Hamza oua Hamzine

The Master Musicians of Jajouka performing Hamza oua Hamzine for an important visitor in Jajouka
Photo: Cherie Nutting

This means fifty-five in Arabic, and is the number of beats in the very complex rhythm the Master Musicians of Jajouka play when performing this song. Hamza oua Hamzine has the form of a suite with several sections reserved for important events. This exclusive tradition belonging to the Master Musicians of Jajouka may be one of their oldest. It shows the mastery these musicians have of the Ghaita and Tebel. 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 thirty Ghaita and twenty Tebel players. Bachir Attar’s father, Hadj Abdesalam Attar, would lead the group by marking the very complex rhythm with his foot on the floor. In the past, when an important visitor came to the palace of the Sultan, this music was performed in their honor. Some sections could also be performed when the musicians would accompany the Sultan in battle.