Music of North Africa

North African music
Algeria Arab
Egypt Bedouin
Libya Berber
Morocco Islam
Tunisia Tuareg
See also: Mauritania - Eritrea - Ethiopia - Sudan - Western Sahara

North Africa has contributed much to popular music, especially Egyptian Arab classical and al-jil, Algerian raï and Moroccan chaabi. The broad region is sometimes called the Maghreb, and the term Maghrebian music is in use. For a variety of reasons, Tunisia and Libya do not have as extensive a popular tradition as their neighbors on both sides. Folk music, however, abounds, despite frequent condemnation and suppression from governments, and exists in multiple forms across the region -- the Berbers, Sephardic Jews, Tuaregs and Nubians, for example, retain musical traditions with ancient roots.

Andalusian music is especially influential, and is played in widely-varying forms across the region. This music was imported from Andalusia in the 15th century, after Spain expelled the Moors from that province. The Spanish conquest of the historically Muslim Iberian penninsula had been going on for some time, and had the result of moving a large number of Iberian Muslims, who were themselves descended from people from across the Mediterannean, into North Africa. These people brought with them a vibrant tradition that had arisen as a fusion of various kinds of Muslim music from Baghdad, Istanbul, Egypt and elsewhere. The most well-known derivatives of this style are al-Ôla in Morocco, nuubaat and related styles in Algeria and malouf in Tunisia.



Main article: Music of Algeria

Out of all the North African countries, Algerian popular music may be best-known abroad. Raï, a style of urban popular music developed in early 20th century Oran, has been famous in Europe, especially France (which has a large Algerian population) since the late 1980s. The music of the Kabylian Berbers and sha-bii are both also renowned throughout the country, and in France.

Descended from music imported from Andalusia in the 15th century, Algerian nuubaat is a kind of classical music that remains popular in much of the country. Over the years, it has evolved into related styles like rabaab and hawzii.


Main article: Music of Egypt

Egypt's best-known popular tradition is probably classical Arab music, especially stars like Umm Kulthum. Later styles include sawahii, al-jil and shaabi.


Main article: Music of Morocco

Morocco has a long tradition of musical development in several fields, including Andalusian classical music and Sephardic music. Andalusian music is derived from the music of Muslim Moors who controlled Andalusia, now a part of Spain. Sephardic music is distinct to the Sephardic Jews, who live across North Africa and have brought their music to Israel, where many now live.

More recently, Morocco has produced some well-known raï singers, continuing a tradition more closely associated with neighboring Algeria. Chaabi bands are also very popular in modern Morocco, and are known outside of the country, especially in Lebanon and Egypt.

Morocco's folk traditions include the trance-inducing music of the country's Sufi brotherhoods, as well as the diverse traditions of Berber music.


Main article: Music of Tunisia

Tunisia is best-known as the center for malouf, a derivative of the Andalusian music imported to North Africa in the 15th century. Since the 1930s, a number of organizations (as well as the first President of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba) have been promoting malouf as an integral aspect of Tunisian culture, helping to keep the ancient tradition alive.


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