by Jasmyn Gloria Mabalatan
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songs are among the oldest music in all cultures.
The traditions connected to the joining of two hearts, two lives, two families, and two economies has been taken very seriously since ancient times. There are many elaborate rituals and practices connected to this important occasion.
Left: This version of a wedding dance with scarves was coreographed by Janine Ryle of Les Amies, with Jasmyn as the bride.
Photo from "Algerian Berber Music" CD, Folkways
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|In this photo from the early 1960's in the city of Algiers, an itinerant band of musicians is appearing at an open air festival. Although music may take place at a celebration after the wedding, In the older Kabylia Berber style, the women of the community handle the older household music preparations beforehand.
woman leader sings a song she has composed especially
for the occasion. In this song she takes care to mention
the name of at least one person from every family in
the village, and is joined by a chorus of women who
reiterate her complements. It is a joyous occasion for
all, including the guests who hear themselves praised
and celebrated as they bring gifts to the wedding.
(From conversations with Merzouk Allache, Saddek Haddadou, and Moh Alileche, of Kabilya.)
young Moroccan Berber bride-to-be in her wedding outfit.
lovely photo and the one below showing the preparation
of the bride by painting henna on her skin, are of Berber
weddings in Morocco, used by permission from the web site
woman applying henna to a bride's hand
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the same site, about wedding customs:
In some parts of Morocco, tradition requires that five days before the wedding, the bride has a ceremonial bath, then is painted with henna swirls on hands and feet, and adorned with makeup and jewels by other women. For centuries, elaborate henna has been applied to Moroccan brides. The night before the wedding, the bride and other women gather together for the henna ritual. The bride receives the most elaborate designs, while the other women are often patterned with lesser designs, covering only small portions of the body. Within the bride's henna design is often found the name of the groom.
a bride is not expected to perform any housework until
her henna has faded. The wedding henna ritual has
a deeper purpose than mere aesthetic beauty. During
the evening of the "henna party," the older,
married women share the secrets of marriage with the
Before becoming guardian of her hearth, the Moroccan
bride circles her marriage home three times.
To hear a short excerpt of the "The Bride" sung by Berber women, click here
from Folkways "Algerian Berber Music" FE 4341
particular wedding song used
to inspire the version on the Seven Modes for
an Ancient Lyre CD comes
from Kabylia, (Ethnic
Folkways Library no. FE4341). The Kabylia tribe
lives in the mountainous part of the Constantine area
The female leader of the womens chorus in this
song describes the charms of the young bride, who may
not have been seen yet by her groom, although today,
they most probably have met and consented to the marriage.
Many happy verses follow this one.
swear by all the saints of Sidi Aich
That the man who wants to marry is in
search of beauty.
Tonight he shall meet the most beautiful
daughter of our beautiful mountains.
was with great pleasure that I discovered the response
of the Berbers who recognized this song, "The
Bride," on the Folkways album/CD. In all three
cases, a huge smile of delight spread across the faces
of these gentleman as soon as they heard the leader
sing out her first line to the beat of the drum.
textile pattern for the bride thumbnail image www.sourcesberberes.com/ textile.htm
A few Ancient Berber letters and their development
an aside, about the Berber language and script::
Berber language (Tamazight) is believed to stem from
the same family of languages as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics,
and has a unique alphabet of symbols which can be seen
on the internet at
The following quotation from this AncientScripts.com site is used by permission. The mentioned Tuaregs are a different tribe, not from Kabylia. Tuaregs are probably the oldest Berber tribe. They live more in the desert regions and have a strongly matriarchal society.
Berber writing disappeared after the 3rd century AD,
first supplanted by the Roman alphabet, and then later
by the Arabic alphabet brought by Islam. But by some
strange miracle, it is preserved, and still used today
mainly by women in Tuareg society. The modern form is
called Tifinagh, which scholars believe to mean "Phoenician/Punic
letters". Tifinagh is not used widely for literature
or history, but instead for recreation (like for composing
modern times, after the more traditional Berber wedding
festivities take place, often a modern wedding cake and
champagne are served in Western wedding reception style.
One cant be too careful when it comes to wishing
good luck to the newlyweds!
melody is a good one for demonstrating how the ancient
lyre might have sounded with a combination of instruments;
a flute, a drum, a little bell, hand clapping and a
suggestion of a womens chorus and lead singer.