930 والانفتاح الديموقراطي بداية من 1980، صار بإمكانهم إعادة اكتشاف الماضي الموريسكي والألفة التاريخية مع المغاربة التي تولّدت عنها مشاعر الحب البريء وبالتحديد مع أهل الريف (الريافة). وقد عززت الجالية المغربية المهاجرة إلى إسبانيا هذه العلاقة ولكن ظلت الصورة النمطية عن المغرب هي صورة الفقر. وبعد أن عرف الإسبان نوعا من الثراء سنة 1990 تولدت عن ذلك مشاعر تكبٌّر وتباهي واستعلاء على الآخر، إلا أن الفقر عاد مجددا إلى إسبانيا منتصف سنة 2010 وبدأ الشباب الإسبان في الهجرة إلى باقي الدول الأوروبية، حينها تم توحيد الصور والمساواة في العلاقات اليومية بين المغاربة والإسبان. ويٌلاحظ كذلك أن الإسلاموفوبيا (الخوف من الإسلام والمسلمين) أقل في إسبانيا بالمقارنة مع إنجلترا وفرنسا وألمانيا ولم تشهد إسبانيا أعمالا إرهابية من طرف الجهاديين ما عدا ما حصل في ألجيدو El Ejido بألمريا (Almeria) في 2000.

وتبقى المفارقة الكبرى قائمة لدى الغربيين، إذ يمكنهم أن يكونوا مناهضين للنازية وفي الوقت نفسه يقبلون أن يكونوا مستعمرين لمجتمعات أخرى. وهذا ظاهر في فيلم حرب الجزائر من خلال شخصية الكولونيل ماتيو. (ص 154، 155) ويناقش المؤلف
في الأخير طريقة استقبال المهاجرين وكيفية النظر إليهم تبعا لأصولهم إن كانوا أوروبيين أو آسيويين أو أفارقة، حتى وإن كانت الاتفاقيات الأوروبية بعد ح ع 2 تمنع النظر إلى المواطنين على أساس عرقي أو إثني تفاديا لكل نزعة مناهضة للسامية والبقاء في باراديغم التعددية الثقافية ومع ذلك تبقى النّظرة الازدواجية إلى المهاجرين. والأورو كعملة أوروبية لا يظهر معالم أثرية لدولة بعينها أو أعراقا أو وجوه بشرية. لقد قامت أوروبا غير الوطنية وباعتبارها مثالا يوتوبيا عابرا للأوطان بتجنيد الفن وذلك من أجل تجنب كل تحيز وكل تمييز إقصائي. ولكن كما يرى أوريش بيك Ulrich Beck، فإن أوروبا تتميز بالضبط بلا- هويتها Par sa non- identité من أجل تجنب أن تتعرف على ذاتها في تاريخها afin d’éviter de se reconnaître dans son histoire المليء بالعنف في كل مراحل التاريخ. أوروبا هي هوية بعد استعمارية معرفة أو محددة بالنزعة الكوسموبوليتية. وتم في المقابل ترك النزعة الوطنية للفقراء المهمشين من طرف التاريخ الحالي. إن بناء أوروبا يتطلب التزام وانخراط قاعدة المواطنيين المسؤولين فيما فوق الدول-الأوطان تجسيدا لما بعد الحداثة. وبالتالي، فإن أوروبا ليست مقاطعة أو أرضا ولكنها منهج. والاحتمالات الثقافية موجودة في أوروبا وستظل الأندلس فضاء حنين وتجربة تمازج واندماج ثقافي واجتماعي بين المسيحيين واليهود والمسلمين يمكن لأوروبا اليوم أن تعيد إحياءها واكتشافها. والإسبان الذين أسلموا سنوات 1980 قاموا بالبحث عن طريق خاص (طريق أندلس) للاعتراف بالدين، وبالخصوص التصوف.

ويتبيّن في الأخير أن الصورة ليست بريئة، فهي تخضع لتأطير مخيالي ويؤثر على رؤيتها وفك رموزها عوامل الزمن والتاريخ. كيف يمكن أن نمد الذين خضعوا للاستعمار بالتحكم التقني بالصور من أجل الاستفادة من نظرتهم الخاصة للمجتمع؟ هل يمكن أن نفعل كما فعل فرانس فانون الذي أخرج آلة التصوير الفوتوغرافية في وجه الاستعمار أو بطريقة تهكمية كما فعل جون روش Jean Ruch؟ يجيب المؤلف على هذين السؤالين بالقول إن هذه الطرق تجاوزها الزمن وأحسن طريقة لإثراء النقاش ما بعد الاستعماري تكمن في أرض الهرمينوطيقا بدون إقصاء أي وجهة نظر حول الواقع الاستعماري.

محمد حيرش بغداد

شذرات هوامش إسكندر شلفون من: دائرة المعارف الموسيقية، تاريخ الموسيقى، وضع العلامة الاستاذ جول رووانيت، معربة ومصححة ومكملة بقلم الاستاذ اسكندر شلفون، محرر مجلة روضة البلابل الموسيقية ورئيس المعهد الموسيقي المصري، الجزء الأول، 1927، نشرت تباعا في مجلة روضة

ص. 2


 الموسيقى في الشرق ولا سيما في مصر متجهة الى هيكل النور. آخذة في الانتشار. وهي اليوم في دور حيوي جديد بل في حركة كبيرة من حركات الانتقال والتطور. واشتغالنا مدة اربع سنوات في مجلة موسيقية هي الوحيدة في الشرق في اللغة العربية قد اتاح لنا الوقوف على حقيقة الحالة الفنية عندنا وعلى مقدار الاستعداد العام للتقدم بهذا الفن الجميل الخالد الى الامام

والظواهر المتعددة التي بدت في السنين الاخيرة في انحاء كثيرة من الشرق العربي لهي ادلة ساطعة على ان الروح الفنية آخذة في الانتعاش. وان الفكرة الموسيقية قد تهذبت وارتقت. وان الناس جلهم اصبحوا في حاجة إلى تغذية ارواحهم وقلوبهم وعقولهم حاجتهم الى تغذية ابدانهم. وهذا عصر مشرق نسمع فيه طبول البشائر تدق في انحاء الشرق مبشرة بالرقي العام سواء في الحياة المادية أو في الحياة الأدبية المعنوية. بل هذا هو الدليل الساطع على النهوض والتقدم ومبلغ ادراك الحقائق مما يبرهن بساطع البرهان على ان ارتقاء الفنون دليل على ارتقاء الامم

على أننا لا نزال في بدء نهضتنا الموسيقية ونشاطها الفني. والفراغ لا يزال حولنا وسیعاً لا سيما في ما يتعلق بكتبنا ومؤلفاتنا ومطبوعاتنا الفنية الموسيقية ليس فقط من حيث كتب العلم الموسيقي وقواعده بل من حيث تاريخ الفن وادوار اصلاحه ومختلف حالاته. ولما كان شأن الفن لدينا من أهم الشؤون وقفنا له مجهوداتنا واخلاصنا. فقد قضى الواجب علينا ان نبذل في سبيل خدمته النفائس من وقت ومال وان نضع يراعنا الضعيف رهن اشارته وان نقدم له من الكتب والمؤلفات والتعاریب قدر ما يكون في دائرة المستطاع

لذلك نحن نضيف اليوم الى مجهوداتنا السابقة مجهوداً جديداً هو تعريب القسمين العربي والتركي من تلك الدائرة. دائرة المعارف الموسيقية التي تم طبعها في العهد الأخير باللغة الفرنسية. وهذان القسمان يشتملان على الشيء الكثير من تاريخ الموسيقى الشرقية ومن قواعدها وحالاتها في مختلف العصور وتطوراتها وفنياتها وعلمياتها عند العرب والترك

وبالرغم من وقوع بعض الاغلاط الفنية الدقيقة في هذين القسمين. تلك الاغلاط التي قليلا ما تنجو منها مثل هذه المؤلفات العظيمة العالية المرتكزة في ابحاثها واوضاعها على دقائق التاريخ والعلم والفن والقواعد. فقد اشتمل هذان القسمان على مبلغ كبير من الحقائق والمعلومات الجليلة لا غنى لكل طالب لهذا الفن أو عامل فيه عنها.

على أننا لم نقابل تلك الاغلاط بالصمت بل تداولناها بالبحث والمناقشة والتصحيح على قدر ما سمحت لنا به معلوماتنا وابحاثنا 

فنحن نقدم اليوم هذا المجهود الى قراء اللغة العربية كما أننا نتقدم الى هيكل الفن المقدس بهذه التضحية الجديدة. ألهمنا الله طريق السداد

أسكندر شلفون

ص. 6، ه. 1: الحقيقة التي لا شك فيها هي عدم كفاءة جميع المستشرقين السابقين الذين بحثوا في الموسيقى العربية أو الشرقية بوجه عام. وسواء فيتيس Fétis أو غيفارت Gevaert أو دانیال Daniel أو دوقودراي Ducoudray أو كيزويتر Kiesewetter أو كوزغارتن Kosegarten وسواهم من العلماء المستشرقين فجميعهم ملأوا مؤلفاتهم الضخمة المزركشة بالاغلاط المدهشة. وقد جاء اليوم المسيو جول روانیت كاتب هذا التاريخ يزيد عدد هذه الطائفة الكبيرة. ولا يجد له متجهاً الا ذلك الذي ينحى به باللوم على اساتذة العرب ورجال الفن الا كفاء منهم بدلا من ان يبحث عن الحقيقة الواضحة في تلك الكتب التي لم يستطع لا هو ولا من سبقوه ان يفهموا الغرض منها. ان عدم امكانهم تفسير ما ورد في هذه المؤلفات وعدم ادراك الغرض منها ليس دليلا على ترترة هؤلاء العلماء كما يزعم حضرة المؤلف في بعض المواضع ولا برهانا على ان كل ما جاء في تلك المؤلفات من نوع المعميات والالغاز بل هي برهان على عدم الكفاءة في البحث. مع ان القواعد الموسيقية التي كانت في عرف أولئك المستشرقين الافاضل الغازاً وعقداً شرحت بكل وضوح ودقة كما اعترف الاستاذ روانيت بنفسه في جملة مواضع من نبذته وسنرى انه قد تناول ترجمتها وشرحها وتفسيرها والتعليق عليها بمقدار من الاسهاب والدقة يفوق ذلك المقدار الذي لم يرضه عند أولئك المؤلفين وكان سبباً في ان ينعتهم بصفة الثرثارين.

كذلك لست أدري ماذا يقصد بقوله : مؤلفات العصرين ؟ ... فاذا كان حقيقة يقصد الموسیقی في هذا العصر فالذنب ذنبه. اذ كان يجب عليه ان يزور الشرق العربي على الاقل كما فعل كثير سواه من المستشرقين (ولا يكتفي بزيارة تونس والجزائر) ويجري المباحث العملية والعلمية التي يتاح له بها ان يقف على ما يغنيه عن تلك المستندات التي اتعبه طلبها والبحث عنها هذا لو فرضنا ان الحالة لا تزال كما كانت قديماً ولم يكن لدينا ألحان ومعزوفات مدونة بالنوته. اما ونحن نستعمل النوته منذ ثلاثين سنة ويزيد فلا عذر له في ما يقول الا اذا كان قد كتب ما كتب قبل هذا العهد. ولا اظن ذلك.... (المعرب)

ص. 8 ، ه. 1: استعمل المؤلف في الاصل الفرنسي كلمة : discoureurs ليعبر بها عن الشراح والكتاب وهذه الكلمة معناها كثيرو الكلام (مكثارون ثرثارون) فكانه يريد ان يحط من شأنهم ونحن لا نسمح له بذلك ومخالفة كل المخالفة لما لهؤلاء الشراح من الفضل والمكانة. كثيراً ما كرر لنا حضرته في ديباجته الاستهلالية كلاماً كثيراً لا اختلاف الا في صيغة منطقة. وكم مرة قال لنا كلاماً كثيراً معناه ان العرب لم يستعملوا اصطلاحاً لتدين الموسيقى وكرره ثم كرره ثم كرره فلماذا اباح لنفسه الاكثار.. واستنكر ما ظنه تکراراً عند هؤلاء الادباء الذين لم يكرروا قولا وما كتبوا الا ما كان لا بد لهم من شرحه من الدقائق الفنية التي ابهمت على المعيته كما ابهمت على ألمعية من سبقه من علماء الافرنج المستشرقين الذين آبوا جميعهم من مباحثهم في كتب العرب بالخيبة والفشل ولم ينقلوا لاقوامهم الا الخطأ والاغلاط وما نجحوا الا بنشر كتب مطرزة الحواشي مصقولة الاوراق فاخرة الغلائف. (المعرب) 

ص. 8، ه. 2: هذا قول مخالف للحقيقة. والذي لا شك فيه هو أن بين الجيل الثامن والعصر الحاضر فترات كثيرة طويلة خلت من المؤلفين والمؤلفات

ص. 8-9، ه. 3: لقد عثر حضرة البارون رودولف ديرلانغي (Le Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger) المستشرق البحاثة المقيم اليوم في بلدة: (سيدي بوسعيد) من بلاد تونس. على كتب عربية قديمة حوت مدونات موسيقية كثيرة وقف منها على قواعد الكتابة بالعلامات الموسيقية التي كانت تستعملها العرب قديماً فدرسها وتعلمها وكتب بها كثيراً من الأغاني التونسية والموشحات العربية. وقد ارسل الينا حضرته موشحة من تلك الموشحات معروفة في تونس من نغمة الاوج عراق ومن ضرب الخفيف هي

يا رفاقي اذا مررتم بنجد * ونزلتم ربوعها والخياما الخ 

مدونة بعلامات العرب القديمة مصحوبة بخطاب لنا من حضرة البارون يقول فيه ان الطريقة العربية

(فيما يلي نماذج من (نوتة) العرب القديمة بتفسيرها)... فلو أن المسيو جول رووانیت (Monsieur Jules Rouanet) ذهب في بحثه الى ابعد مما ذهب{١٠} اليه لتسنى له ان يهتدي الى تلك الطريقة التي تبرهن له على ان العرب كانوا يستعملون العلامات الموسيقية ويدونون موسيقاهم. ولكن الفترة الزمنية الطويلة التي خمدت فيها الحركة الفنية في بلاد العرب على اثر تدهور الدول العربية هي التي ذهبت بأكثر الآثار والمستندات المتعلقة بالمدونات الموسيقية العربية.

بلغت الموسيقى في عهد الخلفاء العباسيين منزلة باهرة وشأناً رفيعاً ولا عجب. فمجد الفنون مجد الدول. دالت دولة الخلفاء ودالت معها دولة الفن. وبعد ان كانت الموسيقى مهنة الأدباء وكرام القوم والمتعلمين امثال الموصلي ومبعد وابن محرز وابن سريج وامثالهم اصبحت بين أيدى الجهلة والرعاع وشراذم المتسولين. وقوم من هذه الطبقات لا يُطالبون بواجب ولا يُسألون عن مستندات الفن ولا عن علومه وقواعده ومدوناته. لقد ورثوا تحف الفن في عصره الذهبي. ولكن التحف الفنية في عصر العلم والمجد تكون من بائرات الاشياء والسلع في عصر الجهل والانحطاط. وهذا على ما نظن هو السبب في اندثار المعالم الفنية الكتابية. يضاف الى ذلك الحوادث والانقلابات والنكبات المتعددة التي اجتازها العرب خلال الاجيال فاذا رأينا اليوم أن بعض تلك المؤلفات والمخطوطات التي على كل حال تضمنت جميعها الكفاية من المباحث والشروحات الفنية بالرغم من قلتها قد وصلت اليوم الى أيدينا سليمة مجتازة تلك الاجيال المملوءة بالأهوال وجب أن نعتبر ذلك من حسن الحظ.

وهب أن الحظ لم يسعد صاحب النبذة بالعثور على تلك الكتب التي عثر عليها البارون ديرلانغيه 

فهل يا ترى استمر به سوء الحظ فلم يطلع على الكتب الآتية:...


