Tetouan is located in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, just over 60 km east of Tangier. The area has been inhabited at least since the Roman era, as evidenced by the ruins of the Roman city of Tamuda located nearby. The medina of Tetouan is approximately 10 km from the Mediterranean Coast. Fortification have existed in the area since the 8th century onwards. The town as it exists today rose to prominence with the arrival of Andalusian refugees expelled by the Spanish in the 11th century.
During the time I spent around the Qahoua
d’l Nadjah I learned that the Rax el Atlas
is a great favorite with the habitués . I should say it’s unconscious
musical source is andaluz music, although Bacali and the other musicians
naturally deny this. For them a song is its words; where the melody comes from
and what treatment is accorded it are matters of slight interest to them. Rax
el Atlas Is a popular song in the
contemporary Moroccan idiom composed by Arrochedi, and this is Bacali’s
arrangement of it.
Note: It should be understood that the music designated by the term andaluz is only an extremely distant cousin of the music of present day Andalucía, where the genre was indeed fashioned and developed, but at the time of the Kalifat of Cordoba. It is the only art music Morocco possesses; it too, however, (and fortunately, to my way of thinking,) relies heavily on improvisation, but within a strict art form. I should qualify my statement that the Rax el Atlas uses andaluz music has its source by explaining that I meant the melodic line in general, and certain specific cadences. The first ten minutes of the reel are devoted to café conversation and tuning of the instruments.
See no. 42 B (Mellaliya) for a less sophisticated treatment of the same song as El Aarabiya.
Bowles, Paul F. "Tetouan." 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