Known as the gateway of the Sahara, Goulmim was once a caravan stopover on the road to Timbuktu.
Today is an important place of trade and exchange between the settled
population and nomads of the desert. There is a weekly camel market, the
largest in Morocco.
“This is a group of singer-dancers directed by a woman known as Bechara. In number 1 the vocal solo is by 'Mahjouba'"
"To get to Goulimine it was
necessary a secure
military permit issued 'in Agadir; the town was bombed in 1958 by Spanish
It lies at the edge of the desert, south of
the Anti Atlas, near the southern tip of the enclave of
Ifni. In some respects
the Goulimine recording
session was a
apart from the others. It took
place in a
of one Bechara, who
acted both as hostess and as impresario. Certain of the
lived in the
others had to ' be sent for. Fortunately I had
record at night, as only then would the proper emotional state be
attained by performers.
The entire spectacle, both visual and auditory,
is something quite apart from all the rest of Moroccan folk manifestations. The
music and dance are those of Mauritania, and have been preserved more or less intact over an
indeterminate period of time. The music has no immediately discoverable relationship to the rest of Moroccan
music, either of Berber or Arabic origin; on the other hand, it can
readily be linked with the songs of both Ethiopia and the coastal regions of East Africa
where Swahili is the language. The dance, in contradistinction to the music,
and of great refinement, yet wholly without an element
of personal expression. My feeling is that it was originally of hieratic character;
it still gives the watcher the sensation that he is witnessing a fragment of an
extremely antique culture. The guedra is
danced on the knees; the dancer never rises. Variety is attained through a host
of expressive gestures made with the fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and torso.
Up to within the
past five years the dance was performed with uncovered breasts; now the
authorities prohibit this, although I was assured that in the
nearby desert it was still done in the traditional manner. The original texts of the songs, like most of the rest of the folk
texts in Morocco, have been discarded under official duress, and political
texts substituted for them. This procedure, while an excellent form of unpaid
political advertising, conceivably could interfere with the musical
performance, particularly through lack of interest in the new subject-matter.
To circumvent such a possibility it is sometimes wise to distribute kif to
the performers. When the drug has taken over, as it were, the music becomes of far greater
importance than the words to the singer, and a portion at least of the natural
enthusiasm can be recovered. This session is a case in point. (There was no
government official present, and in this respect too, the session was unusual.)"
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