...ألم يطلع حضرته على هذه الطائفة الكبيرة من الكتب أو على أمثالها؟

ان في النبذة التي كتبها في تاريخ الموسيقى العربية ما يدل على انه اطلع على مخطوطات ومؤلفات حوت كثيراً مما حوته تلك المؤلفات المذكورة هنا. واكثر تلك الكتب حوت الاصطلاح العربي القديم لتدوين الموسيقى. والدليل على ذلك أن النغمات العربية جميعها مشروحة في اكثر هذه الكتب بالعلامات الموسيقية العربية. وقد رسمت صفحة عنق العود في بعضها بأقسامها ومراکز دساتينها. وشرحت المسافات والأبعاد والنسب بكل دقة وكتبت العلامات الموسيقية كل علامة في مركز الصوت الخاص بها على ملمس العود (عنق العود) أفلا يبرهن كل ذلك على ان العرب كانوا يستعملون في عصر مجدهم الفني طريقة لتدوين الموسيقى. وهل ما شرحه حضرته في الصحائف. ۲۷١٦ و٢٧٣٣ و۲۷۳٤ و۲۷۳٦ و۲۷۳۹ مما نقله بالحرف الواحد عن بعض تلك الكتب لا يكفي برهاناً على ان العرب كانوا يستعملون اصطلاحاً موسيقياً؟ وتلك الطريقة العربية التي يستعملها اليوم البارون ديرلانغيه واساسها الحروف الابجدية التي استعملها العرب الا تكفيه دليلا على ذلك بل ألا يكفيه دليل بين الادلة تلك المعزوفات الموسيقية من تأليف الفارابي دونها الترك بالعلامات الموسيقية الافرنجية العصرية فهي لا شك نقلا عن نسخ اصلية كتبت قديماً بالاصطلاح العربي الذي كان مستعملا في عهد الفارابي نفسه؟ واذا كانت حوادث السوء قد اتلفت جل تلك التحف الموسيقية القديمة وحرمتنا منها أفلا یکفي القليل الباقي لاقناع المسيو روانيت على ان ما يقوله في مواضع كثيرة من نبذته ليس فيه من الحقيقة شيء طالما ان هذا القليل قد حوى على اجلى الاثار واوضحها؟؟؟

نعم ان کتب العرب الفنية لم تكن مشفوعة بنصوص موسيقية كما يقول الكاتب ولكن لو لم یکن حضرته متحاملا على الفن العربي بل لو كان منزهاً عن الغرض كما يجب ان يكون كل من ينتدب للكتابه في مثل دوائر المعارف التي لا قيمة لها الا بالحقائق. لفطن الى الغاية من تلك الكتب وادرك ان غرض مؤلفيها منها انما كان ان يجعلوها كتباً للقواعد لا مجموعات الحان ومعزوفات. وهي من هذا النحو. لا فرق` بينها وبين كتب القواعد عند الغربيين في هذا العصر. بل لكانت تفوقها دقة واتقاناً لو لم يندثر الفن العربي القديم ويحل محله فن عربي حديث أخذت قواعده وفنياته وعلمیاته من منتجعات مختلفة. فتلك الكتب المعروفة باسم میتود (méthodes) لاشيء فيها من انواع الاغاني والالحان وكل ما حوته كمية وافرة من تمرينات مختلفة. وكذلك کتب العرب القديمة فلا يكاد يخلو واحد منها من امثال تلك التمرينات مدونة بالعلامات العربية القديمة. فماذا تراه يريد المسيو روانيت إذن؟؟

13: ه. 2

لم يأت دميتريوس دي قنتمير بشيء من عنده ولم يخترع للاتراك اختراعاً جديداً ولم يطبق على الحروف العربية اية طريقة هندية كما يزعم المسيو روانيت. فالحروف الابجدية التي استعملها كعلامات موسيقية قلد بها الحروف الابجدية التي استعملها العرب قروناً من قبله بلا فرق غیر اختلاف في اشكالها لا يؤثر في جوهر الطريقة ويظهر ان الاستاذ روانیت اخطأ خطأ العلامة فيلوتو (M. Villoteau) في القسم الخاص بالموسيقى في كتاب وصف مصر حيث قال في الجزء الرابع عشر صحيفة ۳۹ ...


هذا ما قاله العلامة المستشرق فيلوتو. وهذا ربما نقله عنه كما نرجح الاستاذ روانیت. وسواء الاول او الثاني فكلاهما على غير حق. كلاهما ينكر على العرب حقهم. كلاهما لم ينصف التاريخ ولم يدقق في البحث ولم يرع حق الامانة في استقراء الاخبار. کلاهما خل بواجب المؤلف ومهر الادب والتاريخ بأخبار ومزاعم لا صحة لها على الاطلاق

دیمتریوس دي قنتمير هو من سلالة عائلة نترية نبيلة كريمة. ولد سنة ۱٦۷۳ وكان ابوه حاكما علی مراکز مولدافيا الثلاثة. ارسل الاب ابنه دميتريوس إلى الاستانة بغية تعليمه فأقام الابن هناك عشرين سنة تقريباً. حيث انصرف خلالها الى درس اللغة التركية والموسيقى فنجح ومهر بهما في زمن قريب. فالعلامة فيلوتو يزعم آن دمتريوس اخرج اختراعه الفني خلال هذه المدة. ونحن لا ندري من أین جاء لنا وللتاريخ بهذا الخبر الذي لا يتفق مع الحقيقة بوجه من الوجوه. على اننا اذا امكن لنا ان نلتمس عذراً للعلامة فيلوتو ومهمته كانت محدودة في تأريخ ما يتعلق بالموسيقى في مصر فقط فلسنا ندري كيف نستطيع ان نلتمس عذراً للاستاذ روانیت ومهمته كتابة الأنسيكلوبيديا وقاموس معهد باريس الموسيقي وواجبه ان يتحرى الحقائق ويتناول الاخبار من اوثق مصادرها. 

كيف يستطيع حضرة الاستاذ ان يؤكد لنا ما هو يزعم انه من ابتكار دميتريوس وما هذا الابتكار سوى تقليد ما ورد في مؤلفات العرب الموسيقية قبل دميتريوس دي قنتمير بمئات من السنين؟ 

والذي يوجب دهشتنا بالأكثر ان الكتب والمؤلفات العربية القديمة التي اعتمد عليها الأستاذ روانيت في تحرير القسم الذي عهد اليه فيه من دائرة المعارف الموسيقية والتي ذكرها في مكان من مبحثه سيأتي دوره في الشرح حوى اكثرها مثل تلك العلامات الموسيقية الممثلة بالحروف الأبجدية التي ينسب اختراعها الاول خطأ الى دميتريوس. وجميع هؤلاء المؤلفين سابقين لدميتريوس دي قنتمير. فلما هذه المراوغة؟ لسنا ندري (المعرب)

ص. 14-16, ه. 1:

كلما كرر الاستاذ روانیت موشحته التي معناها ان العرب لم يعرفوا ولم يستعملوا علامات موسيقية كلما اضطررنا إلى أن نكرر نحن ايضا قولنا انه كان للعرب علامات موسيقية وان نبرهن على ما نقول بالادلة والبينات وفي هذه المرة نأخذ هذه الادلة وتلك البينات مما أورده الاستاذ روانیت بيراعه الخاص . ففي الصحيفة ۲۶۸۰ من دائرة المعارف الموسيقية في تلك الصحيفة التي اختصها الاستاذ باسماء مؤلفي الفرس والعرب والترك الذين كتبوا في الموسيقى منذ القرن الثاني للهجرة حتى القرن الثاني عشر منها ذکر حضرته بين اسماء المؤلفين الذين عاشوا في القرن السابع للهجرة اسم صفي الدين عبد المؤمن البغدادي وذكر مؤلفاته الموسيقية وهي: الشرفية وكتاب الأدوار و کتاب النسب الموسيقية فنقول:

لقد ورد في نهاية الشرفية قطعة تمرينية موسيقية مدونة بالعلامات الموسيقية العربية فهل لم يطلع عليها الاستاذ روانیت ؟ واذا كان قد اطلع عليها فلماذا أنكرها ولم يذكر عنها حرفاً واحداً في بحثه الانسكلوبيدي ؟

كذلك ذكر حضرته للقرن التاسع للهجرة اسم عبد القادر بن غيني ( وقوله غيني خطأ صحته غيبي) وذكر مؤلفاته الموسيقية الثلاثة: مقاصد الالحان وجامع الالحان وکنز الالحان . على انه ذكرها محرفة فكتب مقاصد الالحام وجامع الالحام وکنز الالحام هكذا : Mekacid el elham, Djami el elham, Kinz al elham وقد يظن القاريء الذي لا يعرف هذه الكتب انه يريد مقاصد الالهام وجامع الالهام وکنز الالهام. ففي الكتاب الأول المسمى مقاصد الالحان وردت الابيات الآتية مدونة بالعلامات الموسيقية العربية:

قد لسعت حية الهوى كبدي * فلا طبيب لها ولا راقي

الا الحبيب الذي شغفت به * فعنده رقيتي وترياقي

وفي الكتاب الثالث المسمی کنز الالحان جمع عبد القادر جميع الحانه مدونة بالعلامات الموسيقية.

اما اللحن الوارد في الكتاب الاول فقد طواه حضرة الاستاذ رواینت تحت جناح الصمت فكانه لم يره.

اما الكتاب الثالث والاستاذ يذكره و يمهره بقوله ان معاصري عبد القادر يدعون انه يشتمل على الحان مدونة بالعلامات الموسيقية.

فهل يسمح لنا الاستاذ رواينت أن نسأله عن الغاية من هذا القول الذي يقصد به النفي؟ وهل هو قول مبني على حسن النية أم على سوء القصد؟ ثم لماذا هو لا يريد أن يصدق قول معاصري عبد القادر ولماذا تراه يظنهم يدعون؟ هل لان الكتاب المذكور مفقود أباح لنفسه ان ينكر على العرب استعمال العلامات الموسيقية واستسهل أن يزعم ان معاصري عبد القادر يزعمون ويدعون؟

ان في حوزتنا کتب خطية قديمة سلمها لنا الآباء والاجداد لا يملكها سوانا ولا أثر لها في مكان آخر. كما ان لدى الاستاذ رؤوف يكتا بك كثير من المخطوطات القديمة التي ابتاعها بكل غال و نفيس لا يوجد منها نسخة أخرى غير التي في حوزته . أفلا يجوز أن يكون ذلك الكتاب المسمی کنز الالحان في حوزة بعض الناس ممن لا يهمهم امر الموسيقى ولا يهمهم شأن اظهار الكتاب . أفلا يجوز ان يعثر العلماء والباحثون يوماً من الايام على هذا الكتاب كما هم يعثرون في كل يوم على التحف القديمة والاثار ؟ ثم اذا صح ان الكتاب المذكور أصبح في عالم العدم فما هي مصلحة معاصري مؤلف الكتاب في ما يدعون ويزعمون كما يتهمهم الاستاذ رواینت؟ هل ظنهم منجمین تکهنوا بان الاستاذ سيأتي بعد أجيال و ينقض على العرب بجارحات اللوم لجهلهم علم العلامات الموسيقية فلفقوا تلك الرواية الكاذبة في سبيل الدفاع عن كرامة الموسيقى و کرامات العرب؟

ليسمح لنا الاستاذ رواینت ان نؤكد له ان العرب استعملوا طريقة كتابية للموسيقى وانه اذا لم يكن بين المخطوطات والاَثار مواد کافية و مصنوعات وافرة تبرهن على وجود العلامات الموسيقية عند العرب فذلك لان رجال الفن كانوا قليلين ولان اكثرهم كانوا اميين كما كان الحال عند الغربیين في العصور المتوسطة ولان الموسيقى كانت غير منتشرة ومتداولة عند الافراد في الامم الشرقية ولان المتعلمين المقتدرين من الموسيقيين كانوا يحرصون على فنهم ويحفظونه لانفسهم ولا يدونونه الا لانفسهم خشية المزاحمة والسرقة ومحافظة على مكانتهم الفنية بين الناس عامة
وعند الامراء والعظماء خاصة وغير ذلك من الاسباب الاجتماعية والتقليدية. واذا كانت المخطوطات القديمة خلت من الالحان المدونة فلم يرد في بعضها الا الشيء القليل الذي لا يروي ظمأ فلان هذه المخطوطات لیست ( فونوغرافات) كما يقول رؤوف یکتا بك بل هي كتب قواعد وعلوم وأصول ولا نظن أن مثل هذه الكتب عند الافرنج يحوي أكثر مما هي حوت

ص. 27, ه. 1:

لقد كان في الإمكان ان نرد على كل من هذه الاقوال فنثبت بالدليل القاطع والبرهان الساطع ان الاجزاء الصوتية الصغيرة في لغتها الفتانه الشرقيه هي سر جمال الموسيقى ومنبع قوتها ومنهل حيويتها وان الميزان للموسیقی کالروح للجسد. وان الموسيقى بغير الميزان کالصم البارد لا روح فيه ولا حياة. ولكننا امسكنا عن ذلك لان غرضنا الوحيد هنا هو تصحيح الاغلاط الفنية والعلميه كما سبق لنا القول. على اننا لا نملك النفس في كلمة :

لا شك ان آلهة الموسيقى حاقدة على الافرنج ناقمة على حاستهم السمعية. لذلك قد أغلقت على اذهانهم فلم يفهموا حتى اليوم اسرار الجمال الموسيقي وكلما ظنوا أنهم قد اقتربوا من هيكل الجمال كلما كانوا بالعکس مبتعدين عنه وكلما خيل اليهم انهم قد اهتدوا الى آية من آيات الطرب كلما كان بالعكس ضلالهم في ازدياد. وسانتهز اقرب الفرص لاقوم بما يوحيه الي اخلاصي وتوجبه علي مهمتي نحو الفن فاحلل لهم موسيقاهم وموسيقانا وابرهن لهم ان كل مخلوق حرمته السماء من موهبة ادراك كنه جمال الموسيقى الشرقية فقد حرم لذة حاسة من حواسه الخمس طول الحياة. وكي اخفف على اصحاب الموسيقى الافرنجيه ملل الانتظار اسوق اليهم كلمة: ليس الاعجاب والدهشه امام المهارة البهلوانية والنبوغ الصناعي في الموسيقى الافرنجية كالرقة الطبيعية والعذوبة العاطفية والارتجافة الروحية والوثبة القلبية والحركة الشعاعية في الموسيقى الشرقية. أن الفرق بين الحالتين كبير ومهما تكن مهارة الصناعة ونبوغ الرشاقة فالعاطفة الطبيعية والجمال الطبيعي واللغة الطبيعية والروح الطبيعية لا يفوقها شيء في الوجود (المعرب).

Reconsidering North African lutes: ʻūds and kwītras in La Musique Arabe dans le Maghreb

This chapter explores North African lutes in Jules Rouanet’s La musique arabe dans le Maghreb (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2829, 2920, 2927). A close reading of Rouanet shows a way of approaching North African organology that is distinct from the post-Cairo Congress consensus. In particular, it draws attention to the fuzzy boundaries between ʻūds,  ʻūd ‘arbī, and kwītra. These fuzzy boundaries are visible in the pre-Cairo Congress literature, and in fact these fuzzy boundaries are still visible in the everyday language of musicians in the Maghrib today. The way I am going to do this is through examination of a particular instrument in the Brussels Museum; in essence, I am going to “read” this instrument alongside Rouanet’s writing and those of some of his predecessors. Not only does this allow me to draw attention to fuzzy boundaries, but it also allows me to underline the Africanness of certain Maghribi instruments that are typically thought about as part of the ʻūd family. In the following pages, my argument is also illustrated through the tuning features of North African ʻūds, of which their specific combinations of intervals are crucial to local African use.

