By Ouassima Boujrad
By Ouassima Boujrad
Fez – The city of Khouribga [75 south east of Casablanca] organized the 14th session of the National Festival of A’abidat E’rma from August 22 to 24, in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Khouribga province, and the collective councils of Khouribga, Oued Zem and Abi Ja’ad.
According to the Ministry of Culture, such national festivals like A’abidat E’rma are programmed to represent the cultural heritage, the art possesses, and a gathering place where different masters and leaders of the art meet and perform. Many associations, researchers, and aficionados of the genre attend the festival, as well as the Moroccan Minister of culture Mohamed Amine Sbihi and the Chairman of the Municipal Council of Khouribga.
The festival was well attended during its three days, with performances by 38 bands, 34 of which are from A’abidat E’rma and four that are guests of honor, coming from different places in Morocco including the Sarba (from Casablanca), Nojoum E’rma (from Oued Zem), al Allama (from Khouribga), and many others.
The Moroccan artistic heritage is multifaceted and differs according to the various areas of the country but not all genre of Moroccan music have been archived in the Moroccan art heritage repertoire. Some types of Moroccan Folk music are not well revered due to misperceptions about its roots and significance. The knowledge of the heritage and cultural background of Moroccan traditional art enriches our appreciation of Morocco’s cultural diversity.
Who are A’abidat E’rma and what does their name indicate
A’abidat E’rma is one of the most popular musical bands in Morocco. According to historical tales, A’abidat E’rma refers to a group of people who were used mainly for security. They weres knights protecting the leader or the wealthiest people in a town when they went hunting in the forests. They have been in existence since the early years of tribal warfare and agricultural prosperity, when the leader of the town owned the most valuable property and no man was able to trespass on the leader’s property or ignore his commands. A’abidat E’rma were protectors, whose role was to obey the leader and give him as much security as possible outside the palace, and to entertain him.
As their name indicates, the term A’abidat E’rma is related to hunting. The word means “the servants of the hunter.” They were required to chase prey to make it effortless for the hunter to catch. This prey could be any animal, including rabbits, pigeons, gazelles, or wild boar. Hunters usually used guns, canes, and slings. Sometimes, the hunter made loud noises to scare the animals so they fled their hideouts and were distracted by noise and confusion. The A’abidat were the beaters who drove the prey, and E’rma were the people who hunted the prey.
After hunting in the forest, they spontaneously began singing and dancing, rejoicing the hunt’s successful conclusion. They used whatever musical instruments they had available, often agricultural implements.
These gatherings created their own genre of music, which has become an independent Moroccan art, celebrated each year through festivals. This music is now performed by a musical band of 5 to 8 members wearing traditional Moroccan costumes (Djellaba) and Moroccan leather slippers (L’balgha), singing and dancing to amuse the audience. They use many instruments, including Taarija, which is a Moroccan traditional musical device made of mud and hard leather, Moroccan typical tambourines (Bandir), and large iron scissors. They result is an amusing musical diversion.
They choose themes for their songs, singing about everything affecting their society, such as divorce, marriage, immigration and so forth. They use Moroccan Arabic (Darija) that might include wise proverbs, sometimes particular to each band of A’abidat E’rma. The head of the group or “mkaadem” is the member who sings most, if not all, of the lyrics.