Natasha Pradhan

Brown University

May 2012



On the Popularization of Ecstatic Music:

The Deleterious Effects of Secular Preservation



It is Friday night in Tangiers.  I am not far from my home on the edge of the Petit Socco at Dar Dbagh. It is perched atop a majestic staircase that leads to Tangier's old port – flooded by a mass of fishermen and workers each dawn immediately following morning prayer. On this Friday evening, however, as most Friday evenings, all those at work, if not assigned to a poorly timed factory shift are selling hot bread to accompany the evening's tagine. Some just stop for fresh harsha which they will enjoy with tea, for they are still more than satiated from lunch. The men spill onto the sidewalk theoretically inhabiting the cafe. They prop their chairs against the walls, smoking kif in the oddly shaped plaza watching the children's repetitive games and fresh hot bread being piled in the same rhythm that it is consumed. Merchants, too, join the crowd to sit with their friends and are only occasionally hunted down by the rare interested customer who summons them back to bargain over leather goods and jewelry. I am caught in the swarm of strollers encircling the octagonal gardens framed by stalls of dried fruits and spices. The playground is more eerie after dark when it rings of giggles that have no visible source. I stop to buy fresh figs from the man who I know always has the tastiest ones. He sits on a tiny plastic cube with the mass of succulent green figs piled on two squares of cardboard along the only lighted edge of the gardens. I turn left after the arch walking between mirrored tomato vendors and proceed to a small quarter of the old city that is at once more intimate – peeling away yet another layer of public life under the veil of the medina's old walls.

We are farther away from all those that have no purpose nor business in this more secluded sphere of the medina. Every familiar face is already more of a friend, or at least more included in on each other's secrets. I have many friends in this quarter, but still there is a distinct recognition that it is not my own. I pause to salute a friend and we both confirm that we are in good health, Allahamdullilah. As I continue, each step is echoed by the sounds of young children hyperactively chasing each other through the narrow streets and the reverberating laughter sourced on each doorstep. I turn left at a brightly lit fork, knowing well that the maze to the right is a far quicker means home than the maze I have chosen. Again I stop upon sighting a friend. Majid is in a particularly good mood. He is on his way to sit at his favorite cafe across from the dilapidated Cinema Alcazar and people watch with all the committed spectatorship of witnessing a suspense thriller. One strand of sound amidst the musical cacophony catches me – the pipes! Something is different about this ghaita[1] music – I can tell that it is not the wedding music that one so often catches riffs of, especially during the summer months. There is nothing ceremonial about the sounds of these ghaitas. They are spinning uncontrollably outside of any fixed orbit but still have an uncanny synchronicity and hypnotic pattern. The sounds are completely ripped open unlike anything I've heard before. These pipes are not the sad snake accompaniments in Marrakech's Djemaa-el-Fnaa[2]. Their sound is an authority that synthesizes all of space.

I hastily leave Majid and quicken my pace towards the ghaitas. Across from the herborist is a larger than usual crowd of mostly men, spilling out from a set of green painted doors. Over the crowd I can sight a seafoam green arch meeting a wall, brilliantly yellow. A few women and men and children are calmly seated on straw mats, intently facing the source of the music or otherwise staring blankly at the large chandeliers.


Ecstatic rituals: The Hamatcha Zaouia

It is Friday night and I reach the zaouia.[3] The pipes are already playing, and I can already sense the bodies in hadra.[4]  I pause next to the stall making shibakkiyyeh[5] just to soak up a little warmth on this cold winter evening. Newly summoned by the pipes I very directedly make my way through the crowd of onlookers blocking the steps leading into the zaouia's seafoam green and yellow archways. They politely tag one another to move out of the way and form a narrow passage for me to navigate. Those towards the front crane their necks to catch a sight of the hadra while the younger boys on the street rather than the stairwell are intently listening to the music while still standing in the space lit by the herborist, now fragrant of cinnamon.