North African ʻūds were collected in the 19th century in London (1867), Paris (1873), Berlin (1894) and Brussels (1878, 1896) (Morra, 2021). Much earlier, in the 18th century, Thomas Shaw, attests the presence of ʻūds in the “Barbary states”: «they have the ouds, or bass double stringed lute, bigger than our viol, that is touched with a plectrum, besides several smaller gittar (or quetaras, according to their pronunciation), of different size, each of them tuned an octave higher than another [italics by Shaw] » (Shaw, 1757, p. 203). Some years earlier than Rouanet’s publication, a significant event concerning the instrument was documented at the beginning of the 20th century. Erich Von Hornbostel, an Austrian comparative music scholar, recorded a ʻūd in Berlin in March 1904 during a performance by a visiting Tunisian group. According to Hornbostel's description (1906), the ʻūd played in that ensemble by Daidou Msīka resembles the Tunisian model: "Die Darbouka, die Msīka Laute begleitete, war auf Fis gestimmt, also eine Oktave unter der tiefsten Lautensaite". The Darbouka, which accompanied Msiqa's lute, was tuned on F-sharp1, i.e., an octave below the lowest string of the lute (Hornbostel, 1906, p. 4; Katz, 1975, p. 329). Taking into account this tuning description, which is the Tunisian ʻūd today transposed a major 3rd (D2, D3, G2, C3), could we assume that this instrument type was used to make that recording in Berlin? Is it the kind of ʻūd that Rouanet described? Or one of those that are preserved in museums?

To make things more complicated, at the beginning of 20th century, there was widespread confusion in terms of nomenclature for these types of musical instruments. In Kashf al-qināʻ ʻan alāt al-samāʻ, Ghouti Bouali reports that the instrument called kwitra in Algeria (1904, p. 102) is instead called ʻūd in Morocco and in Egypt. Bouali also gives the tuning of the kwitra (C, A, D, G), which oddly correspond to today’s tuning of the ʻūds in Algeria. In The Music and Musical Instruments of the Arabs, Francisco Salvador-Daniel (1914) reports that of all the instruments, the most commonly used in Algeria was the kouitra, known in that region as the «Tunisian guitar - the shape, together with the name, recalling, the cithara of the Greeks» (Daniel, 1914, p. 61). A kouitra, which is not present in Tunisia – as far as we know – from the start of the 20th century, named a “Tunisian guitar”? In the book’s preface, H. G. Farmer adds a note on the physical description of the instrument: «[it] is smaller [than the oriental oud], has no frets, and the head instead of being turned at a right angle is almost straight» (Farmer, quoted in Daniel, 1914, p. 239). Farmer agrees with Shaw in distinguishing North African lutes as being smaller than “oriental” ones. In this context, eight years later, Rouanet describes in detail, as we will see, an instrument named kwītra as being the favourite plucked instrument among musicians of North Africa (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2926). Rouanet’s taxonomy of North African lutes is akin to their earlier classification by Mahillon (1841–1924) and Engel (1874). Since Carl Engels’ studies and especially Victor-Charles Mahillon’s (1880) first systematic scheme of instrument classification, later expanded by Hornbostel and Sachs, the ‘ūd has been classified among stringed instruments of the Middle East. Similarly, Rouanet groups lutes (kwītra and oud, including qanun) under the description of «plucked instruments (with a plectrum) » (instruments à plectre) (1922, p. 2926). In terms of general classification, according to Rouanet: «the kwītra has a Maghrebian origin»: «il parait d’ailleurs avoir une origine maghrébine ou hispano mauresque » (1922, p. 2926), and the ʻūd was described as an instrument of the Arabs (1922, p. 2927).

A decade later, in 1934, Domingo Prat, in his Diccionario de Guitarristas, mentions a kouitra as an Arab guitar, also called “guitarra de Tứnez” (Tunisian guitar) (Prat, 1934, p. 411). The connections and exchanges between naming the instruments according to their geographical provenience and forms are common for organological classification. What is at stake here is that, in examining various cultural and identity interrelations between the North African plucked instruments of ʻūd types, both ʻūd and kwītra raise ambiguity when it comes to definitions, since they draw attention to a seemingly unapproachable morass of historical facts, cultural identity formation and intertwined relationships involving both public and private music making.

A shift to modern nomenclature concerning the North African lutes began at the Cairo Congress of 1932, when the instrument was played for the Tunisian and Algerian delegations, respectively by Khamaīs Tarnane and Omar Bekhchi, to represent a typical musical instrument of the North African mālūf ensembles (Guettat, 1992, p. 71; Bouzar-Kasabdji, 1992, p. 92). Thereafter, the distinction between the kwītra and the ʻūd ʻarbī was to become sharper, although a certain ambiguity remains: Jurgen Elsner identifies the four-stringed kwītra or ʻūd ʻarbī as being characteristic of the 20th century Algerian ensemble (Elsner, 1992, p. 193). During the same period, Rezgui couples the instrument name with the adjective "Tunisian": ʻūd tūnsī (Rezgui, 1989, p. 58). Later, both Scheherazade Hassan and Maya Saidani report that the ʻūd ‘arbī is mainly used in the Algerian the city of Constantine (Saidani, 2006, p. 182), and in Tunisia, where it is also known as ʻūd tūnsī (Ḥassan, 2002, p. 406). For them, the kwītra is another regional shortnecked lute used only in Arab Andalusian urban ensembles in Morocco and Algeria (Ḥassan, 2002, p. 407; Saidani, 2006, p. 182). Recently, at the symposium on “Musical Traditions in North Africa” in Sidi Bou Said (Tunisia, December 2014), the Tunisian Saifallah Ben Abderrazak maintained that the ʻūd ‘arbī (also called ʻūd maghribī) is the same instrument in Tunisia and Morocco, but in the latter, it goes by the name of ʻūd ramal. The kwītra (pl. kyātir) instead is an instrument used essentially in Algeria but very similar to the ʻūd ‘arbī. Today, both the terms ʻūd tūnsī and ʻūd ‘arbī are in use, though with a slight preference for the former also in academic contexts. The instruments tend to figure in historical terms, although the present-day Tunisian ʻūd and Algerian kwītra are relatively stable and uniform objects.

Today, the ʻūd (often spelt oud, sometimes named in museum classification also kouitra, kwītra, quwaytara), a plucked instrument, is the most prominent musical instrument of the Arab-Islamic world. A recognised standard Arab/Egyptian model (ʻūd sharqī, oriental ʻūd, also called ʻūd miṣrī, Egyptian) is the most used type along with the Turkish one, whereas models from Iran, Greece, Iraq and Syria are also variously found. In North Africa, several practices and styles of ʻūd co-exist, namely Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan. The ʻūd ‘arbī and the kwītra are four double-course necked instruments. It consists of a sound chest made of a series of ribs, linked to a flat front surface of wood, and pierced by sound holes, near which a membrane made of shell and wood protects the belly from the strokes of the plectrum. Its shape differs from the standard Egyptian model, as does the tuning according to different regional traditions.

Comparison between Rouanet’s and Mahillon’s Kwītras

The section about musical instruments of La musique arabe dans le Maghreb follows the part about melodic forms of instrumental music
(1922, p. 2894), and the musical examples of the repertoires. Rouanet mentions the kwītra among the musical instruments of profane music in public spaces, but there is no reference to the ʻūd (1922, p. 2829). It appears rather strange that the kwītra is not used in private music gatherings, feasts, weddings etc. In the 1920s, according to Rouanet, the kwītra was the “preferred” musical instrument for North African musicians, and presumably I might say, it was spread across Algeria rather than Tunisia. Today, the kwītra is indeed a typically Algerian traditional instrument. It is mostly played in the regions of Algiers and Tlemcen. In the region of Constantine, it is replaced by the ʻūd ‘arbī (a point to which we will return), and is typically part of the ensemble which performs the nūba.

The idea and imagery of the kwītra being a guitar is very much present in Rouanet’s writing too. «The kwītra is a guitar» (p. 2926) is a peculiar statement by Rouanet, which differentiates its form from the ʻūd. From the instrument description and the drawing, the contrary is apparent since the kwītra is an instrument akin to the ʻūd, as we see from Rouanet’s successive description. The kwītra is made, in principle, of nine or ten ribs, as Rouanet attests. Each rib is cut to a mould, and the wood used, according to Rouanet, namely pear, walnut, chestnut and maple, coincide with today’s practice. The body of the kwītra is much smaller and shallower than that of the eastern ʻūd. The kwītra’s rosette, which differentiates it from the North African ʻūds and the oriental ʻūd, is shaped like an ace of spades or a «tree of life»; for Rouanet it is a flower vase, a particularly Hispano-Mauresque style (1922, p. 2926). The rosette is cut directly from the table and is not attached to the other piece of wood. According to Rouanet, the soundboard is made up of parts, it is not one solid piece, and this is the case for all North African lute construction. Around the soundboard, on the ribs, a strip of leather is attached, glued to strengthen the body with the face, against shocks to the ribs of the instrument which risk cracking and weakening the corners. The leather band is also explained by Rouanet for its practical use: the kwītra does not have a protection plate (raqma) as the ʻūds have.

The strings go from the peg to the bridge which is glued to the soundboard. This bridge has a special form in the kwītra and in the Maghrebian ʻūd in general: the form of a moustache. Rouanet emphasises this peculiar moustache shape in a detailed drawing that highlights his deep knowledge of the parts of the instrument. However, Rouanet misses the most important organology feature that distinguishes the North African lute from the eastern oud, namely the length of the neck. North African lutes have a longer neck than eastern ones - for the kwītra, as for the ‘ūd ‘arbī, the note produced at the intersection of the body and the neck should be, at an interval of sixth major (5/3 ratio) in relation to the note emitted by the open string. By comparison, in the eastern ʻūd, the intersection is at the perfect fifth (3/2). At the end of this handle, we find the peg, which does not have a right angle as for the eastern ʻūd, but a much less accentuated angle noted by Rouanet.

Very much importance is given by Rouanet to the plectrum to strike the strings, through a figure and a detailed description (1922, p. 2926). As musicians reported, the plectrum used for kwītra is an eagle feather. This feather is stripped of its horny tip and beards. The spine is then cut longitudinally in half from a certain length, and only one of the resulting parts is kept. The feather is pre-soaked for about 48 hours in oil to make it more supple. The part of the spine thus softened is very delicately folded back into a pin. Finally, the two ends are tied with thread and allowed to dry, as is drawn on the page. The plectrum and other detailed drawings in Rouanet’s pages resemble the instrument and objects used nowadays.

In historical terms, the instruments I wish to compare with Rouanet’s description arrived at the Musée Instrumental of the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Bruxelles in the 19th century - among other instruments - all of which were labelled kouitara by the curator and collector Victor- Charles Mahillon (1841-1924). These instruments have common features with the kwītra of Rouanet, but also nomenclature issues. Mahillon was appointed curator of the Musical Instruments Museum at the Brussels Conservatory on February 1st, 1877 (De Keyser, 2006, p. 5). These African ʻūds possibly came to Europe in three important sub-collections along with Chinese instruments from several gifts. L.J.F.E. von Ende, a captain in the East Indies Army, donated mainly Indonesian instruments in 1879 and the engineer Auguste Herpin in Cairo donated a collection of 52 instruments from the Maghreb countries between 1879 and 1880. Further, Vermandele donated a further 27 African instruments (De Keyser, 2006, p. 17). In particular, at the Paris World Fair in 1878, Mahillon bought 27 instruments for the museum of instruments, from the Maghreb countries, Persia (Iran), Egypt, Central Africa, Siam (Thailand), China, Peru, New Caledonia, Java and from the lands of the North American Indians, among which a kouiṭāra from Tunisia 0395 (De Keyser, 2006, p. 69). Mahillon noted that two instruments were from Tunisia 0395 (1878), 0877 (1896), one from Morocco 0392 (1878), and two from Algeria 0393, 0394 (Mahillon, 1978, p. 298). These instruments have a number of features connecting them specifically to North African ʻūds , only two of which are recognised today as being kouitras (0393, 0394). The remainder can be defined as Tunisian ūd ‘arbī (0395, 0877), and Moroccan ūd ramal (0392), maintaining their geographical provenance attributed by Mahillon. Mahillon corresponded with his colleagues, curators such as Carl Engel in London, building up an information network that broadened with his growing international reputation. Mahillon often copied Engels in terms of nomenclature for extra-European instruments, though in this case he differed, defining the instrument as kouitaras (1978, p. 3). The name kouitara instead must have been used widely in North Africa in the 19th century during exchanges with collectors and musicians, although its affiliation to a particular instrument might have occurred in the 20th century and specifically from Rouanet onwards (1922).

In this respect, in the second edition catalogue (1893), on the kouitara 0392’s accompanying notes with pictures, its tuning is written in G clef notation. Information is given on how the strings are stroked and what material they are made of ([1978, p. 298). Instead, in the Écho musical (Brussels), a periodical launched on Mahillon’s initiative, which began publication in 1876 and ran with some interruptions until 1897, the kouitara 0392 from Morocco was described as an ūd:

The King has just given new proof of the high protection with which he honours the Museum of the Conservatory. S.M. offered the Museum a collection of African instruments, one of the most remarkable in Europe. It consists of twelve [fourteen!] specimens, extremely interesting and some of which are highly rare. Here is the list: ... Eoud (Morocco), small lute, four double strings. (Écho musical, 1878, p. 7-12)

In the same periodical, the kouitara 0395 from Tunisia was confirmed as such: «the gathering of the instruments of all peoples, at the Universal Exhibition of Paris [1878], has allowed the museum to make the following acquisitions ... A Kuitra, a kind of guitar with 4 double strings, used among the Jewish population from Tunisia» (Écho musical, 1878, p. 7-12).

The names and the description of the instruments raise intriguing questions about their use and provenance. It is plausible that Mahillon either bought it from a display or directly from the musicians present there. However, the presence of small, plucked instruments is attested also by Rouanet. Besides the kwītra, he describes smaller ones as such: el-qrineda or el-qrinʻa, being present especially in urban Moorish spaces in North Africa (1922, p. 2927).

Figure 1 Rouanet’s Kwitra Figure 2 Kwitra 0349

Among those instruments preserved in the MIM museum, the kwītra 0349 reveals important information about Rouanet’s text (see figure 1 and 2). It has a face over which a floral designed rosette is engraved directly into the wood and onto which a moustache shaped bridge is attached, and it has a leather edge cover. In terms of its design, the instrument 0349 does not differ from the model in La Musique Arabe by Rouanet, indeed, its close resemblance is the issue here. The proportions of the body (length 417mm), the neck (260mm) and diapason (598mm) make a standard form. Nine ribs, about 43mm wide, make the shell with a depth of 155mm. A strip of wood around the edge of the body is also present as in Rouanet’s drawing. A flower-shaped rosette is carved directly out of the soundboard, with a diameter of 150mm (not really a diameter but widest points). The rosette pattern is the one named el bernous as for the Rouanet’s kwītra. The bridge, measuring 180mm in length, is moustache shaped, glued directly onto the face, and only made of wood. This moustache design is the most common trend in North African lutes, especially Algerian ones (Christianowitsch, 1863). The style is characteristic of Algerian kwītra acquired by the Cité de la Musique in Paris (1873) in 1995 (Houssay and Früh, 2012). There is no pickguard to protect the surface from plectrum strokes. The neck, made perhaps of rosewood, is inset with pieces of animal bone. It joins the body three-fifths along the length of the string. The headstock is probably made of walnut, carved out of only one piece of wood. It is 200mm long on the top side and 210mm on the back. The pegbox houses eight simple bone pegs. The pegs are probably made of rosewood. A similar peg design is identified in Rouanet’s image. This comparison suggests that this type of ʻūd belonged to people who played it in the area of Algeria and Tunisia (the Barbary States), here sharing common features due to their geographical proximity.

