All photography by Cherie Nutting

Hamza oua Hamzine (55)

Hamza oua Hamzine literally translates to the number fifty-five in Arabic, this is the number of beats in a very complex rhythmic cycle performed by the Master Musicians of Jajouka and also is a piece with the same title. Hamza oua Hamzine has the form of a suite with several sections reserved for important transits or events. This exclusive tradition of performing this piece belongs only to the Master Musicians of Jajouka and is perhaps amongst their oldest. In addition to being original and the oldest, it also demonstrates the mastery these musicians have over the instruments the Ghaita and the Tebel, and the extensive use of both in conjunction. Due to it’s rhythmic and harmonic complexity, only true Malimin can perform it.

In the old days, Hamza oua Hamzine was performed both by smaller ensembles and by an orchestra that could consist of as many as 30 Ghaita and 20 Tebel players. Bachir Attar’s father, Hadj Abdesalam Attar, would lead the group by iterating the very complex rhythm by tapping his foot on the floor. In the past, when an important visitor came to the palace of the Sultan, this suite was performed in their honor as a welcoming and initiation. Some sections could also be performed when the musicians would accompany the Sultan in battle serving as an anthem.