The energy in the zaouia is already high. I remove my shoes and cross the straw mat to sit beside Hoema. In front of me Zohra and Fatima are already ecstatically tossing their heads to the ghaitas. Zohra occasionally wails with joy lifting her arms and tipping her front towards the ghaita, and the source of light, while flinging her head from side to side to the derbouka[6]. At the ghaita's sustained note her head is orbiting her neck until she finally collapses onto my lap. I wipe the sweat from her face. A young boy navigates the sitting masses to fill a glass with water from the plastic canister. The Muqaddim has risen and is emphatically calling for blessings of a woman who just gave alms. For some time the dominating rhythm is Mohammed, the muqaddim's emphatic calls and a unified Ameen, Ameen, Ameen in response. The voices of passerby's just outside filter in and out and mingle with the greetings and small talk from around the room. Zohra lifts her head from where it lay heavy in my lap. She places her scarf flat on the top of her hair – there is no point in retying it, for another note from the rhaita and she will be back inside the music. She pulls out a handful of coins from her purse, saving only one for bread on her way home, and places them into the Muqaddim's hand. "Haak." [A mildy crude way of saying "here" or "take it."] Mohammed, the Muqaddim, and very close confidant of Zohra asks for baraka[7] for Zohra and her family, each resounding with an Ah-meen from those paying attention. Once again, that magical note of a single ghaita pierces the room and the chatter slowly subsides – not out of a sense of discipline but rather a subtle quieting of words as each catches wind of the music, getting enveloped into the pipe's melodies and then held there by the perseverance of the percussion. A man in a black silky djellaba is now jumping in rhythm with Mohammed's derbouka. More women are taken by the music and now the floor is full of tossing hair.


Ex. 1. Zaouia on Friday: An audio recording from the Hamatcha Zaouia in Tangier at the weekly Friday hadra

Ex. 2. The Aissoua Zaouia in Meknes at Aachora


Ecstatic rituals: The Lila


Ex. 3. Women in hadra at a Hamatcha lila

Ex. 4. Fatima in hadra at a Hamatcha lila


This winter day, on a Tuesday night, I am sitting in the zaouia. Though now there are no musical instruments, just Fatima watching the altar and sitting in meditation while a few people trickle in and out during the day to sit. Everyone is there this Tuesday, though, sitting on the zaouia floor eating grapes while chattering with quite excitement about tonight's lila. The Muqaddim appears in the doorway, buoyant as always, now wearing jeans. "Yalla! Let's go." He articulates his transport plan of who should go in which taxi and how and for whom it makes sense to go now and whom later. I wait with him and Zohra for some more to appear so that we can make our way together to the home of Bouchra, the host of the lila who resides some kilometers outside of Tangier.

The lila, of the Hamatcha and other Sufi confraternities[8], is an experience of hadra that lasts through the night and usually takes place in a private home. The lila occupies a delicate balance between being a private setting accessible by invitation or close relationship to the musicians and zaouia and a public event which all should be able to reap their healing benefits. Lilas of the Hamatcha, Jilala, and Aissoua[9] tend to only gather those that are already close with the musicians or the host, while still retaining the format of a public invitation. The lila may begin with the brotherhood and all those present briefly exiting through the front door of the home and beginning to play their music in the streets. Each person eats a date from a shared plate and takes a sip of milk before proceeding to enter the house.

The hadra is an ecstatic state of possession that incites a unique sense of presence. This presence is central to the Sufi religion and the philosophies of those that are active within the brotherhoods. Hadra refers to a state of clarity, of a state that closely experiences God and infinity from within the immediacy of this moment.

There is much debate within academic discourses on the rituals of the spiritual brotherhoods of North Africa as to whether describe the consciousnesses of those taken by the sounds as trance, ecstasy, possession, or something else. Baldassare reminds us, "Ecstasy and possession, of course, are concepts weighed down by Christian-Catholic influence, and so their meaning is almost exclusively ethnocentric. It may be interesting to note, however, that Moroccans talk about 'embodying' or 'being inhabited' by spiritual bodies (or, to be more precise, by the fluids emanating from spiritual bodies)" (Baldassare 2005:81). This inhabitation can only be understood within the language of Islam and pre-existing religious traditions (the practices of the brotherhoods and their frequent categorization as Sufi Muslims is an example of religious syncretism).

Both the lila and the moussem are sustained hadras that form the core of practices of North African Sufism. Moussems are hadras that last several days, often taking place outdoors as a pilgrimage to one or several Saint's tombs. The most prominent moussem is at Meloud, commemorating the birth of the Prophet Mohamed.


Ex. 5. Meloud Moussem, 2006 (digitized from the video archive of Muqaddim Mohamed)

Ex. 6. Moussem Sidi Bil Haj, September 2011  

Moussem Sidi Bil Haj II, September 2011


Antonio Baldassare articulates the Gnawa brotherhood's ritual of the lila-derdeba: "From a religious point of view, this ritual repeats the cosmogonic act and allows one to enter into communion with the spiritual energies springing from this primordial act" (Baldassare 1985: 83). We should be wary of Baldassare's allusion to a "religious point of view" as the lila ritual, and the hadra more generally, is an explicitly religious ritual. The participants deny any "non-religious" perspective on understanding the ritual. The communion described by Baldassare is the presence achieved in the hadra – referring to a communion with Allah and the djinn[10] (world of spirits). Also reputed as a form of ethnopsychiatry, the hadra can drive bad djinn out of one inhabited by unwell forces (Crapanzano 1981: 196).

Gilbert Rouget references Brunel's work, published in 1926 on the Gnawwiya's hadra. "Upon hearing the tune appropriate to this hadra, the adepts are seized by hal. They are then offered daggers, which they seize...their favorite exercise which consists of striking their calves with the points of these weapons until the blood flows." Certain musical movements can initiate such actions. Rouget justifies this connection that the direct relationship between musical riffs and particular forms of ecstatic expression – fakirism, and varying trance states – is a result of the "appropriate tune. The musical movement "has the value of a signal and is recognized as such...If the adepts go into trance when they hear it, it is not because the tune has emotive powers specific to it, but because it is the tune of the Gnawa...This mechanism is namely that of a code, in which the signal triggers a response as a result of the meaning that has been arbitrarily assigned to it, and not by some intrinsic power acting upon the auditor's emotivity" (Rouget 1985: 311).

If we lend more respect to the esoteric "codes" of the Gnawa and Hamatcha musicians, this music is understood to have symbolic potency far beyond music that is constricted to any "intrinsic" power. The power of the music is not bound and held within the limited physical, physiological elements of the music but is a factor of a more holistic conception and construction of what the music is. The code of the music is contingent and sustained by the beliefs held by those creating and experiencing the sounds. Musicians of the marabout cults understand that they are not merely playing instruments but rather enacting a sacred code with profound effects on those that understand the code. People identify with certain brotherhoods based on their susceptibility to have religious experiences – be they ecstatic, faith-building, or interactive with the djinn - as a result of being present to that specific music. In this way, identification with a brotherhood or activity within the sacred cults parallels the form in which certain individuals strongly identification with a particular genre, or scene, of music. They experience the code of the genre. During a performance of this music those that "fall" to these sounds are completely consumed by the divine potency of the ritual and the symbolic weight of each musical riff. They are not spectators to an art.

The popularization of music results in sounds being distributed in a wider context than the live performance of music in its home setting. The popularization of sacred music in Morocco, at its onset, is visible in instances where ecstatic music is available to those who do not identify, or fall to its sacred powers in the same way that those participating in activities of the brotherhood do. In contemporary Morocco, this occurs through an openness of sacred spaces of the hadra, and stage performances of sacred music.


Sacred Sounds in the Popular Consciousness

An open door to sacred practices and spaces allows those who do not share the same following to either be fully or peripherally present to the space of hadra. Some cults are more secretive than others – the most open being the Gnawa. This is likely due to the Gnawa's long history of openness, intense popularity, and gradual deletion of extreme practices in their states of trance. Other brotherhoods vary in how visible their esoteric practices are, though there is generally, in accordance with Moroccan culture, very little hesitation to share these traditions. Inviting newcomers to experience the space of the hadra, hear the music, and occasionally even attend a lila allows for the discovery of a relationship to certain djinn that respond to the music of these brotherhoods. The lack of secrecy around these practices does come from a noble belief in the curative and faith-building properties of the hadra and a hesitation to deny this experience to anyone. In this way, the mere presence of the brotherhoods' musics allows these sounds to become part of the popular repertoire of music genres – with certain individuals participating in the religiously potent code, and others receiving the sounds as "music" though still externally aware of the context and power of the music.