The ʻūd according to Rouanet

The entry after the kwītra in the dictionary by Rouanet is the term: ʻoud, «the kwītra deriving from it (especially in terms of dimensions) »
(1922, p. 2927). According to Rouanet, the kwītra resembles the oud, the Arab lute, which is not used anymore and is therefore replaced by it: «ou trouve quelques luths au Maroc, dans l’Algérie orientale et à Tunis; mais on ne trouve presque plus de luthistes». Although Rouanet points out material and structural features such as the headstock angle and the shorter neck – the instrument more closely resembling ʻūds today - the clear-cut division between oriental (Egyptian ʻūds) and ʻūds ʻarbī which will be presented a few years later at the Cairo Congress 1932 is not evident. In the 20th century, Algeria had a prolific ʻūd and kwītra making scene and the ʻūd had experienced a significant use and development throughout North Africa. In an interview during the mālūf festival of Sfax in 2017, Cheikh Salim Fergani recalled several names of makers belonging to that period such as: Ben Cheikh Lefgoune, Raḥmin Guenassia and, Benelbedjaoui. Today, as indicated by the Algerian players Salim Dada, Salim Fergani and Badreddine Guettaf who I interviewed,[2] Algerians buy ʻūds ʻarbī from Tunisian makers, as there are few surviving local makers in their cities such as Nifer Jamel in Algiers. The presence of Algerian musicians in Tunisia during my doctoral research (2015-2017) attests to a mutual exchange of music culture between the two related musical traditions. Several times, the Tunisian scholar Mahmoud Guettat has analysed the relations of tuning systems between the North African and the eastern ones (Guettat, 1980, 2006, 2014), treating the Algerian tuning pattern as a variant of the others (Guettat, 2014, p. 14).

In the preceding essay, La Musique Arabe, which is focused on medieval sources, Rouanet explores questions of tuning, string names (bamm, mathlath, mathna, zir, ḥādd), fingering on the neck of the instrument, recognising the importance of incorporating the instrument into a broader Arab ʻūd milieu, comparing features with other models in medieval manuscripts. He usefully details the importance, since roughly the 14th century, of historical evidence concerning music intervals and instrument making. Rouanet gives an overview of the existing theories of mathematical calculation of tetrachords and ʻūd fingering from Kitab al-aghani, the Zalzal’s index to al-Farabi, providing analysis and descriptions of fret distances (Zalzal, Persane and diatonique) in detail (Rouanet, p. 2712-2715).

Similarly, the section about the plucked instruments (Rouanet, p. 2785-2786) explores in more detail the many types of existing ʻūd in the Arab world. Quoting Kāmil al-Khulaʻī,[3] Rouanet questions, in terms of organology, how and in what ways the Egyptian ʻūd differs from the other models through its modern tuning and measurements. Despite its generality, this work provides useful tables of comparisons of measurements of a substantial number of tetrachords, modal variations and tunings, which correspond to modern practice in the Mashreq.

Tuning as a crucial feature

The tuning of the North African ʻūds consists of a fourth interval between the first and second strings, and a fifth, between the third and fourth strings. This combination of intervals places the highest pitch string (cantino) in the middle of the other three, often described as an “embraced” string position. Practically, the cantino is the third string rather than the first string, making it an internal tuning. It has raised questions for many musicologists regarding its provenance. The kwītra has a much lower tone than the other North African ʻūds. Rouanet opts for the most common convention, which consists in designating the highest string as the first string. Thus, for the kwîtra: D is the first string, A is the second string, E is the third string, G is the fourth string, and it corresponds exactly to the instrument’s modern tuning. Rouanet does not mention the Arabic name of the strings, rather the actual notes. The "Maghrebian ‘ūd" tuning is an embraced tuning with a ratio of seconds between the fourth dhīl string and the second māya string, and between the third ḥsīn string and the first ramal string. The intervals are an upper sixth major ratio between the fourth string dhīl and the third string ḥsīn, a lower perfect fifth ratio between the third string ḥsīn and the second string māya, and a fourth ratio between the second māya string and the first ramal string. Rouanet highlights this peculiar tuning, its difficulties with regard to the fingering on the neck and the 5th interval. In this respect, he details the fingering on the instrument’s neck, and gives information about the function of the tuning of the 4th string. In describing the ‘ūd, a variety of tunings of six double courses of strings from Tlemcen, Morocco and Tunis are given (from the first to the sixth string): A, E, B, D, A, G, and A, E, C, G, D, A. Some tunings are ambiguous in terms of intervals among the open strings, and they are not attested anywhere else and neither do we know where they come from in terms of musical practices and genres. 

What was known at the time of Rouanet about the tuning of the North African ʻūds is that it consists of a fourth interval between the first and second strings, either C-G as a practice in Tunisia, G-D used in Algeria (Constantine) or D-A in Morocco, and a fifth, between the third and fourth strings (Guettat, 2000, p. 334). Several Algerian players such as Guettaf and Righī have confirmed to me that the note C is often tuned into A, forming an octave between the 3rd and 4th strings, which is a constant and uniquely Tunisian feature (d 3rd, D 4th) among those Maghrebian tuning patterns. This octave interval is central to my argument here, which touches on other local factors embedded in its African context.

The intersecting relation between the West African lutes and North African ʻūds has been argued by the Tunisian scholar Zouheir Gouja (2014, p. 73-75), who compared several instruments’ tunings across North African plucked instruments, such as gumbrī, ʻūd ʻarbī etc., outlining how the octave interval is present in all of them. If the first string of the ʻūd ʻarbī C is taken out and the remaining strings are compared to the three strings of the gumbrī, for example, the G-d-D intervals sequence is the same. What is more important, and what characterises these instruments and North African tunings is the position of the highest pitched string among the other strings. This feature, already attested by Rouanet for the kwītra, definitely distinguishes a diverse tuning practice from eastern ʻūd models (from modern Egypt to Iraq), marking a watershed within the use of ʻūd ʻarbī versus ʻūd sharqī. A specific characteristic of the former is its tuning, by which the unusual position of the "melodic" (cantino) results in this peculiar aspect of the instrument.

As I have illustrated elsewhere (Morra, 2020), the North African ʻūds are an “African phenomenon” with respect to the "internal"- inward tuning. By this term, I mean that it points towards a sub-Saharan origin or relationship through its morphological features. Over the centuries, the instrument would have been played and adapted to other local African morphologies of instruments by the different ethnic groups using it. However, the instrument has gained a central place in mālūf music and has helped to define this Andalusian - North African musical genre, although it presents varying degrees of direct and indirect engagements with other cultures surrounding it, including Black African cultures that were disparaged by Rouanet (see Turner this volume). This African phenomenon brings together elements of geographically close instrument families, namely West African lutes (Farmer, 1928; Charry, 1996; Gouja, 2014) grounded in a wide range of musical practices in black communities known as the Dīwān in Algeria, the gnāwa of Morocco, and Tunisian sṭambēlī (see Turner). Both the length of the neck and tuning system are commonplace elements in the plucked lutes (with fingers or plectrum) of West Africa. As such, it is important to gain a sense of the ʻūd ʻarbī as an African instrument whose tunings (Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian) and associated playing techniques are the product of its appropriation and use of a specifically African musical context.


This chapter has ended with identifying how local ethnic factors are ordered, given meaning and ascribed function in the instruments themselves. In line with Rouanet’s instrument classification, the North African lutes (ʻūd and kwītra) are situated in numerous dimensions that intersect at different levels among each other. Variants of ʻūd (length of the neck and tuning patterns, number of strings, nomenclature), and types (African and Maghrebian) are the results of transformation and adaptation. These factors are by no means static; indeed, they often overlap, so that the instrument is classified for some aspects as Algerian, Tunisian, Maghrebian, and for others African and Eastern.

I have concentrated on analysing an historical instrument, a kwītra, in the MIM museum in Brussels, whose aspects, shapes and measurements appear to be similar to the kwītra described in Rouanet’s text. I have argued that the way the instruments were described is intricately related to questions about heritage construction and lineage of culture transmission for North African lutes passage from the 19th to the 20th century. I have demonstrated that the kwītra can be evaluated according to its designs, which are based on symbolic analogies, for example the rosette and the bridge shapes. These markers are the key to defining the instrument through intimate expressions held today by makers and players. Concerning exchanges between different communities in North Africa,
I suggest that practices of certain tuning patterns evoke an encounter between Maghribis and sub-Saharan people and their fusion into a unique African version of the lute. I have also suggested that the tuning pattern shifts the kwītra's context to a "non-Arab"/"non-Algerian" one which links it to sub-Saharan Africa. Equally important in accounting for the cultural significance of the North African ʻūds has been an understanding of the interchange of Arab Andalusian - African cultures in which the instrument itself participates.


Ben Abderrazak, M. S. (2015). Pour un catalogage de l'Instrumentarium Maghébin. In Anthropologie et Musique, Patrimoine de la Saoura : Histoire et développment "de l'Enquete de terrain à l'Analyse des donnéees". Pp. 87-126. CNRPAH.

Bouzar-Kasbadji, N. (1992). L’Algérie musicale entre Orient et Occident (1920-1939). Un évènement : le Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe : Le Congrès du Caire de 1932 (pp. 87-98). CEDEJ.

Christianowitsch, A. (1863). Esquisse Historique de la Musique Arabe Aux Temps Anciens. Dumony-Schauberg.

De Keyser, I. (2006). Victor-Charles Mahillon en de oprichting van het Brusselse Muziekinstrumenten museum. [Doctoral thesis, Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels].

Elsner, J. (1992). Présentation de la musique algérienne au Congrès du Caire. In Philippe Vigreux (Ed.), Musique arabe : Le Congrès du Caire de 1932
(pp. 191-208). CEDEJ.

Elsner, J. (2002). Urban Music of Algeria. In V. Danielson, S. Marcus
& D. Reynolds (Eds.), Garland Encyclopaedia of World Music, vol. 6
(pp. 465-477). Routledge.

Engel, C. (1874). A Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum. George E. Eyre William Spottiswood.

Fauser, A. (2005). Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris's World Fair. University of Rochester Press.

Gouja, Z. (2014). Ṣināʻat āla al-gumbrī al-tūnsī wa takniyyāt ʻazifuhā.” In Arts et Musiques Tunisiens, dimensions Arabo-Musulmanes, Africanes et Méditerranéennes (pp. 66-74). Insitut Supérieur des Arts et Métiers de Gabès.

Guettat, M. (1980). La Musique Classique du Maghreb. Paris: Sindbad.

Guettat, M.(1992). La Tunisie dans les documents du Congrès du Caire. In P. Vigreux (Ed.), Musique Arabe, Le Congrès du Caire de 1932 (pp. 69-86). CEDEJ.

Guettat, M. (2000) Ālat al-ʻūd.: Markaz ʻUmān lil-Mūsiqa at-Taqlīdiyya.

Hassan, Q. S. (1992). Présentation. In P. Vigreux (Ed.), Musique Arabe, Le Congrès du Caire de 1932 (pp. 23-31). CEDEJ.

Hornbostel, E. M. Von (1906). Tunisian Melodies Recorded on the Phonograph. In K.P Wachsmann et al (Eds.), Hornbostel Opera Omnia
(pp. 323-379). Martinus Nijhoff.

Hornbostel, E. M. and C. Von Sachs, C. (1961 [1914]). A Classification of Musical Instruments. Galpin Society Journal, 14, 3- 29.

Houssay, A. and Fruh, W. (2012). Restauration d’une kuitra du xixe siècle. Annual meeting of the international committee of musical instrument museum and collections 2011. Musée Royal de l’Afrique centrale. Tervuren. 87-110.

Morra, S. (2020). The Tunisian Musical Instrument: ͨŪD ͨArbī and its African Identity. Africa. Rivista semestrale di studi e ricerche II, (2).

Morra, S. (2021). History, Construction and Features of the Tunisian ͨŪD ͨArbī. The Galpin Society Journal LXXIV, 175-197.

Prat, D. (1934). Diccionario biográfico, bibliográfico, histórico, crítico de guitarras ... guitarristas guitarreros. Buenos Aires.

Rezgui, S. (1989). Al-Aghānī al-Tūnisiyya. Dār al-Tūnisiyya lil-Nashr.

Saidani, M. (2006). La musique du Constantinois : contexte, nature, transmission et définition. Casbah Editions. Salvador Daniel, F. (1914). The music and musical instruments of the Arabs. William Reeves.

Shaw, T. (1757). Travels, or, Observations relating to several parts of Barbary and the Levant. A. Millar and W. Sandby.

Salvatore MORRA[1]


[1] Università degli Studi della Tuscia

[2] Salīm Fergani, personal communication, 2 March 2017. Badreddine, Guettaf, personal communication, 18 June 2017.180 Salīm Dada, personal communication, 23 November 2015.

[3] Kāmil al-Khula‘ī (1870-1931) was a distinguished Egyptian musician, singer (with the theatrical ensemble of sheikh Salāmah Ḥijāzi), writer and composer (muwashahat and operettas).

“Black Music” in the Maghrib Communities, Practices, and Performance beyond Rouanet


One thing seems certain: Rouanet did not exactly appreciate the music of Black communities he encountered in North Africa. Throughout the encyclopedia, he paints the music of “les nègres” as “noisy bacchanal”
(leur bacchanale bruyante) or “a terrible hullabaloo” (charivari épouvantable), implying it was devoid of merit or skill. He insists that the music is “purement rythmique,” and their instruments are “rudimentary,” suggesting an absence of musical or compositional complexity. While Rouanet then later documents “melodic” music, such as that of the gumbri, even awkwardly transcribing a melody for the jinn, Baba Merzūg, he still infers a lack of melodic inclination and neglects to explore or even comment upon non-public or private sites of music making.

Overall, within La musique arabe dans le Maghreb (1922), Rouanet's references to Black musicians and communities -“les nègres”- are sporadic and interspersed within subheadings on other genres of music. Rather than consider Black communities’ musical practices as a category or pay attention to wider social contexts and relationships, they are simply added on, here and there, as background, annoyance, as wacky entertainment not to be taken seriously, or as distraction to something else going on.

A word on “Black communities” in the Maghrib: while Rouanet includes “negroes” from the Gurara region (“les nègres de Gourara” or “les nègres du Sud”), thus sometimes implying the practices of indigenous Blacks, Rouanet is primarily referring to the descendants of slaves, brought north via the trans-Saharan slave trade. He refers to them as being originally from sub-Saharan Africa (le Soudan). In other words, by and large, the Black musical communities Rouanet is depicting are, today, known as the Dīwān of Sīdī Bilāl in Algeria, the gnāwa of Morocco, and Tunisian, sṭambēlī communities, although he does not mention them by name nor does he draw any real connections between sub-Saharan (“sūdānī”) communities across the Maghrib.[2] His information is primarily on Algeria, with focus on Algiers, but features several references to the south, specifically Laghouat and the Gurara region (on the historical and contemporary politics of being Black in Algeria, see particularly Blin, 1988; King, 2021).

Rouanet does not mention -or is not aware- hat the sūdānī communities across Algeria arrived via different trans-Saharan caravan routes and, thus, possessed large ethnolinguistic differences, resulting in diverse sūdānī practices. The primary caravan routes involved one branch originating from Timbuktu and another from Agades (Bovill, 1933, p. 107) that crossed Tuwat Oases (especially Adrar)(Pâques, 1964, p. 449), and continued north to Tlemcen or Oran while another branch split from the Mzab Valley up to Medea -one of the largest slave markets- and onto Algiers. At other times, caravans kept a more south-easterly trajectory through Ouargla and into Tripoli (see Lovejoy, 2004; and Lydon, 2012).[3] We can observe these patterns in the aesthetic tendencies and practices of various black communities in Algeria today.

For example, the comparable practice in Constantine associated with Dār Baḥrī and Dār Hausa-Bornu resonate more with the aesthetics of Tunisian sṭambēlī- a barrel shaped gūmbrī, a signature five-stroke qrāqeb mode, more emphasis on minor second scale degrees- while their ritual practices attach more to (Sīdī) Merzūg than (Sīdī) Bilāl.[4] Furthermore, other sūdānī practices in Constantine, such as the neshra ritual, and the “Merzūg” rites in Biskra or the Mzab’s dūndūn tradition share some ritual practices, pantheons, and legends yet entirely escape Rouanet’s knowledge or attention.[5] Put bluntly, Rouanet lumps together “negroes” and does not bother to nuance or trace different histories, ethnicities, or social positions.

