Ismkhan Festivals in South-eastern Morocco are authentic versions of Gnawa music Feasts and healing ceremonies in Morocco.
"Ismkhanare a diaspora population that uses language and material culture to create a sense of solidarity and an identity that is the same yet different from those responsible for their enslavement." Cynthia Becker, 2002.
Each year in south‐eastern Morocco, descendents of enslaved Sudanic Africans, called Ismkhan, hold a festival in honour of their ancestors. The festival overflows with people(local residents or visitors) who wish to be healed by their baraka, or ‘divine blessing’. In south‐eastern Morocco, memories of the trans‐Saharan slave trade are still vivid, and the descendents of people enslaved and carried across the Sahara continue to recognise their slave status by using the term Ismkhan, the plural form of the word ’ismkh’ or ‘slave’ in Tamazight (berber), to refer to themselves.
They choose special dress, dance, music and healing practices includes personal recollections of the slave trade to demonstrate how the Ismkhan have taken the pejorative term ‘slaves’ and attempted to turn it into a term of positive empowerment.
What do they sing exactly?
Ismkhan will repeat one phrase throughout an entire dance sequence, and several songs recall their Sudanic origins:
Oh Sudanese women, Oh our dear Sudanese mother.
Ah Sudanea, Ah ma ya hanna Sudanea.
Let's unite, let's unite, let's unite people from the Sudan, let's unite.
Yallah an-mun, yallah an-mun, yallah a Sudani, yallah an-mun.
Ismkhan frequently refer to God and the prophet Mohammed during aheydus, because they view their music not just as a form of entertainment but as religious, sacred music that evokes their ancestors and their inheritance of baraka from Bilal. Many songs, such as the one below, ask for God's blessing:
Please Allah(God), bless my father.
A lala a-Rebi laafou a bou lalla.
During Ismkhan weddings, they perform the following song:
Oh Mother, oh mother, God's prayer for the Prophet.
Ah ma, ya ma, Allah msalli ala Nebi.
Locations of Ismkhan Festivals
Sthouth-eastern Sahara of Morocco: Zagora, Khamliya near Merzouga, and Ighef-neghir, Errachidia province.
More songs coming soon
* Source: Synthia becker, 2002.
The Journal of North African Studies
Real (Gnaoua/Gnawa) Ismkhan Festivals
Ismkhan at the open-air, Khamliya