The Berber Culture Berber House 2021

The Berber Culture

Up until this day, the tradition is that it’s the man who chooses the wife from his tribe, or even it’s their families who choose for them.  Arranged marriages are still very common in the Berber tribes.

The Festival of Fantasia

In the early days, the Berbers were very brave and skilled horse riders, and those skills really came in handy during battles. Today, they embrace their ancestors’ skills in the game of gunpowder, or “moussem “as the locals like to call it. The “moussem” is a group of expert riders performing in a colorful display. They all wear the same traditional dress and line up on their horses, and then they sprint forward very fast for about 150 to 200 meters before they fire their weapons loaded with gunpowder into the air initiating one harmonized sound.

Now the difficult part is that the riders have to keep their horses in the same line while charging and firing their weapons at the same time as their fellow riders.  These displays are performed during weddings and many other celebrations.

The horses that perform these ceremonies are special because of the bond they have built with their riders along the years.

Imilchil Betrothal Festival

This festival is scheduled in September of every year. It attracts many people from different tribes, and is an opportunity for the different tribes to meet and share their cultures and traditions in a music filled dancing field with traditional clothing.

This event was inspired from a legend of two lovers who couldn’t get married. Their love was forbidden because they were from different tribes. So, the two young lovers Isli (which means groom in Berber) and Tislite (which means bride) cried themselves to death that their tears created two lakes that are called Isli and Tislite. The lakes still exist to this day with the very same names.

It’s a festival of engagement and marriage at imilchil, a small town in the atlas mountains of Morocco. And after this tragic event that saddened the two families, the tribes decided that from then on they would schedule one day each year to set aside their differences and gather all in a festival where young men and women meets and choose a lifelong partner for themselves.

The future brides and grooms put on their best dresses; the men wear a white traditional dress and a shiny dagger hanging at their sides, and the women dress in their finest and put jewels made of gold and silver to enhance their beauty.

The young men from different tribes line up in display in front of the young brides who will choose their other halves.

Once the bride finds her soulmate, she takes his hand and they talk privately to see if they will agree on the terms and condition if they may have any, and if they do, they walk toward their families in order to introduce their partners.

After that, they sign the marriage contract and get declared husband and wife. But most of them don’t have the wedding ceremony there, and instead wait until they gather their families, friends, and neighbors.

Even though the main purpose of the festival is for the youth of different tribes to meet and get married, this gathering can also be religious, touristic and have economic purposes. It attracts curious tourists from all over the world who wants to discover the Berber culture. And it’s also a fair for the locals from different tribes to trade goods.

Berber Art & Culture

Berber traditions and cultures in all communities have tribal traits and may show drastic changes from one region to the other. Their life is limited to farming and taking care of livestock for the men, and the women are in charge of taking care of the family and handicrafts.

The communities used to keep moving to ensure having enough grazing for the animals, as well as food, water, and shelter for the tribe. Moving life allows the women to collect different plants from each region they have been to, they use these plants for many purposes; some of which is medicinal, and some is for dyeing wool and cotton which they get from the livestock they have. They then use it to weave rugs that they later sell in the local market. The patterns and symbols woven in the rugs differ from region to region.

The symbols woven in the rugs have different meanings. For example, they will put a lion’s paw, a flower, or even a frog, while some other regions will simply put geometric designs (more on that in the picture below).

Berber art is mainly expressed on clothing items, and on usable tools and kitchenware such as in pottery, furniture, carpets, and fabrics. Their art may also be observed in their architecture.              

Berber Music

Like any other country, Moroccan love music, you can’t imagine a Moroccan celebration without it, the music played by the Berber is an old tradition passed on orally over the generations long before the invasion of the Arabs. There are three majors folk music: village, ritual music and the music performed by professional musicians.

The village music can be performed in a group act. Men and women from the entire village gather on festive occasions to dance and sing. One of the most famous dances is “Ahwach” a wildly known in the High-Atlas and the Anti-Atlas Mountains.  And it is showcased during many celebrations. Though the dance has unchangeable basic steps it still varies from region to region and tribe to tribe.  The dance is accompanied by a traditional song called “tawala”.

The Ahwach dance consists of three parts: the imsaq is the first dance in this dance a group of men and a group of women line up dancing facing each other while the soloist performed a dialoged song and then it is followed by the “tawala” which is the second part and they sum up with what they call “derst” it’s the last part when the men and women improvise a dance. The Ahwach dance is the best display to demonstrate the Berber culture.

The other folk music the Berber are famous for is the ritual music. They perform this music in wedding ceremonies and some other important events; they even believe that performing it can protect them from evil spirits. The professional performers of this music travel in groups of four, their lead singer is called “amydaz” The amydaz performs poems that he instantly improvised. The rest of the musicians play: bendir (the drums), the rabab (a one-stringed fiddle) and the clarinet. Usually the guy who plays the clarinet behaves as the group clown.

The professional Berber music bands are famous not only in the Atlas Mountains where most of the Berber lives but they are also known in all over the country even the non-Berbers know and like their music. These famous music bands are called Rwais who play in groups using the following instruments:

  • Lutes
  • Rababs
  • Cymbals 

The number of the band’s members in not limited. The leader or “Rayes” leads the choreography and the music of the group. The first instrument used in the performance is an astara on rabab these instruments are the ones responsible of the music that follows, the next part of the performance is “Amarg” which is singing the poems they wrote, after that comes “ammussu” a paving dance to “tammust” a joyful song and then “aberdag” another dance, and for the grand finally they do a rhythmically swift “tabbayt”. The steps are not always in this order they varies from region to region but the opening act and the ending never change always stay the same.

The most famous Berber bands and musicians are well respected and have a good reputation they perform in many ceremonies in all over morocco from these bands we can list:

-:Bahija d Omar

-Aicha Tachinwite

-B’net Marrakech

-Hassan Arsmouk

-Bnat Oudaden

The Berber music reached different audiences from all over the world they are known in America and Europe as well.  It attracted many big artists like the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones 40 years ago. And other big artist who even clobbered with local bands one on those is Led Zeppelin he made many albums with local music bands. But even with all the fame they made over the years it was up until the past decade when Moroccan bands performed in Europe on their own.

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