In commenting on and critiquing Rouanet’s contributions and shortcomings, I draw from other anthropological and historical sources as well as my own recent ethnographic fieldwork with Algerian dīwān (2013-2016) (see Turner 2017, 2020, 2021) and Moroccan gnāwa (2008-2011) communities. Lastly, in this text, I pair Rouanet’s French renderings with Arabic terminology tranlisterated using the system of the Journal of Middle Eastern Studies with some adaptations for Algerian dialect. For example, I clarify his rendering of tebeul as ṭbel.

Communities and their practices

Rouanet introduces his readers to Black communities in the Maghrib by launching into the following scene, apparently in Algeria during Ramadan:

Ils chantent et dansent jusqu’à ce qu’ils tombent épuisés ; à ce moment ils se mettent à divaguer, el c’est le djinn [28], l’esprit diabolique, qui parle par leur bouche. Les familles qui ont des malades ne manquent pas de profiter de la circonstance pour demander au nègre possédé par le djinn le nom et le remède de la maladie. Le nègre leur répond avec assurance, sans oublier de faire promettre le sacrifice au djinn d’un bouc, d’un mouton, d’un bœuf ou d’une volaille dont la chair sera distribuée à toute la confrérie. (p. 2822)[6]

Taking into consideration the historical context of French anthropological scholarship on North and West Africa and its pathologization of “possession,” it is not surprising that his depiction focuses on a bodily inhabitation of a jinn speaking through the mouth of the “possessed.” However, Rouanet misses the musical production of such phenomena; that is, the inextricability of music from states of consciousness. What can be gleaned from this vignette is a glimpse into a wider phenomenon here of musical diagnosis that still persists, particularly in contemporary Algerian ritualized practices of trance and their approaches to health and healing.[7] 

I witnessed a resonant kind of private musical diagnosis at Dār Baḥrī in Constantine where, after a series of songs performed and trance dancing on the part of the “afflicted,” a moqedma (female ritual elder and here, clairvoyante) gave individual consultation to the “patient,” and recommended certain therapeutic actions and the ingestion of particular herbs. Moreover, according to elders in Saida, such patterns of diagnosis did formerly occur. Speaking of the earliest days (“the first ones” lewwelīn), septuagenarian, the late Mūḥammād Hāzeb of Saida told me in 2014 that, in his memory, a sick person was “brought to the blacks” after which some personal article of the patient, such as a shirt, would be given over, in order to receive a diagnosis of the sickness: “kī kūn mrīḍ, jīhum ʿand lʿabīd, yʿatik le diagnostique.” However, it should be noted that many Sufi orders across the Maghrib, such as the ‘Issāwa, conduct related modes of trance dancing (jedba), mortification practices (knife play), and intense bodily release for the purpose of mental-emotional relief and healing. In other words, despite the stigma Black communities received and still suffer—sometimes accused of practicing la magie noire or "voodoo" (see Khiat, 2014; Turner, 2021) —the dynamics that Rouanet describes above are not strictly "black" phenomena.

As if to give some background about these black communities regarding the passage above, Rouanet mentions houses that formerly existed and that pertained to the various “tribes” (In footnote 5, p. 2822):

Ces nègres guérisseurs avaient autrefois à Alger des maisons consacrées au culte de leur djinn favori, et chacune de ces maisons appartenait à une tribu. Il y avait la dar Ketchna, la dar Haousa, la dar Guerma, la dar Bembre, la dar Senghi, la dar Tembou, la dar Zouzou et la dar Bermou.[8]

Andrews (1903) and other sources had already noted or confirmed these various diyār in Algiers while a different system of segregated, social organization existed in the west; the gurbī or grāba (plural): shantytowns or all Black villages, sometimes called villages nègres, occasionally housing a zāwīya or ritual space for the local dīwān community. Both in the more active, western Oranais dīwān communities and in Algiers and Blida, my interlocutors listed the most prominent ethnolinguistic influences as Hausa, Songhay, Bambra, Bornu, and Zozo in order of decreasing occurence. While we find more precise information about the houses in other sources (Andrews, 1903; Dermenghem, 1954), Rouanet mentions the most venerated “djinns” he came across, again not exactly relaying or recognizing the musical or social importance here.

Understanding the spirit pantheon, the “djinns,” and other non-human presences significant to these communities can tell us something about social dynamics at the time. Given that certain families affiliated with ethnolinguistic groups in Algiers, Oran, and elsewhere specialized in particular song repertoires for spirits (arwāḥ) or jnūn (plural), the tenacity of specters and their songs may indicate the strength of associated kinship groups. For example, in the High Plateau of Algeria, the Hausa “Migzawa” (Maguzawa) repertoire seems to have originally been the expertise of the Sarji family (Pâques, 1964, p. 582) formerly based in Saida and confirmed today by the Sarji kin in Oran and Mostaganem. Today, the Canon kinship group of Saida disputes it as their “lineage.” Mascara is also a key region of “Migzawa” expertise, and according to ritual expert, ʿAzzedīn Benūghef, the tradition goes back to the first “sūdānī” family in Mascara, that of Sīdī ʿAlī Muḥammad Būfraḥ, or Bū Ganga, born in Mascara approximately in 1887. Precisely on that note, of particular historic merit here is Rouanet’s mention of the “Megazoaua” (Migzawa, Maguzawa) series. This pantheon group is not well understood but increasingly popular and controversial in contemporary Algerian dīwān practice (Turner, 2021).
The repertoire and ritual order of Migzawa today varies significantly even between small distances such as Mascara and Saida and more so between Algiers and the west. While the High Plateau is seen as the birthplace of the Migzawa repertoire and is still considered its stronghold, Khiat (2014) demonstrates that its prominence continues in Algiers.

Aside from this pantheon group, according to Rouanet’s limited observations, the jnūn most venerated at the time were (with spelling adjusted): Sergu, Jato, and bin Lehmer. The latter could likely be a mistake: to my knowledge, no such “jinn” appears in other sources nor in contemporary practice. Without question, Sergu remains a powerful and influential jinn/song today; as a specter of the trans-Saharan slave trade (Turner, 2020), Sergu's trancers outnumber that of most other dīwān brāj, with the exception of Sīdī Ḥsen. Jato, not particularly well known today, is still performed but his influence seems to have diminished historically, given that Pâques (1964) and others (Besmer 1983; Rouch, 1989) write of his presence. In Mascara and Algiers, Sergu is sometimes seen as one of the Migzawa spectres while, in the Oranais ritual path (ṭreq), he constitutes part of a larger Baḥrīyya (“of the water”) group. In any case, because repertoires and songs have changed and disappeared over time with the rise and fall of families and lineages, paying attention to repertoires and pantheons is especially critical.

As noted, generally speaking, Rouanet is imprecise in his depiction of Black communities. He implies only two types: indigenous black communities in southern Algeria (“Gourara,” “le Sud” and Laghouat) and those whose origins lie in “le Soudan,” sub-Saharan Africa. Rouanet’s commentary on the “blacks of the Gurara” is wanting for nuance, considering the very different musical styles of black communities of the region, such as ahelil (see Mammeri, 1984). While dīwān has purportedly existed in adapted forms in southern Algeria (Gurara, Mzab, and Tuwat Oases), Rouanet overlooks musical overlaps and differences between the south and the north, only noting thatthe qrāqeb (metal clappers) partially arrived via the Gurara (p. 2936). The Tuwat Oases and Gurara region were, indeed, critical to trans-Saharan trade so, while evidence is opaque (with the exception of Champault, 1969), we can indeed presume that much of the “northern” practices we associate today with the Dīwān of Sīdī Bilāl emerged from more southerly outposts.

Most of Rouanet’s references to “les nègres” are in outdoor or festive contexts, playing their large, double-headed barrel drums and metal clappers (“tebeul et krakeb”; (ṭbel; qrāqeb) in the streets, with non-dīwān spectators, such as Rouanet himself. These are precisely the contexts for which he has such negative opinions to give- noisy bacchanal, terrible hullaballoo. Yet, even more troubling is his evolutionary approach to music making, describing these musicians and listeners as being at an earlier stage of musical development that requires no real musical or “artistic” education -the rhythmic stage- before evolving to be more like “White” Western classical music, such as that of the classical symphony. He argues that such a developmental rhythmic plateau-one that “stops at the senses” meaning that it does not engage the intellect, thought, or mind- reveals the “primitive” and “coarse” nature of these “Arabs and negroes.”

Les Arabes de l'extrême Sud el les nègres disséminés dans l'Afrique mineure ont une musique purement rythmique : leur orchestre se compose d'instruments de percussion, et on peut croire que leur plaisir musical est aussi intense à entendre des heures entières le dialogue du tebeul et des castagnettes de fer, que celui du mélomane qui écoule une symphonie classique. Ces auditeurs nous représentent donc le premier degré de l'échelle du plaisir musical et aussi la première phase de la musique. Le rythme est seul l'élément musical, élément instinctif qu'aucune éducation artistique ne donne, qui s'arrête à la sensation et suffit à ces natures primitives et frustes. (pp. 2906-2907)

In fact, ṭbel mastery is a revered art among dīwān communities. Particularly in wʿāda (larger, outdoor festival) contexts, one may witness extraordinary performances, focusing on ṭbel, qrāqeb and call and response singing. In Mostaganem, for example, the Sarji kin pride themselves on elaborate sticking technique where the ginbrī melody of a borj (song) from indoor ritual can be tapped out on the drumhead by taking full advantage of the subtle tones of the ṭbel. That is, by attending to the subtlety of tones, a musical ear can pick out the pentatonic melody on the drum, one that approaches the texts of songs. Indeed, Rouanet does confirm three positions of ṭbel sticking that produce variable pitches and comments that the musicians themselves referenced “notes as words” yet he fails to take seriously the versatility and virtuosity of the instrument and its masters. Such contexts involve two to three ṭbel players with the mʿallem of the ginbrī delivering the most intricate and melodic ṭbola part. In Saida as well, among the Canon kin, a robust drumming tradition persists both in small and larger ritual contexts, consisting of entire repertoires heard only on ṭbel.

Moreover, we know that musical exchange between the Mzab and the north, particularly Algiers, has historically been strong, including many kinship connections with dīwān families. The drum and dance tradition called dūndūn, involving elaborate circle and line dances constituted by multiple refrains and developments, features elegant, slow, and sonorous ṭbel parts along with signature qrāqeb rhythmic modes heard only in the Mzab-again, these are important overlaps and differences between “black communities” who play ṭbel and qrāqeb. A similar drum and dance tradition called benga in Ouargla also shares and departs from dīwān roots-let us recall that Ouargla was a key point in the trans-Saharan slave trade.

In my visits with Remdane Bouchareb, a prominent mʿallem in Ouargla, we examined differences in ginbrī technique and usage: here, it is primarily a simple accompanying instrument to the priority of percussive expression. Like dūndūn, in benga the ṭbel repertoire is often slow, sauntering, and nostalgic. Thanks to fans in Saida, today dūndūn may precede dīwān rituals when the best known troupe of Mʿallem Muḥammad “Ḥammitū” Samāwi from Lʿatef is invited. Such facts of musical diversity and richness of drum and dance traditions attest to Rouanet’s negligence. Rouanet’s only mention of dūndūn (dendoun) appears near the end of the section, as one of the terms for ṭbel used by “les nègres d’origine soudanaise.” He also briefly mentions another term “guengou,” currently pronounced as “ganga.” In Mascara, the term “ganga” refers to a master player more often than the instrument itself but both are common across Algeria.

When considering the type of non-insider, public performances Rouanet references, it is necessary to nuance the various scopes and purposes of such processional, outdoor phenomena. Some function specifically to announce a ritual and implore donations. These traditions are historically remembered as “Baba Salem,” (see Miliani, 2009, p. 13) yet black musicians today remember this term as carrying racist undertones (Khiat nd).[9] Primarily, however, outdoor spectacles are intended for the dīwān community itself. Traditionally, and still today, dīwān and wʿādat (larger scale multi-day rituals) are still preceded by elaborate ṭbel and qrāqeb performances, featuring the very ritual musicians who perform for the indoor sessions.

Sometimes, semi-codified “kuyu” dancing joins the percussion, such as in Saida and Mascara where an older and divergent style of percussion-only “mbara” dancing sometimes precedes rituals. Mbara is oftentimes associated with the Migzawa repertoire and consists of several songs enacting hunts; the dancers exaggerate with crouching and squatting, noticeably divergent from typical kuyu dancing that focuses on footwork. Comparing the opinions of prominent singer (“kuyu bungu”) in Oran and a mʿallem in Mascara, it appears that mbara was a former dance for old men whereas “kuyu” was the dance for the younger men, involving fancy footwork. Mbara is said to have disappeared, yet the Canon family in Saida claim to still perform it, at least in part. That is to say that “dancing” to ṭbel and qrāqeb is also a nuanced, multi-faceted practice-it is not only as a “possession” trance response or as a spontaneous, celebratory response to bombastic rhythms but, rather, its many styles involve skill, meaningful choreography, and knowledge.

On occasion, in smaller communities, virtuosic ṭbel playing in public, outdoor spaces serves the purpose of impressive musical announcements of upcoming rituals, possibly including a parade through the streets, as
I witnessed in Arzew, Kristel, and Busfer. In wʿāda contexts, these parades function as festive, sonically exciting arrivals of troupes from around the country. For example, an Oranais troupe arriving in Arzew would announce their arrival by parading to the locale accompanied by ṭbel, qrāqeb, and singing, typically featuring the song for Mūlay ʿAbd el-Qādr. Moreover, related to these outdoor displays, some might wonder about other traditions, such as the historic ʿAīd El-Fūl (Festival of the Bean), particularly famous in Algiers where the black communities gathered to perform and parade a bull in costume that would be sacrificed and provide sustenance for the ritual community. Without necessarily including the procession of the bull, dīwān families in Sidi Bel Abbes are annually striving to recreate these lost festivities of ʿAīd El-Fūl. 

As for interior, semi-private music making, unfortunately, Rouanet only hints at these milieux. Later in the encyclopedia, he describes the “guenbri” (ginbrī) referencing a visit with mʿallem Mohamed Ben Barka in Laghouat and, near the end of the section, in one of his “Fête nègres” descriptions, mentions the goumbri and krakeb, suggesting an indoor and private gathering. Nevertheless, we learn next to nothing about the social contexts of such gatherings—and not surprisingly as his entry into such a space would have been extraordinary. His descriptions of the instruments and their approximate practices is, again, both perplexing and surely accurate in some cases and inaccurate in others. It is unfortunately not always clear which is which.

Performance and Organology

While Rouanet does not provide information about interior music making, the rituals involved, or any degree of social activity beyond religious holidays and their festivities (Ramaḍān, Mūlūd, ʿAīd el-Kebīr), he does address the instruments of sūdānī communities, particularly some bizarre but compelling details about the “goumbri.” The goumbri would not typically have been played in outside musical performances—it would have been impossible to hear. Thus, what he calls the “Fêtes de nègres” in Algiers (p. 2937) involving one goumbri and two pair of qrāqeb, is either a mistake on his part or was an indoor occasion. As for organological information, he discusses together the sub-Saharan goumbri with the guenibri, a small plucked instrument, usually with a tortoise shell body that, he claims, was imported from Morocco. The plausible connection here is that, as he notes, some musicians in the Gurara play these instruments. However, there are a number of musical traditions involving such instruments, such as ahelil that often uses a small ginibri made of a tiny, dried gourd shell. These typically have nothing to do with the “dīwān” or sūdānī communities Rouanet focuses on although, in some rural areas of Morocco, gnāwa communities have been known to use something more like a ginibri than the sūdānī ginbrī.

Interestingly, Rouanet mentions that the goumbri or guenbri can have three or four strings. Indeed, while gnāber (plural) today always have three strings, oral history in Algeria among dīwān communities asserts that, in the past, the ginbrī could have four strings. Rouanet’s photos, showing slightly different shapes and sizes of gnāber are valuable. Of interest is that the long, rectangular gounbri he attributes to Laghouat (p. 2930) resembles that of the Moroccan gnāwa rather than the contemporary usage among Algerian dīwān communities. However, it is difficult to draw comparisons or conclusions here as individual mʿallemīn choose instruments to their own personal liking, regardless of wider trends.

If Rouanet’s observations were correct, either the tuning of the ginbrī has changed or the players he consulted were left-handed. He notes that the lowest string would be to the right of the neck (p. 2030) but today, as in recent memory, the lowest string should sit to the left of the neck when looking directly at the ginbrī. This means that, if the player is right-handed, the lowest string sits “on top,” furthest from the ground when holding the ginbrī to play. Precisely, whether or not a player is right or left-handed would determine the position of these strings. In Oran, I saw left-handed mʿallemīn take the time to disconnect and swap out the outside strings so that the lowest string would still be “on top”; left-handed mʿallemīn are uncommon. What is consistent, and still remains the case today, is that the middle string (typically called lostīyya), is always the highest pitch, at the octave of the lowest string, and is approximately half the length of the longest string. Just like contemporary use, Rouanet comments that the middle string functions only as accompaniment; we would say as an ostinato emphasizing the tonic (on African sensibilities of tuning lutes, see Morra, this volume).

Especially perplexing is his transcription of the song for Baba Merzūg
(pp. 2930-2931) apparently delivered by virtuosos in the extreme south. In attempting to play Rouanet’s transcription on my ginbrī, Rouanet’s generous use of chromaticism, inconsistently indicating accidentals in some places (the E-flats or E-naturals in the first few bars) and not others, is remarkably awkward. For example, does he really mean that the first bar begins with an augmented second between D-flat and E-natural or are we missing an E-flat? The last three bars resound more like a Bach etude than a ginbrī line. In other words, we certainly miss a sense of pentatonic modality here, the most quintessential quality of Afro-Maghribi communities in the Maghrib. There is no doubt that performance styles and attention to modes varies dramatically between the north and the south. Indeed, the further one travels, one finds more of an accompaniment role of the ginbrī overall. In other cases, one notices imperceptible pitches or, when perceptible, those drastically “out of tune” according to a tempered tuning system. In fact, even in Oran amongst older players, individual aesthetics of tuning, pitch, and timbre often map onto age bracket. That is, older players tend not to fret over precise ginbrī tuning and aim more for timbre and resonance.

Speaking of tuning, Rouanet determines that this piece utilizes A-flat at the octave and D-flat. In customary ginbrī tuning, the A-flat should function as the tonic—indeed the overwhelming tonicity of the music is ubiquitous. Yet, in this transcription, it is not clear whether the D-flat or A-flat is meant to function as tonic while his transcription seems to suggest the tonic center is D-flat. This is rare but would not be unheard of. However, it raises questions about his transcription accuracy or if he heard tonicity differently. Furthermore, the seemingly minor mode implied here is also uncommon but possible.

Later on (p. 2936), Rouanet transcribes three qrāqeb modes, labeled as eastern, northern, and western. While the “mode oriental” resembles a common 3/8 mode—yet possibly mistaken here as the duple emphasis over a 3/8 pulse- the other two modes do not resemble any contemporary metric patterns in dīwān communities. Again, without more specificity on the communities in question (rather than just “blacks from the south”) and the precise musical practice, it is difficult to compare with today’s norms. It is possible that these patterns belong to other musical styles. Indeed, ṭbel and qrāqeb playing increases in complexity further south. Could these modes have been dūndūn from the Mzab or benga from Ouargla?

Speaking of regions where the art of ṭbel and qrāqeb performance is exceptional, Rouanet makes a few notes on the historic place of the ṭbel, its ubiquity in the region as well as its place in Arabic sources, and adds that it is used in the south of Algeria (known as “taria”) and among the sūdānī communities. Similar to contemporary practice, Rouanet mentions large and small ṭbel (kebīr, sghīr), an important detail affecting the variability of tone quality and the ability for the two drums to “talk” with distinguishable voices. Precisely on this note, he mentions that the small drum plays a steady rhythm (“le rythme principal”) while the larger ṭbola expands upon musical material, demonstrating the most virtuosity and thematic development. Also noted is that sūdānī communities play only on one side of the drum, rather than both sides, as is sometimes the case in other traditions. Single side playing requires particular techniques and affords an astounding range of nuanced embellishments (zwāq) both with sticks and fingers. Indeed, perhaps the most helpful contribution here is his attention to sticking and performance technique comparable with today’s practice.

On this note, Rouanet specifies that one stick is curved and one is long and flat (“une baguette”) or, alternatively, a player will use his fingertips. This detail is critical to the quality and volume range of tones possible at different placements on the drumhead which is traditionally made of animal hide. What Rouanet does not explain is that the smaller stick should be highly flexible, thin, and lightweight so that it rebounds quickly against the skin of the drum, producing high frequency popping or smacking tones close to the rim of the drum. Furthermore, the dense, curved stick does the “speaking” nearer the center of the drum, drawing out the lower frequencies with less bounce and more direct contact against the skin, but within a range of hand positions moving outward, as Rouanet sketched on page 2933.

In his diagram, Rouanet notes four different angles of the baguette to the drumhead, resulting in different positions -and of course tone qualities- and four different placements of the curved, dense stick moving out from the drum’s center where the tone is most resonant. This all may seem quite pedantic and parenthetical but, again, the idea is that a rich variety of tones, volumes, and speaking voices can be coaxed from the ṭbel in the hands of an expert player. Strangely, despite his attention to hand position and sticking details, that which escaped Rouanet is that “melodies” and texts can be rendered for those who are willing to listen. As we saw above, he more or less dismissed the instrument for its supposedly rudimentary rhythmic limits, writing it off as noisy and crude.

Concluding Thoughts

We perhaps cannot expect Rouanet’s typical French colonial perspective to have been less racist and totalizing, such as his judgments of musical evolution, his lack of nuance and differentiation, and paucity of imagination or curiosity afforded to a particularly marginalized group of individuals. Nevertheless, Rouanet’s descriptions regarding the music of black communities are not without value. Indeed, his mentions of particular “djinns” and their possessions, musical practices (albeit loud and crude), instruments and their construction, performance technique such as sticking, rhythmic and melodic modes -whether correct or not- all provide productive glimpses into the state of musical Black communities in 1913.


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Khiat, S. (2006). La Confrérie Noire de Baba Merzoug : La Sainteté présumée et la fête de l’équilibre. Insaniyat, 31, 113–134.

Khiat, S. (2014). Divinités des mythes soudanais : Circulation de concepts dans les cultes de possession en Algérie. In T. F. Deubel, S. M. Youngstedt, & H. Tissières (Eds.), Saharan Crossroads: Exploring Historical, Cultural, and Artistic Linkages between North and West Africa (pp. 316–332). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

King, S. J., & Khiat, S. (2021). Black Algerians: Voices from a Community that is Still Too Invisible. Arab Reform Initiative. invisible/?fbclid=IwAR3aaw20cMUEiqc9Mta9GWn53ENNuAvUgFG4_WVgOxElsQ0N2ObacAbhgQ

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Turner, T.D. 2020a. “Affective Temporalities of Presence and Absence: Musical Haunting and Embodied Political Histories in an Algerian Religious Community.” Culture, Theory and Critique 61 (2–3): 169–86. 

Turner, T.D. 2020b. “Music and Trance as Methods for Engaging with Suffering.” Ethos 48 (1): 69–87.

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Turner, T.D. (2020). Affective temporalities of presence and absence: musical haunting and embodied political histories in an Algerian religious community. Culture, Theory and Critique, 61(2–3), 169–186.

Tamara Dee TURNER[1]


[1] Independent scholar. Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

[2] I use the term “sūdānī” to refer to these black communities whose origins are traced to
sub-Saharan Africa.

[3] Baude wrote in 1841 that the three main caravan destinations in Algeria were Oran, Medea (continuing onto Algiers), and Constantine, with Ouargla also being an important crossroads for caravans that continued to Medea and Constantine (Baude, 1841, p. 163; see also Fey, 1858). Also important to the trade were the northeastern Saharan oases of Ghat, Ghadames, and Murzug (Lydon, 2009, p. 80-81). On Sīdī Merzūg, see Khiat, 2006, Oussedik, 2012.

[4] Most importantly, the Afro-Maghribi family of music practices is commonly bound by its identification with Bilāl, an Abyssinian slave who converted to Islam, was tormented by others for his conversion, and was freed by the prophet, becoming not only a close companion to the Prophet but also the first muezzin (caller to prayer). Bilāl powerfully symbolises and validates Black subjectivity in Islam and the supposed passage from slavery to freedom via Islam. Despite the fact that Bilāl was not a saint (sīdī or wālī) nor a holy man in the sense of performing miracles, and while he did not have a ṭarīqa (spiritual path; ṭuruq, pl.), disciples, or his own lineage—meaning that, by definition, his is not a Sufi order—Bilāl nevertheless functions symbolically as a shaykh; he is sometimes referred to as the "spiritual father," el-‘āb er-rūḥī. His disciples, who are referred to as the Bilaliyya, share epistemological lifeworlds with other orders, particularly the Qadiriyya, those who associate with the Sufi saint ʿAbd el-Qādr Jīlānī. The very fact of calling Bilāl a 'Sīdī' (saint) establishes him as a manner of shaykh.

[5] Today, dūndūn communities in the Mzab attach themselves to Bilāl. In other words, they see themselves as part of the Bilāliyya network of traditions and, for this reason, have contact with dīwān communities, sometimes even holding rituals together.

[6] While some dīwān and wʿādat (larger, multi-troupe, semi-public, and multi-day dīwān “festivals”) are somewhat accessible to a non-insider public, practices such as Rouanet described no longer occur publicly.

[7] See Turner 2020a and 2020b for examples of the musical aspects of these rituals.

[8] Today known as Katchena, Hausa, Gurma, Bambra, Songhay, Tombu, Zozo, and Barnu

[9] Khiat (n.d., p. 7) notes the local reference to the term Baba Salem: “Nous ouvrons ici une parenthèse, pour dire que l’appélation de « Diwan » a un autre contenu et comprend une autre réalité que celle qu’on retrouve dans les expressions qu’on entend ici et là telle que :
« Baba Salem », « Bambara » « Boussaâdiya ». Celles-ci, comme beaucoups d’autres qui disent le noirs, sont témoins d’une configuration qui mérite bien d’être illucider. Le sens que donne la société blanche, par exemple à « Baba Salem » définit le noir comme un être insignifiant, ou une culture passive (d’où le mot Salem) dont le rapport à sa production rituel ne succite donc pas l’inquiètude et est nullement contraignant.”

Relecture de La musique chez les kabyles dans la synthèse de Rouanet : modernisation et occidentalisation cent ans après

Jules Rouanet est incontestablement l’un des pionniers de l’étude de la musique kabyle en Algérie. Sa recherche intitulée “La musique chez les Kabyles” abordée dans sa synthèse sur la musique arabe dans le Maghreb, publiée en 1922, dans l’Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du conservatoire (pp. 2885-2893), est une source non seulement d’informations précieuses sur ce que fut la société kabyle à la fin du XIXème et début du XXème siècle, mais également sur ce que fut sa musique dont il expose les traits caractéristiques.

Nonobstant toutes les tendances orientalistes et les intentions impérialistes qu'elles portent, qui sont, bien évidemment, destinées à vénérer le colonialisme et à montrer la population locale sous une forme primitive et barbare, et même si son analyse semble dépassée au regard des études récentes, l’analyse de Rouanet constitue autant de repères pour les ethnomusicologues dans leurs recherches, et stimule la réflexion autour des questions et des problématiques susceptibles d'attirer leur intérêt présent et futur.

Les problématiques qui attirent mon attention ont trait à la modernité et l’hybridité musicale, mises en exergue par Rouanet qui mit l’accent sur l’influence de la musique dite moderne de son époque sur les mélodies populaires kabyles.

Le présent article est scindé en deux parties. La première se penchera sur les différents éléments caractérisant la musique kabyle et son image, tels que rapportés dans l’étude précitée. La seconde examinera la modernisation qu’a connue la musique kabyle, d’abord telle qu’elle a été évoquée par Rouanet, puis à la lumière de ce qu’elle est devenue actuellement.

Image et caractéristiques de la musique kabyle telle que décrite par Jules Rouanet

Le travail de Rouanet sur la musique kabyle intervenait dans un contexte global qui était celui d’étudier, à des fins encyclopédiques, toutes les musiques des populations indigènes. Pourtant la réalité n’était autre que celle d’obtenir une évolution artistique durable des indigènes, ainsi que de contrôler l’activité de la collecte et la transmission du répertoire, comme souligné à juste titre par Miliani :

Son projet étant de collecter le répertoire de cette musique dans le but d’obtenir une évolution artistique durable des indigènes… Mais il s’agit surtout d’une volonté affichée de contrôler l’activité de collecte et de transmission du répertoire au moment où s’affirment en particulier les associations musicales musulmanes (Miliani, 2018, p.32).

En dépit de la briéveté de son étude concernant la musique kabyle, en comparaison avec celles dédiées à d’autres genres musicaux cités dans sa synthèse La musique arabe dans le Maghreb, il semble que Rouanet ait tendance à placer cette musique dans une catégorie inférieure, et montrer ainsi combien ces indigènes sont différents des Occidentaux. L’étude de la musique kabyle et toutes les musiques du Maghreb était un mode de réflexion sur les distinctions ethniques et raciales, en vue de faciliter la domination par un processus d’assimilation.

D’un point de vue musical, Rouanet s’intéressait beaucoup plus au répertoire musical arabo-andalous. Ses travaux avec Edmond-Nathan Yafil, vingt-deux années durant, en sont une preuve :

Entre 1905 et 1927, Rouanet publie avec Edmond-Nathan Yafil une série de cahiers (vingt sept en tout) intitulée Répertoire de musique arabe et maure, comprenant des transcriptions de noubas en notation occidentale.
(Miliani, 2018, p. 34)

La comparaison qu’il a faite entre la musique kabyle et la musique arabo-andalouse se conclut par une distinction entre les deux, mais n’écarta pas l’hypothèse de l’influence de la musique kabyle sur la musique andalouse, a fortiori lorsqu’il considérait que le mode maïa est d’origine berbère, et d’une forte utilisation et pratique en Kabylie. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2918)

Pour affirmer cette distinction et comprendre la musique kabyle, il est impératif, selon Rouanet, de connaître les mœurs et l’organisation sociale des Berbères, qui selon lui n’ont pas évolué, de sorte que leur société, telle qu’il l’a décrite, était à son époque ce qu’elle était au temps des Romains ! Leur musique « s’apparente assez exactement aux modes romains et se révèle imprégnée du sens musical de cette époque » (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2843), par conséquent, elle serait restée primitive, « très archaïque, sans ostentation, simple et rude » (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2885). Or, un tel jugement ne peut être objectif, car l’auteur se contredit lorsqu’il décrivait les principales cités algériennes à l’instar de Tlemcen, Alger, Constantine, et précisément Bougie, qu’il qualifia de « grande cité berbère capitale d’un royaume important » (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2845). Un peuple qui a pu bâtir un royaume important au XIème siècle ne peut pas être resté figé dans les mœurs d’une société romaine ou romanisée.

Quant aux thèmes et circonstances des chants, l’auteur nous informe que les Kabyles organisaient de nombreuses manifestations locales. Ainsi, beaucoup de villages ont leur marche particulière, et ces airs purement locaux peuvent se répandre dans des villages voisins mais sans y être identiques. Il ajouta aussi, qu’en Kabylie, chaque tribu avait ses chants qui lui sont propres ; ils relatent généralement les combats soutenus contre l’infidèle ou contre les tribus ennemies, les calamités publiques, les miracles d’un saint vénéré…Les femmes chantent beaucoup et fournissent beaucoup de mélodies qu’elles improvisent en se livrant aux travaux du ménage ou aux travaux des champs…Les chansons d’amour sont aussi très nombreuses, mais le plus souvent les paroles sont très licencieuses. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2885)

Il importe de souligner que l’auteur ne cite aucune appellation des genres musicaux kabyles, ni les noms des villages où il a effectué ses recherches. Il nous est donc impossible de nous prononcer concernant les lieux et les publics de son étude, car la Kabylie comptait déjà à cette époque des centaines de villages. Par conséquent, la diversité d’appellations des genres musicaux en usage est envisageable.

