The Glorious Cultural Heritage
of the Southern Draa Valley
September 25th - 27th, 2020
A Glorious Heritage
The Musical Heritage of the Southern Draa Valley project documents the rich and diverse cultural heritage hidden within the oases of southeastern Morocco.
Cultural Actor Halim SBAI of M’Hamid el Ghizlane works to preserve the cultural heritage of the southeastern Draa Valley. This heritage includes the Chamra, Ganga, Ahidous, Akalal, and Rokba music traditions of the diverse ethnic populations residing within the Fezouata, Ktawa, and M’hamid oases found in the Zagora region of southern Morocco.
Supported by The US Embassy in Morocco through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, Sbai’s team worked to document the music, dances, clothing styles, and instrument production techniques passed down from generation to generation.
A necessary intervention
With desertification and climate change threatening the livelihoods and physical structures of the villages spread throughout the oases, there has been a mass migration of youth out of the region, which has left a gap in generations among local populations. Traditional music transmission has thus stalled, and a new generation of youth are growing up feeling little connection to a vast cultural wealth that has survived everything from war to drought to slavery. In partnership with the U.S. Embassy, Sbai undertook this project to document these heritages as they still exist and attempt to revitalize their practices. Many knowledges have already been lost.
Sbai and his team created a digital archive of this heritage, found at www.draaheritage.org and through the mobile application Draa Heritage, downloadable on iPhone and Android devices. This archive contains recordings, live performances, music scores, lyric translations, portrait photography, as well as architectural documenation of the villages where this music is traditionally performed. This architectural documentation also details the deterioration of the Fezouata, Ktawa, and M’hamid oases pre-2009 through present day, a determining factor in the transmission of these traditional heritages.
Preservation for the future
This initiative highlights the fragile state of these heritages, which themselves lie at the heart of local identity Sbai believes that promoting these identities in their natural environment, rather than in cliched states is the best way to encourage local youth to engage in their culture. Working with Playing For Change Foundation, Sbai co-founded local association Joudour Sahara, and leads weekly music programming for youth, including working with each traditional group to facilitate traditional transmission. Sbai is also planning a festival - Festival des Chants - to celebrate these heritages. This festival is set to take place in M’hamid el Ghizlane in February 2020.
This project was introduced publicly at Visa For Music in Rabat in November 2019.