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Disguise Ritual Music

Final Report Summary - DRUM (Disguise Ritual Music)

The aim of the project was to assess an important cultural aspect of Moroccan culture that ethnographic, historical and musicological studies had so far disregarded. Our research has revealed a submerged but widespread culture - especially in the lower strata of Moroccan society - of great interest from both historical and ethnographic perspectives.
We chose the subject to pursue simultaneously two different research objectives, the first being on the sociological and a historical framework, and the second focusing on a case study:
1. A wide historical and ethnographic research on the rituals dedicated to the spirits, and on the roles played by women and effeminate men within those rituals. Some of this contextualization has dealt with the observation and documentation of the rites linked with the Mawlid (the Birth of the Prophet) both in Meknes and Sidi Ali and of the Issawa confraternities. We have placed a special interest on the role of effeminates and women in the rites both in domestic and public spaces. The other research team has focused on the links between mentality and materiality, by studying the changes and continuities in the production process, distribution and use of clay drums, historically linked with female performative practices both in al-Andalus and in the Maghreb. Through the use of ethnoarchaeological methodology and filming, this survey has shed more light on historical practices attested both in literature and in archaeology studies. On top of that, it has also revealed and interesting dynamic of change, especially about the production of clay drums by the female potters of Nothern Morocco.
2. A detailed survey on the role and biographical profile of two particularly important protagonists of the rites of women and effeminate men: a man and a woman who are widely recognized as highly experienced musicians and officiants of spirits worshiping. The two protagonists have chosen to participate actively in the research and in the project documentary production. Not only the two protagonists shared their personal stories and opened their homes to allow us to assist to their rituals, but they have also joined us in the research. In this way, together with them, we have established various contacts with other people and locations for interviews and visits. We have also visited with them the main pilgrimage destinations in Morocco reached by the women and effeminates possessed by spirits.
Scholars from the Universities of Morocco have also participated in field research laboratories in Italy, directly conducting investigation groups inside Italian communities of Maghreb migrants and working alongside researchers and students from Italian Universities on local themes. The main subjects explored were the culture and rites of the Campania’s femminielli, through field research and the participation to the Candelora pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Madonna di Montevergine; the rites and music of northern Italy, meeting the violin tradition and the carnival rites of the Val Caffaro (in Bagolino and Ponte Caffaro); and the musical tradition of the Bologna’s Appennines. In all those contexts, the focus was on the practices of borders crossing and ritual disguising.
The field research laboratories, the seminars and the workshops focused on the daily lives, social practices and lived experiences of gender-variant people as they construct cross-gender identities inside the domain of musical rites. In particular, the project focuses on the musical aspect of the rites and on the social roles that effeminate and cross-dressing male officiants and musicians play in them, relating these aspects to the broader cultural and historical context in which they are embedded. Moreover, the project explored the role played by women who stage behaviors socially marked as masculine, as their role, although less explicit or self-evident, is nonetheless of crucial importance in the considered social contexts.
In analyzing the construction of cross-gender identities at the crossroad of musical rites and social boundaries, our activity individuated a theoretical perspective that brings forth an extraordinary comparative potential. This perspective is grounded on an interdisciplinary approach bridging anthropology, gender studies, psychology, history, history of religions, musicology and ethnomusicology.
The large participation of scholars, young researchers and students to seminars and workshops, in Morocco as well as in Europe, attests the fulfilling of the objectives. The new relationships between European and Moroccan scholars opens, through collective discourse, a new way to criticize methodologies used in the past (especially by French and American ethnologists and psychologists). Through this work, we hope to construct new ways and methodologies for interdisciplinary and intercultural researches.