The city of Tafraoute came into existence in the 20th century when the French Protectorate consolidated a number of existing villages and douars at the south end of the Ameln Valley in the Atlas to form an administrative district headquartered in the town. However, the area has been inhabited since the prehistoric era, as is evidenced by rock art in close proximity to the town. It is a mountain oasis in the Souss region of Morocco, located at 1,200 m altitude. It is known for the almond trees the bloom in the spring, the cultivation of olives and grains, its Wednesday souk, and the remarkable landscapes formed in rose colored granite peeks that surround it. Through the millennia the rock in the area has been shaped into enormous boulders and unusually shaped geologic formations.
The Ameln valley is named for the Amazigh tribe that resides there. It's architecture is an interesting blend of vernacular architecture made from the red stone of the region, some protectorate era structures, and newer large villas, most of which were built with funds sent back to families in the region by emigrés who left the region for Moroccan cities to the north, as well as other countries. This high level of emigration from the region is generally provoked by periods of drought and the resulting challenges to agriculture and the economy of the region.
The remarkable landscape attracts hikers and climbers from around the world. A number of hotels cater to these travelers, most notably Hotel Les Amandiers, a 25 room, four-star hotel in the center of town that offers a swimming pool, meeting rooms, and a restaurant.
”This group would accept no signal
for starting; they also had a propensity for stopping a piece in the middle of
the phrase, on a completely arbitrary signal from the Cheikh. This behavior of his left me
mystified. I never knew when the music was going to start or stop, nor, it
appeared, did the musicians. The cheikh seemed to derive a strange pleasure from his high-handed assertion of
authority, although it made no musical sense whatsoever.
The bendir in northern Morocco is an
instrument I could do without. The membrane is loose and thus has a heavy
reverberant sound; this is augmented by a wire stretched across its surface
from one side of the room to the other, so that what is heard is a dull buzz
when it is struck. This sound is appreciated and sought after; it makes for
auditory confusion and recordings; unhappily also the bendir players are usually the singers, so that there is no way of reducing
the noise of the drums without losing the voices entirely. In the South the
membranes are tight and not wired, so that the sound is high and clean.
(Compare the benadir of the Haha and Tafraout Tribes with those of the Beni Bouifrour and the Beni Ouriaghel.) In Einzoren I sent the bendir players out to build a fire and
heat their membranes, but it did no good.
very brief sequence which I have labeled ”Impromptu Dance” is a recording of a
little jam-session the musicians had got into while we were being served
tea. When the performers became aware
that they were being watched and recorded, they put an end to it.”
Bowles, Paul F. "Segangan." 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