Performed during collective ceremonies, the Ahellil is a poetic and musical genre emblematic of the Zenete population of Gourara. This region in southwest Algeria includes some one hundred oases populated by over 50,000 inhabitants of Berber, Arab and Sudanese origin. The Ahellil, which is specific to the Berber-speaking part of Gourara, is regularly rendered at religious festivities and pilgrimages as well as secular celebrations, such as weddings and community events. The Ahellil is closely linked to the Zenete way of life and its oasis agriculture, symbolizing the cohesion of the community living in a harsh environment and, at the same time, transmitting the values and the history of the Zenete population in a language that is at risk of disappearing.
Simultaneously interpreted as poetry, polyphonic chant, music and dance, this genre is performed by a bengri (flute) player, a singer and a chorus of up to a hundred people. Standing shoulder to shoulder in a circle surrounding the singer, they slowly move around him while clapping their hands. An Ahellil performance consists of a series of chants in an order decided by the instrumentalist or singer and follows an age-old pattern. The first part, the lemserreh, includes everyone and encompasses short, well-known chants that are sung late into the night. The second, the aougrout, concerns only the experienced performers who continue until dawn. The tra finishes with daybreak and involves only the most accomplished performers. This threefold structure is also reflected in the chant performance, which begins with a prelude by the instrumentalist, followed by the chorus picking up certain verses, and ending with it chanting in whisper and slowly building up into a powerful, harmonious whole.
,,,When the day has been totally engulfed by night,a group of men form a circle around the abshniw(poet and soloist),the bab n tandja(flutist)
and the babn qallal(percussionist).Sitting shoulder to shoulder,all repeat in chorus after the soloist and the orchestra ,the laments consisting of petitions and praying of pardon and grace.
The bitterness of the day gives way to the gentleness of night.However Ahallîl also tells tales and recounts history and tales:local events ,romantic epics,family feuds come between reminders of religious precepts and tales of battles.
Just like the griots,which they resemble a lot,Ahallîl singers contribute to the creation and safeguard of the collective memory of their people.
...And now in Johannesburg and armed with “tunes from God" he started attending jam sessions at Dorkay House where he jammed with the likes of Chris McGregor and others who later left for exile. It was in fact McGregor who, during these jam sessions, came to Pat and pointed out to him the singularity of his style on piano. McGregor told Pat that there was a man who wants him to come and play at his place. A baffled Pat then enquired from Chris how possible that was, seeing that he (McGregor) was a pianist himself “No" McGregor answered immediately, “the guy says he wants you. He wants you alone. He likes your style."
If there is ever any proof that Pat Matshikiza had carved for himself a distinct sound on the piano, this is it. And long after the Jazz Dazzlers had disbanded, and Chris McGregor and others had left for exile, Matshikiza stayed on playing almost all over the country for almost every and anybody. He entered jazz competitions and won prizes that sometimes lured him overseas but he miraculously refused to leave and preferred to play in South Africa. Like Winston ‘Mankunku' Ngozi he formed a bridge between time and space by keeping the home fires burning, but sadly he never had the fortune to exhibit in a very significant way the majesty of the sound that he so obviously possesses. He ended up playing in hotels and such places and gigs that hardly denote the maestro in him. At best he became an evasive legend whose musical voice spoke louder than his persona in the annals of the South African jazz discography....
Puppet masquerade originated in the precolonial era and remains a vital performance tradition today. It draws together a rich body of visual, musical and dance arts in a dynamic event that the community defines as both entertainment and play. But the theater also has a serious side, and people talk about its capacity to reunify the community, to create a context within which traditional social values can be taught, and to provide a time to give thanksgiving for the rains and for the harvest. The puppets are played by five ethnic groups: the Bamana, Maninka, Maraka, Boso and Somono who live along the Niger River and its tributaries from the Segou region in Mali, south into northern Guinea. The first three of these groups are farmers and traders, while the Boso and Somono are fishermen. Sogo Bo is also unique among the other masquerade genres in this region in the variety of
characters that are performed. These include wild animals from the bush and river such as the elephant, lion, hippo and crocodile; mythological and fantastic creatures including a whole variety of bush and water genies; conventional human types representing occupations like farming, fishing, and the musical arts, as well as more contemporary characters like policemen, government officials,etc The puppets are voiceless and do not perform narrative skits, but their performance is accompanied by a chorus of female singers. Each major character has a signature song, and these songs allude to the qualities of the charcter, the social values of the group or to historical events. The songs are drawn from a rich repertoire of fables, legends, epics and proverbs. People prepare for months for the event, and for months afterwards they talk about the performances. Equally as important as the puppet masquerades’ entertainment value is the fact that these performances remain important occasions for the exploration of beliefs and values. Older animal characters, like the lion and the elephant, continue to be played today, and people relate the majesty of the lion and the size and steadfastness of the elephant as important qualities for leaders in the community. The community has always embraced new characters and a few that have been created in recent years speak to people’s growing concerns about divorce, poverty, and good governance Like folktales and other theatrical forms, puppet masquerade performances throw community values and everyday social relationships into high relief, and these performances open them up for public scrutiny and discussion.
from Playing with Time- Art and Performance in Central Mali Mary Jo Arnoldi.
from the Djanet-Tassili region in Southern Algeria and rich reservoir of Tuareg Culture a fantastic recording from Imaran -the companions-the group of Ahmed Chakali since 1988 Oud and Voice:Ahmed Chakali Chorus:Dassine & Tin Hinan Percussion:Ahmed & Salah.