Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Not Sulamiyya but Aissawa: Sufi Songs from Tunisia

A friend has just returned from a couple of weeks in Tunisia and we're all lucky because she has brought back some cassettes.  This here is the first of 'em.  I am however, close to useless when it comes to providing you with any information about this wonderful music.  We will all need to rely upon the kindness of Arabic speaking/reading visitors who may be able to translate the text on the cover and enlighten us a little about the artists behind these songs.
These are Sufi songs from Tunisia, sung by a male choir accompanied by pipe and drums - not quite as destabilising as this cd of Tunisian Sufi songs I posted way back when, but great nevertheless.

Face A
Face B

Get it HERE.

Well, Tim from Moroccan Tape Stash and Hammer from Audiotopia have provided a wealth of information about the artists behind this cassette.  Please refer to the comments section for their wonderful insights.  Thanks chaps!


tim abdellah said...

Hi Mr T!

Nice, spirited tape! This appears to be Aissawa music from Tunisia:

Artist: Âissawiya Oulad Ben Âisa B'Soussa, under the direction of Faouzi al-Makki

Ya Rebbi
Sidi Mansour
Um Ezzine

Couldn't find much online about the group online. This might be a facebook page related to them, but I'm not sure (don't know if this will equate to the Arabic part of the URL):

Thx for sharing!

Mr Tear said...

Thanks Tim, your input is always much appreciated. Are the Tunisian Aissawa any relation to the Moroccan Aissawa? This music seems to be more song based.
I'm loving the Facebook page, there are some fantastic videos.

limestone mantels said...

I love Sufi dance and songs. thanks for sharing this tracks from Tunisia.
- Vinnie

Hammer said...

Yes Tim, that's the official Faceboook page for the band. They have been around the North-Africa, Middle-East region for well over 30 years now (they performed in Amman, Jordan almost 5-6 years ago and I saw them perform a hadra live and a sahriya gnawa laila, too which is called Istanbhali there).

Bin Âisa is a small zaoyiuah in Souss, Tunisia, by the way. The Sufist traditional hadra ceremony was first enacted in Tunisia by way of Sheik Mohammed Bin Âissa Al-Idressi Al-Hassani (Al-Sheik Al-Kamil), who came to Tunisia around the Hijri year of 920 (circa, 1515 C.E.), from Moroccan Miknas in what is known as a kharja (coming/outing).

So, in a quick reply to your query, Mr. Tear: Yes, they are basically one and the same. The only variances are seen in some of the instruments they both use (e.g. Maghrounha which is like a very small double-reed Moroccans don't use in their celebratory cadences).

The history of the taifah (Arabic for 'sect') in Tunisia goes back to 500 years-plus and now, there are a strong presence of Âissaween in the Bahri (sea-side; coastal areas) of Tunisia. The mantras are called noubahs meaningly, a stint, or more so 'fit'. The readings are called 'werd' which means 'small readings as if by drinking water', and are read at various times throughout the day/night.

Any band consist normally of a 'pointman', or L'Mkadim as most Gnawists know, and Zikr/Zakireen who repeat the words of the m'kadim in addition to a khlifah (vice-m'kadim), and the performers them selves. It's mainly a trilogy called sometimes Mandeel, Zanbeel, We Qandeel: Handkerchief, Carrying Strawbag, and Candle-light; the three mainstays of a hadra.

The ceremony starts usually with an intro (dakhla: foreword), then the hadra itself (this word means in Arabic 'the presence' which alludes to its daemonical affiliations), el-me'grid (fast, repetitive trance-like music), and ends with el-z'mietah, or the outro.

the band's members are chosen at the strict supervision of the leader (L'mkadim) in a small, inauguratory ceremony called Ta'asheek; where he places his right hand over the mureed's forehead (student/follower), and asks him to repeat the oath's words and chose a part in the band.

The parts, or more so roles (called shat'hat, sing. shat'ha)in any Soussian band in Tunisia are as follows:
-Darrab/Sayyaf: one who performs tricks with a sword literally hitting it into his belly. (Note: I saw this with my own eyes).
-S'Fafdi: One who uses lesser skewers hitting these into his tongue and cheeks, as part of the 'Khwarraeq' or miracle-performing in the hadra itself.
-Khateefah: juggler, jumper, acrobat.
-Na'am: nail-swallower.
-Raffa'i: Singer of the zikr.
Plus, some animalistic-costume marionettes and mannequin workers, etc.

Hammer said...

Here is a related, rival band for those of you who are treatingly insatiable when it comes to Gnawa and Hadra music, like Tim Abdellah over there:Âissawiya Ouled L'Hram: https://www.facebook.com/3isawiatalahram

Other, similar, Soussian bands are:
-Âissawiya Murshid B'rahim.
-Âissawiya Al-Nasir:
-Âissawiya Sidi Mansour (FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%89-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B3%D8%A9/517899291561556).
-Âissawiya Ouled Agharib:
-Âissawiya Sidi Salim:

Here is the official Facebook page (Arabic-only) for the largest Âissawiya taifah, or sect in Tunisia:

Moroccan Âissawiya (TaÂissawiya) Band:

These bands usually perform in weddings, circumcision private parties only for monetary rewards and the heftier the sums, the louder and longer the music. It isn't strictly religio-sufist anymore, sadly. But, still enjoyable nonetheless. Needless to say that some (if not almost all..) of these bands shioukh are ready to perform magical incantations and cast spells if paid accordingly.

So, enjoy. And, many thanks to both Ts: Mr. Tear and Tim.


Keep well, guys. I might get my ass to blogging again at my page soon. And, yes the Gnawa post is still something I need to do and finish. But, I am taking a different road lately in my musical explorations and might write something first about pearl-diving music in the Arabian Gulf area.

Peace for nows.


Hammer said...


The title is a misnomer. This is not part of the Sulaimyah (Arabic: سلامية which basically translates into 'peaceful-greetings') singing. The CD is; which you've linked here. The Sulaimyah is strictly sung for those who go heading for Mecca to perform the last rite of Islam (namely, Hajj Al-Akbar).

The singers wear a black, long thob/red'a one-piece clothing called A'ba'yah and the traditional Tunisian tarboosh (red hat called shashiyah) and sing madayeh (adulatories for Prophet Mohammed), visitation songs or ziyarrah for the tombs of Mohammed, Ali and Jesus, among the usual inshad deeni (religious hymns).

The Sulaimyah can mean both a welcome shout and/or a farewell wish. The pilgrims and those who visit the Medina-Mecca cities in Saudi Arabia are urged to take their hellos and wishes to those buried dead in their tombs. This is where the Sulaimyah part came from and it means 'taking one's hellos'.

Here is a good (if not 'great'...), YouTube channel for this kind of religious music from Tunisia:

Enjoy again.


Mr Tear said...

Hi Hammer,

Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with us and please accept my apologies for my ignorance in these matters. I read no Arabic and maybe its about time I made the effort to learn.
I'm looking forward to checking out the links you posted.
Tim, there are some wonderful videos on teh Facebook page you linked to and I encourage all of you readers to get over there and check 'em out.
And Vinnie, thanks for dropping in and I'm glad you found something to please your ears, and with these comments from Tim and Hammer we are also able to expand our minds a little.


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