Jun 06, 2013

Haratin: Drums Of Freedom

The bemdjé is a traditional musical/dancing practice amongst Haratin women of slave descent in Mauritania. Minority Rights Group staff members filmed a bemdjé session on a visit in September 2012.

Below is an article published by Minority Voices:

The singer, who is accompanied by a chorus of drummers, sings about relations between women and men, social relationships, and issues that affect their daily lives. In earlier times, the bemdjé acted as a conduit for Haratin women to exchange often sensitive and personal information on important topics. These were important spaces that allowed Haratin women to freely express themselves.

In the last ten years there has been a growing interest in the bemdjé from white Moor women (the dominant ethnic group in Mauritania), particularly in urban areas. Given the interest and demand, Haratin women are now able to charge for their singing and dancing. The bemdjé has become a professional activity from which they can make a living.

Although Muslim law in Mauritania grants the bemdjé leisure status as it does not consider drums prohibited instruments, it is important to note that in villages where the majority adhere to strict Islamist ideologies, the bemdjé is considered vulgar and is banned.