Moroccan Soundscapes, Pt. 2

In an earlier post I wrote about some of the various ways in which I encountered music and sound throughout my journey in Morocco. I noted in particular what I felt were ways in which the contrasting shapes of Moroccan and American soundscapes pointed to contrasts in other aspects of social interaction, such as the appropriate amount of personal and private space to maintain between individuals. The adan (call to prayer), as I wrote, was a fundamental part of the Moroccan soundscape. From the previous post:

Last night, as I went to bed around 3am after finishing suhoor (the last meal before sunrise, when the fast resumes during Ramadan), I laid in bed with the windows open for some fresh air, and listened as a half-dozen mosques within earshot all issued competing versions of the adan (call to prayer); it is quite beautiful, especially as I live near a large, well-funded mosque that has clearly been able to find someone with more significant training than most in the area. But the adan is more than just the recitation of words, and the calls from each mosque not only begin and end at different times, but include their own melodic and rhythmic characteristics. In other words, as I lay in bed, exhausted from my trip to Marrakesh over the weekend, I listened to a wash of sound that was both beautiful in its spiritual significance as well as confounding in the way in which the adan from one mosque would encroach upon the acoustic space of the next.

Of course, when dealing with sound, words are insufficient for really capturing the experience. Nothing can replace actually being there to not only hear the adan but to sense the change in the whole atmosphere around you. For instance, when listening to music on my computer one evening, a family member asked me to turn it off for the duration of the adan once it had begun, positioning the call, understandably, as the most important sound of the moment (and, arguably, the day). On television, too, the regular programming is paused and the adan is aired with beautiful graphics and calligraphy on-screen. To bring you one step closer to this experience, however, I did film a portion of the adan when overlooking Chefchaouen from the top of the kasbah (fortress). You can see not only the mosque next door, but others spread throughout the town.

* Note: For those of you wondering why I write the title of the call to prayer in two different ways (adan in the blog, and adhan in the video), this is merely to reflect the difference in pronunciation between Moroccan Darija and classical Arabic. The Arabic letter transliterated as “dh” (pronounced as a sort of dark “th” sound) is often pronounced as a “z” in the Eastern Mediterranean, but in Morocco it is pronounced as a “d.” This was an occasionally confusing point because the word for “teacher,” ustadh—which received a lot of use in the classroom—would be pronounced three different ways depending on each student’s preferences, experience, or intentions: ustad, ustadh, or ustaz.

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