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.
14a-No 3 Ech Chiffa (Ramadan) (1 rhiata)
Performers: Maalem Abdeslam Sarsri el Mahet Arzila and Ensemble
1959 August 27, Video 2016
Recorded by Paul Bowles.
At Arcila, Morocco.
August 27, 1959.
"The Djebala are the inhabitants of the extreme northwestern corner of Morocco; their country extends roughly from a few miles east of Alcazarquivir (El Ksar el Kebir) all the way across to the Mediterranean shore at Rio Martín and from the Fahs country behind Tangier to the mountains around Xauen. They are slightly Arabized Berbers, speak Moghrebi Arabic. One indication of their Arabization is the fact that it is necessary to indicate the instrumentation of each separate number, whereas in Berber tribal music any variation is an exception.
Here each piece has its traditional ‘orchestration’, to which the performers adhere rigidly, insisting that any change is impossible. Thus in number 1 we have a combination which, although there are thirteen numbers in all, is not duplicated again; indeed, save for the rhaita solos, each one of the thirteen selections has a different instrumental and vocal combination.”
In Number 2, Ech Chiffa, the sonority is highly unsuccessful. The combination does not lend itself either to nearby listening or recording.
Number 3 is a concert version, as it were, of the music played by the rhaita from the minaret of a mosque during Ramadan, the difference being that in the functional version of the piece, there is a long pause between each musical phrase, whereas here the pauses are omitted. The meolody is a setting of Koranic text.”
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