Moroccan Zajal: Evolution and aesthetic aspects
Said Sahmi, Morocco
The Arab oral tradition of which Zajal is a part is often recognised as one of the most significant aspects of Arab culture. In addition to being a rich source of knowledge, it paints a picture of the daily lives of our ancient forefathers and introduces us to groups to which we may not otherwise have had access. Its use of contemporary idioms, metaphors and symbols allowed it to draw attention to political and social issues that were glossed over in conventional accounts.
Most of the literary, artistic and cognitive forms passed down through the centuries in Morocco were oral, as evidenced by the prevalence of pre-theatrical Moroccan styles, folk music, unwritten folktales and the Zajal, which may be seen as the symbolic counterpart of eloquent Arabic poetry.
In the past, a group of poets who sought a new literary genre that matched poetry to express themselves under specific socioeconomic and cultural conditions emerged; because of the combination of Arabic and Latin languages, particularly in Andalusia, they settled on the art of Zajal.
Rather of focusing on syntax or the need to use an elegant phrase, Zajal integrates classical poetry with communal folklore by drawing on elements of the popular dialect and rhythm.
The Zajal of Morocco is a priceless cultural treasure on par with classical poetry. It has its own creative methods and fan base, and it has proven an important source of Moroccan folk arts, particularly theatre and folk music.
We value Zajal as a living tradition that bridges the gap between the past and the present because of its moral significance to the Moroccan, Arab and Islamic memory. Our rich cultural history is an integral part of our Arab identity, and this may be one of the driving forces for our efforts to learn more about the Zajal tradition in Morocco and to conserve and digitise it so that it can be shared with the world and future generations.