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.
"Getting musicians in Tafraout was complicated. The acting governmental chief took us several miles down the valley one morning to meet a certain caid who would send out a moqqadem to each village, commanding the men to appear the following night at the military bordj. We settled the details, and everything went as scheduled, save that the musicians arrived slowly in groups with hundreds of townspeople trailing after them, and this held us up for a while. The electricity is always cut off a little before midnight, which meant that each moment we lost at the outset was lost completely.
"The first piece, 'Ahmeilou', involved thirteen men, five of whom played benadir, and one a gannega. (Gannega is a local term for tbel.) As the evening progressed, more men joined the performers' ranks.
It was an extremely hot night; everything and everyone was suffused with heat: the singers’ and drummers’ faces ran with sweat, and the drums, after being heated, remained taut, giving their sound a dry, precise quality which the same instruments do not have under ordinary circumstances."
Bowles, Paul F. "Tafraout." in Folk, Popular, and Art Music of Morocco. The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection. Washington, DC: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1959-1962.
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.