Distinction de la musique kabyle des musiques arabes et maures

Afin d’expliquer la différence qui existe entre la musique kabyle et les musiques arabes et maures, Rouanet a exclu toutes sortes d’influences sur la musique kabyle, exceptée celle exercée par les Romains, puis celle des Français à son époque. En effet, la Kabylie et les pays berbères sont restés loin de tout contact avec les envahisseurs qui ne pouvaient accéder aux territoires des tribus montagnardes :

 Longtemps les pays berbères furent impénétrables aux envahisseurs ; seuls avant nous les Romains païens et chrétiens peuvent avoir accès dans les tribus montagnardes défendues par l’orographie de leurs pays, et seule l’influence romaine pourrait aujourd’hui apparaitre dans leur musique.
(Rouanet, 1922, p.2843)

L’auteur affirme que la musique kabyle s’apparente aux modes romains
et se distingue complètement des musiques arabes et maures :

 (…) ainsi leur chant à une ligne mélodique bien accusée, et si leur musique n’est pas systématisée en des modes définis comme la musique maure, elle s’apparente assez exactement aux modes romains et se révèle imprégnée du sens musical de cette époque. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2843)

Un tel jugement peut paraître partial et révéler une fois de plus la tendance de l’auteur à afficher la suprématie musicale occidentale en entretenant une distinction raciale pour servir et renforcer les agendas coloniaux français. Or, comment est-il possible d’écarter d’autres éventuelles influences, durant les siècles qui séparent les deux périodes de colonisations romaines et françaises ? Influences notamment arabes et ottomanes, tant la présence de mots arabes dans la langue kabyle est attestée, affectant inévitablement la structure rythmique et mélodique des chants, par l’utilisation des tbeul et ghaita, probablement d’origine ottomane qui nous font penser aux troupes militaires des Mehters et des janissaires.

L’auteur suggérait également que les musiques du Maghreb, notamment celle des Kabyles ne pouvait se rénover d’elle-même. Pour étayer son propos, il s’appuya sur des exemples expliquant la décadence de cette musique marquée par la disparition du chant syllabique, suite au désintérêt des chanteurs Maghrébins pour la contexture mélodique, ce qui veut dire que la métrique des textes poétiques ne correspond plus à la métrique de la mélodie, comme souligné dans ce passage :

Cette séparation du rythme prosodique et le rythme musical s’est affirmée au fur et à mesure que disparaissait le chant syllabique. Elle n’existe pas ou presque pas chez les Berbères, en Kabylie, dans le sud … par cela encore se marque la décadence actuelle et malheureuse de l’art musical maghrébin, qu’aucune réaction personnelle ne peut rénover. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2905)

Si la musique maghrébine en général et kabyle en particulier n’a pas évolué et est restée figée, c’est que les Maghrébins, selon Rouanet, sont restés dans un état rudimentaire ; l’auteur voulait insuffler, par ce raisonnement, l’idée que la musique kabyle ne pouvait donc se rénover par ses propres genres, mais elle serait contrainte à se rénover par son ouverture sur la musique française et européenne dite moderne de son époque, une façon de dire que les indigènes auraient besoin des Européens pour se développer.

Influence de la musique française dite moderne sur la musique kabyle

Selon Rouanet, l’influence que la musique kabyle a subie est tout d’abord due aux nombreuses écoles, missions françaises et anglicanes, implantées dans la région, et qui « ont appelé à elles » les enfants kabyles 
(Rouanet, 1922, p. 2885). L’enseignement qu’elles leurs procuraient comportait des chants français pris au répertoire des écoles primaires.

Déjà la jeune génération kabyle qui a fréquenté les écoles spéciales, semées dans ses montagnes, répand autour d’elle les petites mélodies apprises par l’instituteur. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2911).

Il est important de mentionner et souligner que ces missions françaises, anglicanes et les écoles françaises citées par l’auteur, n’ont pas phagocyté toute la Kabylie, elles n’influencèrent que les quelques villages concernés par leurs politiques et programmes.

Les airs de musique vite retenus par ses enfants, se sont répandus dans les villages. Ainsi, sous influence d’une musique tonale, les Kabyles ont perdu peu à peu leurs anciennes gammes et ont adapté leurs chansons ancestrales aux tonalités majeures et mineures.

Cette transformation très sensible dans la musique chantée se constate également dans la musique instrumentale et les musiciens kabyles marquent même une propension significative à incorporer dans leur répertoire les refrains en vogue apportés des villes par leurs coreligionnaires ou par eux-mêmes, lors de leurs voyages de colportage, ou de leur émigration. (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2886)

Nous pouvons donc comprendre que cette influence est notable, tout d’abord dans l’utilisation des nouvelles gammes majeures et mineures par les enfants écoliers et qui remplaçaient les anciennes échelles musicales kabyles, entrainant forcément la perte du caractère et de l’identité musicale kabyle, par ailleurs dans la musique instrumentale, qui reprenait les refrains apportés des villes. Les musiciens kabyles n’utilisaient que la ghaita, le tbeul et le bandir, et leur musique était très rythmée. Ces influences engendreront en l’occurrence des transformations au niveau du rythme. Cet élément principal qui caractérise une musique donnée sur un plan structurel, et qui lui procure son empreinte personnelle et son individualité.

Rouanet conclut par une note pessimiste concernant la perdition de l’individualité de la musique kabyle, si ce n’est son intégrale disparition :
« il s’ensuivra que d’ici à fort peu de temps la musique kabyle aura disparu ou tout au moins aura perdu totalement son individualité »
(Rouanet, 1922, p. 2886). En toute antilogie, cette musique reste très vivante de nos jours, et comme nous l’avons susmentionné et souligné, ces missions françaises, anglicanes et les écoles françaises citées par l’auteur, n’ont pas été non plus généralisées dans toute la Kabylie, par conséquent cette influence ne peut être d’une telle importance, du moins pas au point d’en tirer une conclusion aussi radicale et de prédire la disparition de la musique kabyle.

La fin de la musique kabyle serait, d’après Rouanet, le destin de toutes les musiques du Maghreb. Un chapitre important intitulé « La fin prochaine de la musique arabe dans le Maghreb » (Rouanet, 1922, p. 2911) revenait sur les causes de cette proche disparition des musiques maghrébines :

  • L’influence de la musique européenne suite à la pénétration de celle-ci dans les genres maghrébins.
  • La perte des modes anciens qui seraient remplacés par les modes de l’art européen moderne.

Sur ce deuxième point, l’auteur cita l’exemple suivant :

Depuis quelques temps la Marseillaise des indigènes n’est plus dans le mode maïa, et si elle reçoit quelques fioritures fantaisistes, la contexture mélodique est respectée, et la tonalité d’Ut majeur sans quarte augmentée maintenue d’un bout à l’autre de l’hymne.
(Rouanet, 1922, p. 2911)

Par ces propos, l’auteur manifesta sa satisfaction suite à l’utilisation du mode majeur sur la tonalité de Do, au lieu du mode maïa par les musiciens indigènes. Puisqu’ils arrivaient à oublier leur mode et le remplacer par le mode majeur sur la ghaita, d’après lui, la disparition de la musique kabyle sera inévitable.

Modernisation de la musique kabyle

Les pratiques musicales ont toujours accompagné la vie des Kabyles, qui s’attachent avec fierté à leur identité depuis des siècles. Comme tous les peuples du monde, les Kabyles aspirent à une vie meilleure, par le progrès dans tous les domaines, celui de la musique en fait partie. Dans cette quête de progrès, leur musique a connu des transformations et des mutations afin de répondre aux besoins de chaque époque. Les musiciens et chanteurs kabyles ont cherché à rénover leurs musiques, tantôt en se basant sur leurs propres genres et tantôt en s’ouvrant sur d’autres genres sous l’influence des différents courants mondiaux. Ainsi, des sous genres hybrides ont été créés. Les transformations qu’a subies la musique kabyle sont indissociables des contextes généraux qui entourent la vie socioculturelle, historique et politique de l’Algérie.

À l’instar de plusieurs genres musicaux algériens, la musique kabyle a connu des mutations suite aux différents contacts avec d’autres cultures musicales, à la fois endogènes et exogènes. Ces contacts que nous considérons comme acculturation, au sens donné par Redfield, Herskovits et Linton, lors du Mémorandum - Social Science Research - de 1936 :

Ensemble des phénomènes qui résultent d’un contact continu et direct entre des groupes d’individus de cultures différentes et qui entraînent des changements dans les modèles [pattern] culturels initiaux dans l’un ou les deux groupes. (Belkaid, N et Guerraoui, 2003)

Ainsi, il est évident que la mosaïque musicale algérienne s’est façonnée depuis des siècles, suite à ces contacts continus et directs entre les différentes populations de cultures distinctes, qui ont vécu dans cet espace géographique de l’Algérie et l’Afrique du Nord. Et même si nous n’avons pas d’information sur la genèse de la formation des genres musicaux algériens et les interférences qui existent entre eux, nous les distinguons dans chaque région du pays, avec un caractère unique qui assure à chacun son authenticité.

Les plus anciens écrits autour des pratiques musicales en Kabylie sont ceux qui remontent au début du XIXème, énumérés ci-dessous :

  • William Brown Hodgson publia en 1829 ‘Une collection de chansons et contes berbères avec leurs traductions littérales’ : « A collection of Berber songs and tales with their literal translations ».
  • Francisco Salvador Daniel publia en 1863 son « Album de chansons arabes, mauresques et kabyles » : Un travail présentant des chants arrangés avec adaptation des paroles en français, et accompagnement harmonisé au piano.
  • En 1867 Adolphe Hanoteau publia « Poésies populaires de la Kabylie de jurjura » : on y trouve un complément d’étude sous-titré :
    « Notice sur la musique kabyle » accompagné d’une quinzaine de transcriptions musicales, un travail signé par Francisco Salvador Daniel.
  • « Chansons de Smail Azikkiw » publié par Dominique Luciani dans la revue Africaine entre 1889 et 1890.
  • « Recueil de poésie kabyle » en 1904, de Amar ben Saïd Boulifa
  • En fin « La musique chez les kabyles » en 1922 de Jules Rouanet, objet de cette étude.

Nous considérons comme point de départ au processus d’évolution et de modernisation les plus anciennes pratiques musicales patrimoniales
et matrimoniales kabyles évoquées dans les études précitées, qui d’ailleurs, demeurent très vivantes de nos jours contrairement aux prédictions de Rouanet, elles sont en soi productrices de souvenirs quant à la vie dans le village, et construisent une mémoire collective renvoyant à une identité commune liée à la Kabylie.

C’est pourquoi d’ailleurs, à chaque fois qu’il s’agit de créer une musique qualifiée de moderne, les chants traditionnels kabyles refont surface
et apparaissent au-devant de la scène. Nous citons à titre d’exemple les chansons traditionnelles qui ont servi de base pour les compositions d’Idir (1947-2020) dans une sorte de revivalisme musical ; en reprenant des chansons traditionnelles féminines kabyles, et en gardant les enseignements que les textes originaux de ces chansons nous proposent, Idir a su leur redonner un nouveau souffle, leur permettant de résister au temps.

Par ailleurs, la musique kabyle est une composante de la musique algérienne, on ne peut envisager son évolution en dehors des contextes qui régissent l’évolution et les transformations de celle-ci. Les Kabyles ont vécu toutes les transformations que la musique algérienne a subies et ont joué souvent des rôles déterminants dans ce processus de changement. Ceci est dû principalement à la mobilité des Kabyles à travers tout le territoire algérien, effectuant par ailleurs des échanges avec leurs concitoyens. Cette mobilité ancienne, d’abord dans tout le territoire national, fera place plus tard à une mobilité dans l’espace maghrébin, français et européen de manière générale. Ainsi, les musiciens kabyles découvriront d’autres cultures musicales. Les déplacements ont toujours eu un caractère temporaire et le retour au village permit d’apporter des connaissances et des savoir-faire.

Quelques archives nous dévoilent que la Kabylie a compté dès le début de la colonisation des groupes de musiciens professionnels qui se produisaient en dehors de la Kabylie, voire hors de l’Algérie :

C’est le cas, par exemple, de cet ensemble de Kabylie qui, le 30 novembre 1868, entreprend une démarche par l’intermédiaire du bureau arabe : « La requête émane d’un groupe de cinq musiciens de la tribu des Maakla, dans la région de Tizi Ouzou, deux danseuses et un interprète qui désirent se rendre en France pour y exercer leur profession et sollicitent la faveur du passage gratuit d’Alger à Marseille ». (Archives CAOM 1868, in Miliani, 2015, p. 156).

Mutation d’orchestres et hybridité musicale

Il est essentiel de mentionner ici, et avant de retracer le processus de modernisation de la musique kabyle, que toute culture musicale peut subir des influences suite à des acculturations engendrées par des rencontres interculturelles, et qu’il ne faut jamais croire que seules les musiques savantes ont le pouvoir d’influencer les musiques traditionnelles. La musique algérienne, par exemple, a été utilisée dans plusieurs compositions classiques européennes. A ce propos, nous citons, à titre d’exemple, la suite orientale pour orchestre Beni Mora, précisément dans son troisième mouvement intitulé In the Streets of Ouled Nails. Gustav Holst (1874-1934) reprend 163 fois un : motif d’un air de flute qu’il a entendu dans la région de Ould Nail en Algérie.

Prenons aussi comme exemple le compositeur français Camille
Saint-Saëns, qui a adapté des chants andalous dans ses œuvres, comme c’était le cas dans la bacchanale de Samson et Dalila, qui n’est autre qu’une reprise du quatrième mouvement de la touchia zidane algérienne. Nous pouvons citer d’autres exemples de compositeurs européens qui se sont fortement inspirés des musiques algériennes, à l’instar de Francisco Salvador Daniel (1831-1871), Français d’origine espagnole, de Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), Espagnol, ou encore de Béla Bartók (1881-1945), Hongrois.

Même si la notion de modernité est intimement liée à l’utilisation et la maîtrise des techniques nouvelles dans la création musicale dite moderne, l’inspiration pour cette création nouvelle et moderne provenait souvent du traditionnel.

Retracer le processus de modernisation de la musique kabyle à travers ces genres traditionnels nous permet de comprendre le processus général des mutations et transformations de la musique algérienne à travers les différentes époques, notamment dans l’entre-deux-guerres, où elle a subi différentes influences européennes et orientales, notamment égyptiennes.

Dans les années vingt du siècle dernier, l’évolution de la musique algérienne s’est faite conjointement avec celle du théâtre. Des troupes théâtrales de Tunisie et du Moyen Orient sont venues en Algérie, et ont servi de base à la création du théâtre algérien. On peut citer, entre autres, celles de Naguib Rihani, Salim Naqqache, Mostapha Kamil et la célèbre troupe de George Abyad (1921 à Alger et Constantine). Ce fut ensuite les troupes de Badia Massabni, et de Habiba Msika. C’est en ce sens que le public algérien a très tôt pris connaissance de Sayed Darouiche, l’initiateur du modernisme dans la musique égyptienne (Bendameche, 2008). La musique sera fortement liée à ce théâtre qui vient de naître dans cette période, avec des artistes à la fois musiciens et comédiens. Nous citerons parmi eux les virtuoses Mahieddine Bachtarzi et Rachid Ksentini.

Un vaste mouvement associatif musical émergea en Algérie, s’imposa comme événement crucial de la période de l’entre-deux guerres et marqua d’une empreinte indélébile l’évolution de la musique algérienne. Vers 1912, la première société musicale algérienne El Moutribia voit le jour, caractérisée par le côtoiement des communautés musulmanes, juives et européennes. D’autres fondations apparaissaient comme l’Ifrikia Club 
(1924), El-Andalousia (1929), El-Djazaïria (1930), El-Mossilia (1928/1932) etc (Théoleyre, 2016).

