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Wooden Arab Flute
the sahara: music


For the Tuareg, music is a binding force amid endless dunes. Its call-and-response patterns are derived from sub-Saharan music. Its hypnotic vocal range and rhythm are similar to Arab and Berber music. In general, Tuareg music is the domain of women. Women are the most accomplished players of the imzhad , a very popular Tuareg instrument similar to the violin. The high-pitched cries used by Bedouin women to mark auspicious events are also present in Tuareg music. Music can accompany any activity from formal celebrations to impromptu social gatherings where voices and hands create an orchestra of desert sounds.

Metal Arab cymbals from Algeria
Metal Arab cymbals from Algeria



Camel Song (Tuareg)
This song, performed by Tuareg women from Damegru, Niger, tells the story of two camels. The rhythm mimics the pace of a camel moving across the desert. It is played with a tendi, a wooden drum made from gazelle skin, and a water drum.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: From the recording entitled Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara, Folkways 04470, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings © 1960. Used by Permission.

Wedding Song (Tuareg)
The Tuareg take marriage seriously. Celebrations last eight days and are held at the camp of the bride's family. During the festivities, there is much singing and the ilkan, or slaves, dance in honor of the occasion. Distinctive in this song, is the trilling by Tuareg women - a cry also used by Bedouin women at milestone events such as funerals or weddings.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Wedding Song of the Kel Issekeneren" from the recording entitled Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara, Folkways 04470, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings ©1960. Used by Permission.

Tohimo Dance (Tuareg)
Sung by women, the Tohimo dance is part of an exorcism ritual performed for a person believed possessed by the devil. Though the Tuareg are Muslim, such traditional beliefs persist - earning them the Arab sobriquet of Tawarik or "deserters of Allah."
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Tohimo Dance" from the recording entitled Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara, Folkways 04470, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings ©1960. Used by Permission.


Photo and Object Credit:
American Museum of Natural History
Cymbals, 1973 - Flute, 1973


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