Video. Kabareh Cheikhats live a musical art that transcends genres

On stage, the very men, wearing wigs and dressed in colorful caftans, resuscitate, by surpassing the ideas of the genre, the classics of Aïta, a Moroccan musical art that no longer available.

The Kabareh Cheikhats – the “Cabaret of famous singers – have been trying since 2016 to protect this precious heritage that was once composed of women and threatened with extinction.

This collective of singers, actors and dancers dares to violate gender rules, which were once allowed to some extent, in this North African country where the weight of patriarchy remains paramount.

Returning from an unprecedented tour of the United States, accompanied by a traditional ensemble, he recently got a whole house dance of the wise Rabat, which introduced him to the melodies of the Aïta (” the rally shout “in the local dialect). Moroccan).

“This music is a precious + heritage + worth promoting. This is what drives our work, ”Ghassan El Hakim, founder of Kabareh Cheikhats, told AFP.

“Six years after the troupe was born, we still haven’t finished learning, we’re always on the lookout,” the 37-year-old director added.

Fallen Divas

Between theater and singing, the troupe mapped, from one region of Morocco to another, the types of this music, which were once very popular in the countryside.

The tempo is set in an “aïta jabalia”, a wind from the north of the country, before a stopover in the former capital of Fez, another in Rabat then in the fertile plains of Doukkala-Abda, the refuge of this music. .

“This art, based on oral transmission and with roots dating back to the 12th century, draws its poetic energy from everyday life”, points out writer and poet Hassan Najmi.

It sings about the tribal way of life, nature but also of love and carnal pleasure, without deviations. And under the French protectorate (1912-1956), it became a kind of anti-colonial resistance in a dialect not understood by the authorities.

These festival songs gained their epistles in the late 19th century, under the reign of Sultan Hassan I. ”At that time, the authorities paid particular attention to this music as a vector of propaganda for them ”, specified Mr. Najmi, an aïta specialist.

“Sheikhates”, revered and worshiped figures, were invited to large parties and on the occasion of national holidays until the 1990s.

Then the socio-cultural changes in Morocco, affected by the rise of conservatism, knocked the aïta divas from their pedestal.

“They have become symbols of extravagance”, recalls expert Najmi, emphasizing that “this contempt is the result of hypocrisy and double reference to a fringe in society”.

Female Codes

Concerned that they would be rehabilitated, the Kabareh Cheikhats gave an unconditional tribute to “these strong women”, explained one of the actors, Amine Naouni.

“In the show, we didn’t invent anything, we just remembered the events that existed in society”, confessed the 28-year-old young man who was “arrested” at the beginning of the adventure “to be judged”.

“But over time, that feeling disappeared.” In fact, the idea of ​​men using feminine codes is not new in Morocco – or in other countries, such as Japan in the “kabuki” theater.

In the past, “we have seen men put on make-up, wear caftans and dance lewdly at parties with no problem”, added the aita expert, referring to men being made “sheikhates” at weddings.

“This is normal because the public space is locked for women,” Mr. Najmi added. The Kabareh format is completely new.

For Ghassan El Hakim and his accomplices, the boundaries between genres are rather porous, they don’t believe in fixed and standardized genres, and it’s “important” for them to prove it.

“At every show, I see the interaction of the audience. Everyone values ​​the opportunity, despite our differences, so I told myself it was possible to live together, not just during a show, ”the director assured.

If only “good vibes” Kabareh Cheikhats received during shows, on social networks, this is a different story.

Fortunately, Amine Naouni is comforted, “negative reactions are on the internet. It’s easy to pour your hatred behind a screen, but in real life it’s different.

(With AFP)

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