L’orchestre algérien sera caractérisé par l’introduction des instruments occidentaux, comme le piano et la mandoline qui procurèrent une nouvelle couleur à la musique andalouse algérienne. Cette mutation d’orchestre affectera peu à peu d’autres genres musicaux et jouera un rôle déterminant dans les futures pratiques musicales algériennes. En utilisant ces instruments occidentaux, et même si cela relève de l’hégémonie culturelle dans cette période, il n’a jamais été question pour les musiciens algériens d’avoir l’intention d’occidentaliser l’orchestre traditionnel, mais plutôt, de se procurer des techniques nouvelles et des sonorités émanant d’instruments plus modernes. Autrement dit, la notion de modernisation est liée, une fois de plus, au fait d’être à jour et pouvoir suivre l’évolution dans le domaine musical. L’utilisation d’instruments plus performants et plus sophistiqués est devenue au fil du temps un impératif.

Les bouleversements et transformations qu’a connus la musique algérienne dans la capitale Alger impliquaient des mutations d’orchestres traditionnels et engendraient de nouvelles sonorités. L’atmosphère de changement inhérente à ce mouvement a contribué à l’émergence du cha‘bi, un nouveau genre qui s’apparente à la musique andalouse, moderne et plus libre dans sa composition. Ce genre naissant se jouait à la fois sur les poèmes melhoun et sur la poésie kabyle.

Les musiciens du genre cha‘bi utilisent les instruments modernes de l’époque : mandole, mandoline, piano et accordéon. Cette orchestration marque, surtout pour les interprètes kabyles, une rupture avec l’orchestre traditionnel comprenant la ghaita, le tbeul et le bandir. Ce genre représentait tout ce qu’il y avait de plus moderne pour la musique kabyle à cette époque, et était la première composition kabyle citadine en dehors de la Kabylie. Le cha‘bi est un résultat d’acculturation interne pour les Kabyles dont la présence est importante dans la Casbah d’Alger. Le cas de la famille d’El hadj M’hammed El Anka, le maître incontesté du genre cha‘bi, en est un exemple édifiant.

D’autres artistes et figures mythiques du cha‘bi contemporains de M’hemmed El Anka symbolisent le cha‘bi d’expression kabyle, à l’exemple de Khelifa Belkacem, Zarrouki Allaoua, Slimane Azem et Cheikh el Hesnaoui. Si la musique kabyle à Alger s’était imprégnée des modes de la musique andalouse, et devint intimement liée à ce nouveau genre qu’était le cha‘bi, elle va trouver plus tard, en dehors de l’Algérie, l’espace propice pour développer une production musicale professionnelle. Elle se réalisera avec des artistes reconnus comme Cheikh El-Hasnaoui, Slimane Azem ou Salah Saadaoui qui ouvriront des magasins de disques, se reconvertiront ainsi en producteurs ou distributeurs de productions musicales, et se transformeront en diffuseurs réputés de la musique kabyle et des musiques du Maghreb (Gilles, 2009).

La musique kabyle dans l’espace transnational

Chantant l’exil et ses souffrances, Cheikh El Hesnaoui et Slimane Azem sont incontestablement les pionniers et les monuments de la chanson de l’émigration/immigration. Leurs œuvres reflètent à quel point ils étaient influencés par les rythmes rumba, tango et valse très à la mode avant la seconde guerre mondiale, imprimés à leurs compositions musicales aux sonorités diverses et variées.

Le style mélodico-rythmique de certains artistes algériens est nettement marqué par l’influence exercée directement par Mohamed Igherbouchen, visible en particulier dans l’œuvre de cheikh el Hasnaoui. Cette influence s’est fait sentir au travers d’œuvres de quelques chanteurs qui ont ainsi adopté le style propre de cette époque. C’est sous son influence que les rythmes afro-cubains auraient été adoptés et intégrés dans la musique d’un certain nombre de chansons kabyles. Cinq musiciens cubains, les frères Barretto, occupaient le devant de la scène parisienne. Mohamed Igherbouchen était un de leurs amis. C’est ainsi que l’on peut comprendre l’existence de rythme afro-cubain dans la musique kabyle et arabe d’Alger. (Khellal, 2020, p.18)

Nous assistons dans cette période à une acculturation externe. L’ensemble de ces deux territoires algérien et français, caractérisés par un brassage culturel intense, va devenir un espace transnational pour la chanson kabyle. C’est dans cet espace que va émerger plus tard une voix féminine, celle de H’nifa qui, en chantant ses peines, ses souffrances mais également ses envies de femmes, incarnera l’émancipation féminine kabyle et traitera des sujets, jusqu’alors tabous dans la société kabyle.

Dans ce même processus de rénovation de la musique kabyle s’inscrivaient d’autres figures artistiques. La plus renommée d’entre elles est sans doute celle de Chérif Kheddam, considéré comme le précurseur de la musique kabyle moderne. Dans ces débuts, Chérif Kheddam était d’abord attiré par l’orchestration à l’égyptienne comme tous ses congénères maghrébins de l’époque entre 1940 et 1960 qui se produisaient en métropole. Kheddam fréquentera l’artiste tunisien Mohammed El Djamoussi qui l’initiera à la musique du Moyen-Orient. Il s’accompagne d’un ‘oud pour chanter sur le maqam rast un achwiq- à la base un genre de chant non mesuré, qui s’exécute sans accompagnement instrumental - pour introduire nombres de ses chansons.

La musique kabyle utilisa, à cette période, l'orchestre dit moderne, c'est-à-dire composé de qanun, ‘oud, naï, violons, contrebasse, clarinette d'orchestre, banjo, accordéon, derbouka, tambourin. « Ce modèle d'orchestre correspondait à celui que faisaient découvrir les films égypto-libanais, puis la radio du Caire » (Mahfoufi, 1994, p. 15).

Cette musique dite arabe, qui est en réalité égyptienne, va devenir le modèle de composition moderne par excellence pour beaucoup d’imminents compositeurs kabyles, à l’image de Chérif Kheddam, Kamel Hemmadi, et plus tard Youcef Abdjaoui et Farid Ferragui. Nous constatons que la modernisation de la musique kabyle est principalement liée à l’utilisation de toutes les techniques nouvelles qui sont en vogue et propre à chaque époque. Celles-ci proviennent de cultures orientales, occidentales, ou autres.

Au temps où l’Égypte était le fer de lance des pays arabes et leur source d’inspiration, la forte influence de la musique égyptienne sur la musique algérienne va engendrer une assimilation concrète et complète des compositions musicales algériennes, que beaucoup de spécialistes ont qualifiée de lamentable échec. Cette citation de Bachir Hadj Ali nous en donne une idée :

(…) la musique moderne algérienne est, dans l’ensemble, un lamentable échec. Elle n’a d’algérien que le nom. La plupart des musiciens algériens modernes délaissent les richesses accumulées par des siècles d’inspiration collective et préfèrent démarquer ou copier les airs modernes, danses ou chants égyptiens, qui sont eux-mêmes des démarquages de compositions européennes ou sud-américaines.
(Hadj Ali, 1960, p. 130 : in Miliani, 2018, p. 31)

Ce phénomène va toucher à la fois les compositions musicales algériennes des chanteurs arabophones et kabylophones.

Dans l’espace transculturel algéro-français, les années soixante-dix ont été marquées par l’arrivée de jeunes chanteurs initiés par Chérif Kheddam, à l’instar d’Idir, Ferhat Imazighene Imoula, et Ali Idheflaouene. D’autres jeunes sont arrivés et ont marqué la chanson kabyle dite moderne non seulement par leurs compositions mais aussi par leurs tenues vestimentaires, à l’image du groupe Les Abranis, influencé par le disco et les grands courants mondiaux de l’époque, mais aussi Takfarinas qui inventa son propre genre nommé « la YAL musique ». Ce dernier créa son instrument le TAKFA, une mandole à double manches d’une sonorité acoustique au départ, puis d’une sonorité électrique.

Même si les compositions musicales revivalistes d’Idir, Ferhat et Ali Idheflaouène des années 1970 ont su garder le caractère kabyle en modernisant des répertoires traditionnels par innovation de leurs genres, la musique des Abranis, elle, est assimilée à une sous-modalité du Rock. Cette assimilation était aussi apparente sur leur look hippie, différent par rapport aux valeurs morales kabyles. Les Abranis se considéraient comme faisant partie de cette jeunesse mondiale qui était contre la guerre qui faisait rage au Vietnam à cette époque, ou encore la jeunesse de mai 68, de Woodstock et tout le mouvement Peace & Love (Chillaoui, 2016). On remarque par cet exemple, l’ouverture de cette nouvelle génération de chanteurs kabyles sur les courants artistiques qui traversent le monde, et que les sujets traités par ces chanteurs ne sont plus les mêmes que ceux traités par leurs ainés travailleurs immigrés. Le contexte change et les textes s’adressent aux enfants d’émigrés, touchent leur sensibilité et s’intéressent à leurs préoccupations. La musique kabyle de cette période est caractérisée par l’hybridation des genres traditionnels à la rencontre des genres occidentaux et l’utilisation par conséquent d’instruments électroniques. Malgré cette hybridité musicale, la langue kabyle reste la seule et unique langue des textes poétiques de ces compositions.

La chanson kabyle des années 1980 - 1990 véhiculait le combat pour la reconnaissance de l’identité amazighe. Ferhat, Lounis Ait Menguellat, Idir et Lounes Matoub, entre autres, sont les figures emblématiques de la revendication culturelle amazighe. Aux débuts de sa carrière, le répertoire de Lounès Matoub se caractérisait par l’utilisation d’instruments modernes comme le synthétiseur et la batterie très en vogue dans les compositions musicales algériennes de cette époque. Graduellement, il façonna un style unique, qui lui était propre et par lequel il s’identifiait, avec une empreinte particulière dans le genre cha’bi kabyle, caractérisé par sa voix chaude, son souffle interminable et sa poésie très raffinée, sachant atteindre la population kabyle notamment sa jeunesse.

A partir des années 2000, la mondialisation de la culture et de la musique en particulier s’intensifie et la musique kabyle parvient à se régénérer dans ce contexte de globalisation, mais devient de plus en plus un produit de consommation.

Une orientation vers une modernité à l’occidentale est favorisée par la mondialisation, et est très apparente dans le syncrétisme linguistique des chansons kabyles de ces dernières années, par utilisation de la langue française. Cette occidentalisation est beaucoup plus apparente dans les clips vidéo des chanteurs kabyles, à l’image des chanteurs Allaoua et Takfarinas qui défient par leur attitude, à la fois les clichés sur les premières générations d’artistes kabyles conservateurs, et les valeurs morales de la société kabyle traditionnelle.

Toujours dans cet espace transculturel, des rencontres musicales se sont effectuées, et grâce à l’hybridation, la musique kabylo-celtique est ainsi née d’un métissage entre deux cultures musicales étrangères l’une à l’autre.
La fusion de sonorités et de rythmes est le point caractéristique le plus important de cette nouvelle musique métisse. 

L’hybridité musicale dans les compositions kabyles en France et en Algérie gagne du terrain, à l’image de ce que réalisent les artistes kabyles vivant en France, notamment Idir dans son dernier album en duo avec les stars de la chanson française, comme Charles Aznavour, Francis Cabrel et Patrick Bruel. Cet album intitulé Ici et ailleurs reflète une trans-culturalité et traduit une nécessité de s’ouvrir sur l’autre, en conjuguant les mots à ceux de la chanson française.

Dans la même lignée, nous citons également le remarquable succès de Hocine Boukella alias Cheikh Sidi Bémol, notamment dans son album Paris Alger Bouzeguène, sorti en 2010, un mélange de musiques de styles kabyles et celtes dont le titre Boudjeghlellou. Le style musical hybride de Cheikh Sidi Bémol s'inspire à la fois du rock, du blues mais aussi de ballades de styles celtiques et de musiques traditionnelles algériennes : kabyles, cha‘bi, gnawa et melhoun. Ses textes, en arabe, kabyle ou français symbolisent le syncrétisme linguistique existant dans cet espace transculturel qui s’étend entre l’Algérie et la France. La fusion de sonorités et de rythmes est le point caractéristique le plus important de cette musique kabyle moderne, lui permettant son exportation en dehors de l’Algérie.

Ce processus de modernisation provoque une décontextualisation de la musique kabyle se produisant dans des espaces nouveaux, en dehors de ses espaces naturels, donnant ainsi naissance à des genres musicaux inédits.
Les compositions de Cheikh Sidi Bémol reflètent l’ouverture des compositeurs kabyles sur d’autres cultures musicales et confirment, une fois de plus, qu’ils n’associent pas modernisation et occidentalisation.

Les rythmes kabyles et l’utilisation des instruments traditionnels donnent l’impression aux modernistes de garder l’authenticité de ce caractère kabyle. Or, la réappropriation, la modernisation et la revitalisation de la musique traditionnelle combinent de nombreuses contradictions et génèrent des tensions suite à la convergence et au chevauchement de ces contradictions : tradition et modernité, folklorique et savant, local et universel (Khellal, 2019, p. 335).

Par ailleurs, et malgré l’impact de toutes ces influences, on trouve un retour aux sources durant les célébrations des mariages et autres festivités, dans une sorte de résistance à la mondialisation. Des troupes des sonneurs tambourinaires « idhebalène » animent les fêtes et les cérémonies du rituel d’imposition de henné sont souvent accompagnées de chants traditionnels « tivogharine ».


La relecture de l’étude réalisée par Rouanet concernant la musique kabyle nous a permis de faire le lien entre ce qu’il appelait influence de son époque et ce qu’elle est devenue de nos jours. L’influence est une caractéristique humaine produisant des changements sur les savoirs et les savoirs faire en général et sur les pratiques musicales en particulier. À chaque fois que ces changements sont accompagnés et dotés de techniques nouvelles, on attribue à cette musique un caractère moderne.

La modernisation n’implique pas l’occidentalisation. Si la modernisation signifie le fait de rendre moderne, en s’adaptant aux techniques présentes, elle implique la mutation des systèmes de valeurs associés au fonctionnement du monde matériel ; l’occidentalisation quant à elle, implique l’adoption des usages et mœurs des pays occidentaux.

Les Occidentaux à l’image de Rouanet croyaient que la modernité était le résultat de la supériorité inhérente de l’Occident en tant que culture et mode de vie. Ce raisonnement devient pernicieux quand les peuples non occidentaux l’adoptent, car il les conduit à une assimilation complète et à la perte de leur spécificité et identité.

Même si ce caractère moderne est intimement associé à la maîtrise des techniques nouvelles et des sonorités provenant d’instruments dits modernes, et même si la modernité a souvent été définie en contraste avec le traditionalisme, l’inspiration et la création émanent souvent et plus intensément du répertoire musical traditionnel qui est ancré dans le passé. Cet ancrage dans son passé, cet investissement dans le présent et cette projection dans le futur assurent son renouvellement, lui confèrent un caractère moderne et reflètent clairement en même temps l’identité de cette culture, sans pour autant renoncer à l’universel.

En retraçant le processus de modernisation de la musique kabyle, nous avons constaté que ce phénomène de modernisation est à la fois statique, ancré dans son passé en s’appuyant sur ses propres genres, et dynamique en s’ouvrant sur d’autres cultures musicales, qui ne sont pas exclusivement occidentales. Cette ouverture est régie auparavant par plusieurs facteurs : historiques telle que la colonisation, socioculturels et géographiques par rapport à l’influence arabe et orientale, et la mondialisation de nos jours.

L’adoption des modèles de composition, que ce soit à l’orientale ou à l’occidentale, relève de l’ouverture des Kabyles sur d’autres cultures du monde, et la quête qu’ils mènent vers l’évolution et la modernisation, en s’appuyant sur les dernières avancées techniques. 

L’acculturation suite à la mobilité des musiciens et chanteurs kabyles permet le brassage avec d’autres musiques et la création de nouvelles musiques métisses et inédites, et même si de nos jours on remarque dans quelques créations musicales kabyles une tendance à une composition à l’occidentale, celle-ci est due à la mondialisation ; néanmoins, en parallèle, on recense une forte volonté et conscience pour préserver l’identité et l’estampille kabyle chez les nouvelles générations.


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Nacim KHELLAL[1]


[1] Docteur en musicologie, maître de conférences au département de musique et musicologie, école normale supérieure (ENS) Kouba – Alger


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