Asilah is in northern Morocco, approximately 30 km southwest of Tangier.
The region around Asilah has been inhabited since well before 1500 BC and Phonecian settlements in the area, but the Mulsim city know as Asila dates to the Muslim conquest and the Idrisid dynasty. It 966 the city was reconstructed by the Umayyad Caliph al-Hakim II. In 1471 the Portuguese conquered the city, and it remained European sovereignty until 1691 when it was reconquered by Mulay Isma'il. He built two of the cities mosques, a madrasa and hammam.
In the 19th century the city was bombarded by the Austrians in 1829 and the Spanish in 1860. Asilah was also an important fiefdom of the Rifi leader Mulay Ahmad al-Raisuni, who was named Pasha of the region in 1906. Spain occupied Asilah in 1911, and it reverted to Moroccan control with most of northern Morocco when the Protectorate ended in 1956. Restored in 1978, Asilah is a resort town and a major tourist attraction. It is best known for its annual arts festival that attracts major international talent, including graphic artists who use the city's walls as a canvas.
Sources: Guiguet-Bologne, Philippe. Un guide de Tanger et de sa région. Tangier: Philip Guiguet Bologne, 1996.
Roca, Juan, Ramon. Tangier and its surroundings. Alicante, Spain: Roca Vincente-Franquiera, 2011.
Performers: Maalem Abdeslam Sarsri el Mahet Arzila and Ensemble
Recorded by Paul Bowles.
At Arcila, Morocco.
August 27, 1959.
"The Berbers of Morocco have a propensity to place the vocal range of a piece somewhere around an octave higher than the register which would appear to be comfortable for their voices. The resulting muscular strain is both audible, in their efforts to reach the high notes, and visible, in the agonized expressions on their faces, (much as Flamenco singers are obliged to make strenuous grimaces while singing.)
The 5/16 plus 4/16 meter is a common one in Djebala music.”
Bowles, Paul F. "Arcila." from 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