CHAMRA

Context

Map of the DRÂA Valley

Aarib people have roamed throughout the Sahara desert since their ancestors came westward from the Middle East, bringing Islam to Africa with them. Their musical tradition Chamra is a reflection of this nomadic heritage, and as the nomadic lifestyle has been irrevocably changed by external factors such as the creation of borders among Saharan countries, Chamra music survives as a remnant of a nomadic past. Chamra music is traditionally outside the nomadic encampment by a circle of kneeling Aarib men, swaying, clapping, and chanting around an Aarib woman dancing among them, driven by the pulse of the beating Guedra drum. The Guedra drum itself is nomadic in nature, made from the same pot used to cook dinner, after it has been cleaned and covered by a goat hide. The female dancers are typically unmarried women whose performance traditionally served to court male suitors. 

As the Aarib people roamed across the great Sahara desert, over the half century they have migrated into sedentary communities, whether it be outside of Timbuktu in northern Mali or within the town centers throughout the oases of the southern Draa Valley like M’hamid El Ghizlane and Tagounite. This has changed how Chamra music has been performed, and now performances typically take place at joyous occasions (farah) such as weddings or baby-naming ceremonies (usboa’), or at festivals or community events.

Chamra
Map of the M'HAMID EL GHIZLANE OASIS
Chamra

The Music

Chamra
CHAMRA
Song 1
CHAMRA Song 1
CHAMRA
Song 2
CHAMRA Song 2
CHAMRA
Song 3
CHAMRA Song 3

History OF CHAMRA

Chamra dancer Aicha Zahaf introducing Chamra music

The production of traditional Chamra drum Guedra

Musicians

Music & Lyrics

Lyrics

We marvel and dance as a fawn roams at a flowery prairie

Oh small steppe full of blooming flowers

Seeing you makes one forget to rest and eat.

On s’emerveille et on danse comme un faon dans des prés fleuris

Ô petite steppe pleine de fleurs en éclosion

Te voir nait oublier de manger ou de s’assoir.

Spaces

Ksar M’hamid el Ghizlane

Chamra music is uniquely nomadic. Everything from the instruments played, to the symbolism of the dance, to how and where Chamra music is played traditionally comes from nomadic heritage. For myriad reasons, the nomadic lifestyle is dying and most of the Aarib people now live in town centers across southern Morocco, predominately in the town center of M’hamid el Ghizlane. We highlight Ksar M’hamid el Ghizlane here for its history and location as a place where Aarib nomads would first encounter in the M’hamid Oasis.

Click on the landmtarks to see photos
Chamra

Chamra

Chamra

Chamra

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Chamra

Plan of Ksar M'hamid el ghizlane
Chamra
Ganga