Baldassare acknowledges, "The risk incurred by a policy of openness is evident for such an esoteric tradition: previously, Gnawa rituals were jealously guarded and handed down through the centuries by a few exponents of African ethnic groups who were uprooted and deported, and who remained a minority their new society. What was, and still is, a veritable ritual runs the risk of being reduced to 'folklorismus' or entertainment. Apart from compromising the tradition itself another risk regards the enslavement of the bearers of this ritual tradition to the demands of an alien world" (Baldassare 1985: 85).

Each moment of contact of sacred music with a pair of ears that calculates these sounds outside of their religious context creates an opportunity for the reinvention of symbolically potent sounds as secular music. In urban spaces of Morocco where many upbringings and belief systems are juxtaposed within close quarters, sacred sounds are often incorporated into a soundscape where they will reach many more ears than those participating in hadra rituals.


A Different Ritual: Stage Performances of Sacred Music

The popularization of this music in the present day is solidified through the public performance of sacred music. This shift in context is much more extreme than open door practices, for here the public is not witnessing and hearing a musical ritual that they are not a part of; rather, the ritual itself is altered and secularized and being rendered not to achieve hadra but to publicly entertain. Initiatives by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and other secular cultural institutions aimed at preserving musical traditions in Morocco often result in public music festivals or concerts of a combination of sacred music and Amazigh[11] music.


Ex. 7: Gnawa music at Tifawine Festival for Amazigh music in the small town of Tafraoute

Ex. 8. Other sounds that same night at the festival


At these festivals, the public is not peeking in to a ritual that is visibly not their own. The music is specifically intended for this public. Morocco's most popular music festival takes place each June in Essaouira – a city closely linked to the history of the Gnawa population when they escaped slavery in sub-Saharan Africa to go north. Essaouira now has a tourist's quarter that is crowded with boutique bed and breakfasts, restaurants that serve Moroccan cuisine according to European dining rhythms, and teenagers advertising their colorful hash-filled pastries to visitors contemplating the view at the port. The Gnawa festival is extremely popular among Moroccans, particularly the younger generations, and foreigners alike. Each year there are many stages along the beach and in private venues that welcome reputed Gnawa Maa'alems, their western musical collaborators, and reputed musicians embodying a similar spirit from farther away – Mali, India, Haiti.

The boundary between trance and dance is blurred by the festival practices. The Gnawis are not conducting their sacred lila but addressing diverse crowds, many of whom are "dancing" to the codes Gnawa music. The festival ritual is one in which the brotherhoods perform their music – playing pieces of the code – for an audience that overwhelmingly does not understand it. Baldassare extends his optimism towards the Gnawa ritual despite the altered circumstances of their performances. "Some academics may fear that the authenticity of this tradition is threatened, but they must be reminded that it is not the mere display of a ritual to profane eyes and ears that causes deterioration... Instead, it is the lack of expertise on the part of the officiates which could reduce the expression of supreme principles of existence, such as the Gnawa's rite, to a mere entertainment." He attributes his optimism to the alleged separation between the "World Music performance" which consists of the "dance and musical repertoire of the lila-derdeba" and the "more specifically ritual part."

However, it is naïve to assume that performance rituals can occur in a vacuum and that the musicians can separate themselves from their spiritual practice when having to occupy a secular stage. Ritual embodies an entire way of being and understanding the world, and constructs time, space, and social relations based on this understanding. Ritual also sustains and reifies such conceptions and changes in ritual practices are significant alterations in all ways of being that is embedded within the space of ritual. (Turner 1986: 95). Hence, in participating in a new ritual – that of stage performance – the musicians are themselves severely affected. The ritual founded on large-scale public performances of sacred music is also a transformative experience that articulates a very different understanding of sacred sounds – as a music and performance to be enjoyed.


