Sunday, March 8, 2009

When is a House a Home?

So there are many ways to make one’s house a home. I’ve done some minor decorating lately-getting a few things on the walls, curtains, baskets so I can get out of suitcases, etc., but that doesn’t hold a candle to the Moroccan way of doing things…..

I had the pleasure of being invited to a friend’s Gnawa party this weekend in Fes. Little did I know that this was a promise to stay up all night dancing while her newly renovated home in the old medina was being blessed. But I’m getting ahead of myself…..

Gnawa-had to look it up afterwards to find out what had been going on….here’s the scoop, courtesy Wikipedia….Gnawa is a mixture of African, Berber and Arabic religious songs and rhythms, combining music and dancing. The music is both a prayer and a celebration of life. In a Gnawa song, one phrase or a few lines are repeated over and over throughout a particular song though the song may last a long time. In fact, a song may last several hours non-stop. The norm, though, is that what seems to be one long song is actually a series of chants, which has to do with describing the various spirits. Gnawa have stringed-instruments, including the gogo and gimbri. The Gnawa also use large drums called tbel and krakebs (large iron castanets).

Gnawas perform a complex ritual, called lila. Their ancestors were neither literate nor native speakers of Arabic, and they begin the lila by bringing back, through song and dance, the experiences of their slave ancestors, and ultimately redemption. The ceremony recreates the first sacrifice and the genesis of the universe by calling the seven saints and supernatural entities (mluk) represented by seven colors. The lila has a maâlem (master musician) and a shuwafa (clairvoyante).

During the ceremony, the clairvoyante determines the accessories and clothing as it becomes ritually necessary. Meanwhile, the maâlem, using the guembri and by burning incense, calls the saints and the supernatural entities to present themselves in order to take possession of the followers, who devote themselves to dancing.

The ceremony is usually preceded by an animal sacrifice that assures the presence of the spirits (Siobhan will have a chicken killed in her home this week) and the all-night ritual begins with an opening that consecrates the space, the aâda , during which the musicians perform a swirling acrobatic dance, playing the krakebs.

The mluk are entities that gather a number of similar jinn (genie spirits). The mluk are evoked by seven musical patterns, seven melodic and rhythmic cells, who set up the seven suites that form the repertoire of dance and music of the Gnawa ritual. During these seven suites, seven different types of incense are burned and the shuwafa is covered by veils of seven different colours. Each of the seven families of mluk is populated by many "characters" identifiable by the music and by the footsteps of the dance. Each mluk is accompanied by its specific colour, incense, rhythm and dance. These entities, treated like "presences" (hadra) that the consciousness meets in ecstatic space and time, are related to mental complexes, human characters, and behaviors. The aim of the ritual is to reintegrate and to balance the main powers of the human body.

All I know is that there was a lot of very interesting music, dancing (Moroccans LOVE to dance), plenty of alcohol (hshuma), costume changes, incense and didn’t go to bed until 5am. Been a long time since I’ve done that-and not looking to do it again anytime soon!! But the house was blessed and a great time was had by all.

So today, being International Women’s Day, was our opportunity to publicize the breast cancer screening day that we’ll be having here in REK on April 6th. I think I met at least 100 women today-with the help of Fatima and Miriam-and gave them all ribbons and info sheets. Inshallah we’ll have a lot of them show up for the program on the 6th.

Have more to write, but lack of sleep suddenly catching up to me and still have stuff to do before bedtime, so will sign off now. Layla saida (good night).

No comments: