Author / Artist: 
Publication Date: 
October, 2012

Yearbook for Traditional Music
Vol. 44 (2012), pp. 109-128 (20 pages)
Published By: Cambridge University Press


ʿAiṭa–a genre of sung poetry from the Moroccan Atlantic Plains and its adjacent territories—is regarded as the quintessential expression of the identity of the region. If it is possible to analyse the poetic language of ʿaiṭa in order to understand its significance among these populations, it is also critical to examine how the affective power of ʿaiṭa is determined by particular ideologies about the voice of its female interpreters, the shikhat (professional female singer-dancers). Their voice, in fact, is judged in accordance with a number of aesthetic requirements that are commonly described as embodying the countryside. The article examines in what way(s) a voice which is said to express “peasant life” may be shaped and which aesthetic requirements it must satisfy. In so doing I’m interested in identifying and analysing what is considered to be the central aesthetic requirement that such a voice must satisfy and which parameters are used to judge its affective power; exploring how specific qualities express a theory about the voice of a particular style of ʿaiṭa; and examining how the timbral entity of the voice of the shikhat relates to the ways in which the voice functions as a culturally created symbol. It is in this context that I also examine how issues concerning sung poetry and its relation to women’s voices and the Moroccan nation are played out.