Gnawa as a Popular Music and the Gnawa Ceremony

The Gnawa lila continues, but has been significantly impacted by the popularity of its own sacred forms as music. A widespread public consciousness of Gnawa music has made a distinct delineation of the "world music performances" referenced by Baldassare and the lila-derdaba impossible. While many brotherhoods have relatively open lilas (acquaintances of friends of the hosts and those involved are often welcome), the Gnawa lilas are an especially public performance. The sustained openness to those that do not necessarily identify as being possessed by Gnawa music has seeped into the lila practice so greatly that Gnawa musicians have come to understand themselves in many ways as performers and not conductors of a divine music onto those present.

My neighbor in Dar Dbagh and reputed Gnawi Abdellah El-Gourd said to me in an attempt to relate himself to the Hamatcha Muqaddim Mohammed (everyone is familiar to eachother from sharing a neighborhood): "They do that [practices of fakirism and self-harm in ecstatic states]. We used to but the Gnawa don't anymore. Because we are on stage. People come to our lilas. It's just not that anymore."


Ex. 9: The Gnawa Lila introduction at Abdellah's house:

Pt. 1         Pt. 2         Pt. 3


Abdellah's lila itself starts as a performance. A natural "stage" develops in the middle of the space and attendants enjoy the dance of the Gnawis as a spectacle. The current lila is in many ways a ceremony that commemorates the Gnawa tradition, and in this way articulates a distinct break from that tradition. The stage of secular institutionally sanctioned performances has pervaded the space of potentially esoteric religious rituals of Gnawa music.

What is experienced in these increasingly ceremonialized lilas? A state of hadra and "dancing" to the music is again blurred. The majority of those in attendance at a Gnawa lila have a similar relationship to the music as people identifying with other brotherhoods that attend lilas of a different brotherhood. No one is susceptible to be inhabited by the music and they can perceptible "enjoy" the sounds and watch others in hadra. They experience the lila as ceremony – while still having a full understanding of the significance of the ceremony

In the case of Abdellah's Gnawa group, however, the ritual of performed music has taken such an effect that the musicians themselves have digested a different understanding of what their music is. When Abdellah gathers with the rest of the brotherhood in his home each evening to play, he sometimes refers to these gatherings as a "rehearsal." The music they play is entirely improvisational, as with other brotherhoods. Sometimes after all the sounds die down, judgments are expressed if it was a particularly good "jam." This process of understanding one's sounds as music that can be judged in this way is unheard of within other brotherhoods that have not been as exposed to stage performances.

Abdellah El-Gourd has collaborated with several Western musicians and toured internationally. This process has emphasized the concept of music as a commodity and not a channel for divine energy. In a global context, the fruits of these intercultural improvisations are very beneficial. Stanyek writes of Abdellah's joint recordings with Randy Weston: "In the case of the Weston/Gnawa collaboration difference is enacted through what Antonio Baldassarre calls 'creative remembrance,' an improvisatory consciousness, an interactive form of memory that characterizes music making in Gnawa communities" (Stanyek 2004: 113).

The prerequisite of this collaboration is an understanding of Gnawa as an improvisatory musical tradition and not esoteric healing practice. Gnawa's sacred potency lies in the presence induced by its hadra and not the aesthetics of its sonic practices nor improvisatory structure. Its widespread popularity and international collaborations gesture at Gnawa's musical merits, but that does not imply that Gnawa is defined by and limited to its musical repertoire.

