North Africa

Mauritania Music

Music

Professional musicians, known by the Moors as iggiw and by groups of Sudanese descent gawlo or gesere, are all comparable to griots (see griot). The instruments are usually of Arab origin, e.g. the edge-blown flute zaouzaya or the flute type nefara, both of which are used for entertainment purposes. Among the stringed instruments of more soloist character, the one-string button flutter gambra and string fiddle rbab are considered to be of West Sudanese origin.

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Mauritania, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

Popular music in Mauritania has remained strongly rooted in the tradition and musicians from iggi genres have continued to dominate. Modern Moorish music can be said to begin with Sidaty Ould Abba (born 1924), who played the lute instrument tidinit (ngoni) and in 1960 composed the independent Mauritania national anthem. His brother Cheikh Ould Abba was the first to use the guitar on recordings of traditional Moorish music. Sidaty Ould Abbas’ daughter, Dimi Mint Abba (1958–2011), was for many years one of the country’s most esteemed artists. Usually accompanied by one of the guitarists Seymali Ould Hamed Vall (born 1949), Khalife Ould Eide (born 1950) or Sedoum Ould Eide she sang and played the coral-like string instrument ardin.

In the 1970’s, blind contemporary artist Jheich Ould Abba developed the dance music style jakwar. He subsequently began to play with electrical amplified instruments, which in turn led to, among other things, Hammadi Ould Nana started playing jakwar on electric guitar. A variant of jakwar is played by the harinist artists Busheme and Kabrou.

Since the late 1990’s, singer Malouma Mint Meidah (born 1960) has achieved international success with music that blends the traditions of several of the country’s folk groups. While the popular music of wolof can be said to belong to Senegalese mbalax, the music of fulani and soninke is more distinctive. Famous fulani musicians include Ousmane Gangué (born 1972) and Mussa Watt. In modern dance music at soninke, traditional instruments are often used together with western ones. Among the most successful artists are Demba Tandia (born 1974) and Daby Touré (born circa 1970); the latter has been active in Europe and sings in French and English as well as native languages.

Mauritania Arts and Literature