Library of Congress Lecturer: Morocco's Musical Traditions Reflect Country's "Inherent Diversity"

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - June 09, 2016) - In a lecture on the "Musical Soundscapes of Morocco" at the Library of Congress on Monday as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival, ethnomusicologist Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas hailed Morocco's "inherent diversity" as "one of the most valuable elements of Moroccan society and perhaps one of the most promising elements for humanity in general."

Through photos, maps, sound recordings and even live performances of Moroccan Arabic and Hebrew songs, Dr. Thomas showcased Morocco's ethnic, regional and topographic diversity and the North African kingdom's long history "as a conduit point between East and West… at the cusp of North Africa."

"There are several languages that are spoken in Morocco," he said, referring to Arabic, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and a number of dialects. "With all that linguistic diversity comes also diversity in religion and even in racial backgrounds." He noted, too, Morocco's varied geography -- its valleys and mountain ranges, its beaches and deserts. Calling Morocco "a nexus point," Dr. Thomas said, "I think that is very fundamental as well to Moroccan culture, to the development of Moroccan culture over the centuries."

In recent years, Morocco has prioritized its promotion of religious and cultural diversity through a variety of means, including several projects overseen by King Mohammed VI to rehabilitate the country's many Jewish sites -- including the "Houses of Life" project that has restored 167 Jewish cemeteries across the country. The King has called this project "a testimony to the richness and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco's spiritual heritage. Blending harmoniously with the other components of our identity, the Jewish legacy, with its rituals and specific features, has been an intrinsic part of our country's heritage for more than three thousand years. As is enshrined in the Kingdom's new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity."

Adopted by referendum in 2011, the Moroccan constitution states that the country's unity "is forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamist, Berber and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences," and emphasizes Morocco's attachment "to the values of openness, of moderation, of tolerance and of dialogue for mutual understanding between all the cultures and the civilizations of the world."

Dr. Thomas, who serves as Director of Curriculum and Institutional Programming at the Brooklyn Music School and is an adjunct Assistant Professor of ethnomusicology and Jewish studies at several campuses of the City University of New York, is the artistic director of the New York Andalus Ensemble -- a large multiethnic ensemble featuring a choir and instrumentalists performing traditional music of North Africa and Spain in Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish. The event was co-sponsored by the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center and Hebrew Language Table.

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Jordana Merran

Ethnomusicologist Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas  presents a lecture on the "Musical Soundscapes of Morocco" at the Library of Congress on Monday, June 6 as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.