Further discussions of this collaboration by Stanyek concern music and politics. The essence of the Gnawa ritual is given no consideration, for it was abandoned at the outset of the project. Stanyek quotes Weston's interpretation of the piano: "I approach the piano as an African instrument. I really do. Because inside the piano is a harp. The harp is one of the oldest instruments coming out of ancient Egypt and Ethiopia..." Stanyek writes, "The 'out of tunneness' between Weston's piano and the guimbris of the Gnawa musicians is instantly discernable, and provides a compelling sonic analogue to a kind of intercultural communication that does not sublate difference..." (Stanyek 2004: 113)

This evolution of the Gnawa ritual as a secular performance is largely a matter of economics. Secular performances and collaborations energize a very needy community with the economic fuel to sustain themselves, and potentially their religious tradition in an increasingly modern economy. The Gnawa community has become visibly more well off (nowhere near wealth, but rather distanced from poverty) compared to other brotherhoods. Does this increase in wealth sustain the essence of the Gnawa tradition or fuel more performances that further articulate the distance from a space that was? A new economic relationship with their spiritual practice does have a radical rhythmic impact on life. While zaouia's are kept up through the giving of small amounts of money in a ritual setting with the idea of baraka, the Gnawa ceremonies are now indirectly funded by large sums of money less frequently from secular sources.

The process of bestowing of money to sacred musicians is a materialization of listening, or receiving practices of the music itself. When the music of the Sufi brotherhoods is absorbed in a space of ritual with its sacred potency, the resulting economic exchange is an offering for baraka. When money is bestowed in exchange for work (secular performance) the musicians receive a salary or stipend. By the same means that practices of creative listening (Novak 2008: 30) are "a vital social activity and the cognitive basis of an interactive music culture." The materialization of these listening practices directly to the musicians in turn alters their relationship to their performance practices.

One such instance occurred upon the removal of the sacred music of a town called Zahjouka from Zahjouka. Brion Gysin, an artist associated with the beat generation that spent a large part of his creative career in Morocco, describes his discovery of Zahjouka's music in an interview with Terry Wilson: "I heard some music at that festival about which I said: 'I Just want to hear that music for the rest of my life. I wanna hear it everyday all day. And uh, there were a great many other kinds of extraordinary music offered to one, mostly of the Ecstatic Brotherhood who enter into trance, so that in itself – it was the first time I'd seen large groups of people going into trance – was enough to have kept my attention, but beyond and above all of that somewhere I heard this funny little music, and I said: 'Ah! That's my music! And I must find out where it comes from.' So I stayed and within a year I found that it came from Jajouka...[tape stops]" (Vale 1982: 47). Gysin proceeded to develop an economic relationship with the musicians in which he could hear this music all day everyday. "Oh the restaurant [1001 Nights] came about entirely because of them...I said 'I would like to hear your music everyday' and, uh, they said 'Well, why don't you just stick around and live in the village?' And I said, 'No, that isn't possible, I have to go back and earn my living'...and they said, "Well, then why don't you open a little cafe, a little joint, some place in Tangier, and we'll come down and make the music and, uh, we'll split the money?" (Vale 1982: 52)

Secular income from a performance concretizes the economic potency of the performance as work. A sacred ritual becomes a production of a commodity (music) to be consumed, an in turn transformed, by its reception unto secular ears.



What is lost by the popularization of sacred sounds and the assimilation of esoteric modes of existence into a secular economy? Attempts that understand the emergence of modern forms of old traditions, or the mechanisms to sustain traditional forms in modern contexts, as a preservation of these traditions commits the fault of reducing these traditions to their superficially extractable elements. Institutional attempts at preservation of the music of Sufi brotherhoods in this way (through stage performance and marketed recordings) are victim to a flawed essentialism that slightly alters the original meaning of the music each time it is employed for a commercial or popular purpose.

The ritual is the embodiment and sustenance of a particular mode of existence, a particular shared conception of time and situation of space. As life, the ritual is never fixed. Essentializing modes of understanding or recreating the ritual results in preservation attempts that do not transgress the superficial. The forces that endorse secular festivals featuring sacred music and musical recordings as "world music" perceive a space or experience and proceed to reduce this space to its musical performance. Such efforts fix the musical ritual in time and fuel folklorization. The case of the Gnawa ritual makes evident that an either/or attitude is in fact more harmful because it forces this distinction to be digested by the musicians; and as a result of imbalances in resources, the new ritual that articulates a modern and secular digestion of this music is that which prevails. Sacred understandings of one's musical and religious practice becomes assimilated into modern understandings of one's musical and labor practice.

