Born in New York, Josephine Powell earned a bachelor of arts from Cornell University in 1941, and an MA in social work from Columbia University in 1945. She taught herself how to use a camera, and in 1953 moved to Rome to work as a freelance photographer specializing in art, architecture, and ethnography. In 1974 she moved to Istanbul where she studied and photographed the villages, nomads, and textiles of Anatolia. She traveled widely and photographed the architecture, art, culture, and ethnology of countries in the Middle East and North Africa; Central, South, and Southeast Asia; Italy, Greece, and the Balkans. Here photos have appeared in more than 400 publications. In 2002 she donated her photographic archive to the Harvard University Fine Arts Library.
"Hamadi ben Boyout was obviously not of the same racial antecedents as all but one of the girls; he was a Negro, while they were of Arab and Arabo-Be rber extraction. Souqaina; whose drumming can be heard on Reel 7B, turned out to be better as a dancer than as a drummer. The woman named Mahjouba (these names the women use are not necessarily their true names; as "artistes" they have the right to pseudonyms) ) was the racial exception; she too was of Negro extraction. Her sung duet with ben Boyout in number 1 on this reel is proof that they shared the same vocal tradition. Unhappily she refused to remove the voluminous veils which covered her mouth and most of her face, so that it was difficult to catch her singing, and she did not like the idea of having the microphone held in front of her. The drum used by ben Boyout was unique in my experienqe. Shaped like a cooking pot, it measured about thirty inches in diameter and stood a foot high, with brilliantly colored designs painted on the membrane. Its volume was excessive for indoor use, and for this reason in the recordings its sound somewhat covers the voices and hand-clapping. I think this defect could have been obviated partially, had we been able to have the performers out-of-doors, but this did not appear to be possible. And it might have been just as overpowering outside as it was in." Source:
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies