Sunday, March 13, 2011

Imazighn( Berbers) From folklore to political discourse

    Until the 1970s, the image of Imazighen was associated with folklore, traditional dance, and the entertaining women of the Atlas Mountains. The government of Morocco, benefiting from tourism, the fastest growing industry in the country, encouraged the display of the images of an Amazigh without dignity. Through RTM, Moroccan National Radio/Television, the State had the monopoly over the production of music and all the other media. When the heavy record players and the reel to reel decks became popular, RTM allowed certain independent producers to market the folk music. Alongside Egyptian music and some of the national modern songs, folk dance and folk music were for a longtime the predominant form of entertainment.
When cheap portable audiocassette recorders came on the market, they began to replace the reel to reel tape decks and the record players. Cassette recorders provided Moroccans not only with the option to record and play their favorite music, but also to utilize them as a form of communication on a mass scale. The illiterate emigrants in Europe found the audiocassette recorders useful in corresponding with their family members. Instead of paying a stranger to write for them a letter to their families in Morocco, emigrants could now simply push a button and talk to the audiocassette recorder. When finished, they sent the tape back home, and the family gathered around to listen and respond individually or as a group. The family members in Morocco could share with the emigrant in Europe their activities, including religious ceremonies and family celebrations.
     Within Morocco cassette recorders facilitated communication between men and women who found themselves locked behind the doors of their homes. Couples who were in love with each other found cassette recorders very useful for the exchange of their secrets. Most importantly, with the availability of radio cassette recorders ("boom boxes") in 1970s and after, indigenous youth took the opportunity to express their everyday struggle with government, family, and self. They produced hundreds of poems and songs on domestic recorders and distributed them locally. The success of such productions led to the creation of a dozen influential associations with interest in educating the public about the existence of Imazighen. After these groups became popular, music producers became interested and began to market the revolutionary music.
      The concerns of the young artists include injustice, poverty, immigration, values, and government corruption. In their political discourse, the poets and singers revolt against the oppressive traditions regarding women. They reject the new sociopolitical and economic system that reduced Imazighen culture to a commodity for the foreign and local tourists. They also demand justice for the national patrimony and the restoration of the Amazigh identity (Almasude, 1993).

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