Looking forward, subsequent research of the ritual practices of the Sufi brotherhoods and their evolving contexts in environments dictated by popular conceptions of music and musical performance should explore new avenues of preservation. Preservation practices of the Sufi brotherhoods can manifest itself either towards the sustenance of esotericism (or the re-introduction of esotericism), or through modes of creative preservation.

Esotericism makes spaces not susceptible to the deleting forces of popularization on the practice of spirit possession and faith-building through hadra. By simply placing restrictions on the dispersion of a music, its popularization, and subsequent economically-systematized secularization can be limited.

Perhaps more useful, however, is to explore existing and possible avenues of creative preservation. Creative preservation is to preserve not the rationally perceivable elements of a tradition – i.e. the music, costume, etc. but rather to preserve what is contained within the ritual and practices of sacred music. This preservation takes into account the space, the performance practices, the faith behind, and the experience of time and space as embedded within the space of ritual. Instead of understanding preservation as a freezing of particular aspects of a tradition that have penetrated popular consciousness, creative preservation sustains and reinvents the what is experienced within the music rather than facilitate reenactments of its forms. This bears into being new rituals, rather than staged reenactments that extract from what was and cage an entire way of life within the past.


Works Cited:


Baldassare, Antonio. "The Music of the Gnawa of Morocco: A Journey with the Other into the Elsewhere." Performing ecstasies: music, dance, and ritual in the Mediterranean. By Luisa Del Guidice. Ottawa: Institute of Medieval Music, 2005.


Crapanzano, Vincent. The Hamadsha: A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1981.


Novak, David. "2.5 x 6 metres of space: Japanese music coffeehouses and experimental practices of listening." Popular Music. Vol. 27. Cambridge University Press, 2008.


Rouget, Gilbert. Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations Between Music and Possession. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.


Stanyek, Jason. "Transmissions of an Interculture: Pan-African Jazz and Intercultural Improvisation." The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz, Improvisation, and Communities in Dialogue. By Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2004.


Turner, Victor Witter. The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications, 1986.


Vale, Vivian, and Andrea Juno. William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle, Brion Gysin. San Francisco, CA: RE/Search Publications, 1982.

[1] The ghaita is a double-reed pipe common in North Africa and particularly in the Northern regions of Morocco (Atlas and Rif). 

[2]Djemaa-el-Fnaa is a large square in Marrakech's old quarter and a central tourist attraction in Morocco. It has a history of elaborate cultural performances and has in the present day been systematized for tourists and often showcases falsely exoticized elements of Moroccan culture to attract tourists. (Schuyler 2011: 251).

[3] The zaouia is a place for the gathering of Sufi Muslims for prayer.

[4] The state of ritual presence and ecstatic dance in the practices of the Hamatcha and other Sufi brotherhoods. Used analogously to trance or possession (jidba). Literally translated as presence.

[5] A dark-brown, slightly sticky sweet made with cinnamon that is circular with many layers. Shibakkiyeh is particularly popular during and surrounding the month of Ramadan on the Muslim calendar.

[6] The derbouka is a goblet drum made of wood and played vertically, over the shoulder. It is common element of percussion in the music of the Sufi brotherhoods from the Atlas region of Morocco.

[7] Blessing, good fortune, a spiritual force that emanates from holy experience

[8] I use the language employed by Crapanzano, Baldessare, and Rouget in describing the healing cults of North Africa as Sufi brotherhoods or confraternities – understanding that this references pre-Islamic traditions that through religious syncretism upon the Arabicization of Morocco have come to merge and understand their faith through and alongside Islam.

[9] The major Sufi confraternities in the north of Morocco, with the exception of the Gnawa whose lila practices I discuss later on.

[10] Spirits, devils, that reside in a realm parallel to that of mankind. The Qur'an references the three realms of Gods sentient creations as that of humans, angels, and the djinn.

[11] Amazigh meaning "free people" is another term for the Berbers, the native ethnic group of Morocco.