Fatna Bent El Hocine and her group of female troubadours travel through Morocco singing songs of aïta—a trance-like call and response, bringing to life tales from Morocco’s history. Génini shows the singers in moments of fantasia and celebration, but also in intimate camaraderie and reflection.
An introduction from filmmaker Izza Génini
Following legendary aïta singer Fatna Bent El Hocine and her troupe of singers, this short documentary was one of the earliest works in Génini’s music documentary series Morocco, Body and Soul (1987-1992).
At the Moussem of Moulay Abdellah Amghar, a gathering on the West Coast of Morocco, generations of people celebrate their ancestral heritage in a return to the soil on which historical battles were fought. Named after the holy Moulay Abdellah Amghar, the moussem is an annual celebration where men on horses shoot rifles—a callback to a time where the land of their ancestors was protected from invaders by men on horseback. This big moussem is also well known for its night shows that last all night long. Musical performances are part of the celebration and travelling bands congregate near the coastal town of El Jadida to perform. As Génini notes in her narration, aïta “doesn’t speak of ordinary things”, and rather, “it speaks of heroes, knights, historical facts.”
Describing the singers, she says, “the cheikha is a woman who sings out with splendour and in pain.” This travelling troupe of singers voice history and legend, a public veneration of the great heroes of Moroccan history. Through a trance-like repeated call and response, the women perform an act of retelling, but also create a transcendental, almost meditative state. The performers move their bodies to the rhythm as drums beat in time.
It is in the private moments that Génini captures the inner feelings of this group of women, who speak openly about their favourite songs of the aïta genre. These are historical songs, but they are tales of women’s pain, too. Songs of heartbreak and desertion. As Dr Stefanie Van de Peer notes “Cheikhat are women with the performative power to divulge women’s secrets in public”—and it is this radical act of public feeling that makes them so engaging to watch. In their downtime between performances and between places, the group eat lunch together, swim in the sea and visit markets. It is these moments of intimacy that Génini captures so masterfully, away from the spectacle of their performances. —Myriam Mouflih
Born in Morocco and of Moroccan ancestry, I spent a happy childhood and teenage before moving to Paris with my parents. Some fifteen years, later, certain to have exchanged the moroccan culture for a fully integrated Parisian life, I decided with my husband to have a week of vacations in Morocco. The warm atmosphere caught hold of me as soon as I went out of the plane. It was then the beginning of a love reunion with my native country. Step by step, this lead me into the most enthralling experience of my professional life, to be finally the director of a whole collection of documentary films, for an homage and a sharing of this huge culture that Morocco and Moroccans were offering to me with such a generosity!..
.The title “MOROCCO BODY AND SOUL” forced itself upon me at once and inaugurated the way that was spread with infinite fights and joys and produced some twenty documentaries that are here presented. They tell, each one in its own way, about the soul and the body of Morocco.
Nûba d’or et de lumière / Nûba of gold and light
Tambours battant / With drum beating
Pour le plaisir des yeux / For the eyes’ delight
La route du cédrat / Citron, fruit of splendour
Voix du Maroc / Voices of Morocco
Concerto pour 13 voix / Concerto for 13 voices
Retrouver Oulad Moumen / Return to Oulad Moumen
Gnaouas / Gnaouas
Nuptiales en Moyen Atlas / Nuptials in middle-atlas
Vibrations en Haut Atlas / Vibrations in high-atlas
Moussem / Moussem
Rythmes de Marrakech / Rhythms of Marrakech
Malhoune / Malhoune
Chants pour un Shabbat / Songs for a Shabbat
Cantiques Brodés / Embroidered canticles
Louanges / Hymns of praise
Des luths et délices / Lutes and delights
Aïta / Aïta
Transes / Trances (as producer)
Production CountriesFrance Morocco