“the Wind girl”, the youngest Ahidous band leader in Morocco

By: Majda Ait Laktaoui

She flies over the wind in her traditional Moroccan selham in subtle moves that fits the echoes of the music rhythms of her folklore performance band of Ahidous, one of the most ancient folklore song arts in the Kingdom of Morocco. 

The young age of Sanaa is very attractive and it could not stop her from starring folklore performances and singing festivals. To date, she has been the first and youngest female who leads an Ahidous band in Morocco.

The Wind girl!

On the stage, the 15-year old Sanaa does not remain motionless but her spirit flies over the Mediterranean-Atlantic heights where her tiny village (Al-Mas) is located. She gets childish feelings of joy and excitement and starts to interact with the audience that showers her with applause and encouragement to keep going.

The folklore art of Ahidous is linked to the Mediterranean-Atlantic region with its mountains, forests, springs, and resorts for years. The traditional Ahidous performance includes songs, dances, rhythms, and impromptu poetry for entertainment and joy. 

The Amazigh girl who studies literature at high school has no plan to give up her passion for the folklore dance. She also aspires for mastering theatre practice and acting. “I am fond of Ahidous performance, which I consider a straight path to art,” she told Tiny Hand.

The young dancer fiercely defends Ahidous performance, which she considers a “forgotten” art that needs to be recognized as a national Amazigh heritage and part of the ancestors’ legacy. 

I am the Maestro!

In Ahidous performance, men stand shoulder to shoulder with women performing dances and body moves together. They are keen to make their performances harmonious with the rhythms of their songs. 

The dancers express their joy at the occasion they are celebrating by moving their shoulders, hands, and legs according to the directions they receive from their leader, who is called “Ar-Rayyis”. The daff (or the bandeir), a kind of frame drum, is the only music instrument used by the band in addition to hand clapping. 

Although the participation of the Amazigh woman in the Ahidous dance performance is important as it reflects the high status of the woman, her role is often restricted to adjusting the dance rhythms by the use of subtle moves with the hands and shoulders. However, Sanaa has been able to break this tradition as she headed to the leadership of the Ahidous band side by side with the Ar-Rais (the maestro) to adjust the rhythm of the performance in terms of the dancers’ moves and stills.

 “I liked to establish the principle of equality within the Ahidous art. Yes, I am the maestro because the woman is capable of leading the Ahidous band although women do not often show interest in such role,” Sanaa told Tiny Hand

Big dreams!

Sanaa’s journey with dance started when she was eleven years old when she attended the wedding ceremony of the Ahidous band leader’s daughter who admired her harmonious dancing and singing performances. He then invited her to join his band and this what happened. 

Sanaa was greatly encouraged by her father and uncle. The maestro remembers her feeling on stage, saying, “I do not feel fear or tension, but rather face the audience with an open heart and interact with them for joy and enjoyment.”

“My fans embrace me with welcome and encouragement every time I take to the stage and they always react positively with me,” Sanaa recalls.

Sanaa always dreams to touch the sky and aspires to complete her study at the Higher Institute of Theater Arts and Cultural Animation. She also thinks of establishing her own Ahidous band when she reaches the legal age of 18 years according to the Moroccan law.

“The number of men will be equal to the number of women and I will lead my band to represent Morocco in the international forums,” said she.