AiR Sidi Ali is an artist in residence project that brings a group of creators to the Mouseem ( festival) Sidi Ali in North Morocco in January 2013. Culture Vultures aims at facilitating artists to draw inspiration feeding their art practice. The project offers a rich program of lecturers and interviews so as to gain a deeper insight and broader understanding of pilgrimage, ceremonies, trance healing, offerings to saints and jinns.
One of the main elements of the Sidi Ali Mouseem is the ceremonies in homage to the saint Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch. The Hamadcha brotherhood play a principle role in this worship.
Along with the Gnawa and the Aïssawa, the Hamadcha are one of the three most important so-called ‘popular’ Sufi brotherhoods in Morocco. The Hamadcha brotherhood was founded by Saint Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch in the seventeenth century, and has become famous through the originality of its repertoire, its spellbinding dances, and the trance-therapy skills of its members.
The Hamadcha’s rhythmic and melodic modes are extremely complex, and like their musical instruments, are found only within the brotherhood. A large part of the repertoire of the Gnawa and the Aïssawa is borrowed from the Hamadcha and is named “El Hamdouchiyya”. This amazing music is played during a ritual that dates back several centuries which mixes praise to the founding Saint and trance.
The Hamadcha ritual, like that of the Gnawa, has a therapeutic function. The Hamadcha were for a long time regarded as expert therapists, and Moroccans looked to them for help because of their knowledge of “medicine of the mind”.
Like all Muslim brotherhoods, the Hamadcha are subdivided into separate groups proper to each town or region. The groups are affiliated with Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch and his descendants. During the moussem, which takes place every year, they gather at the tomb of the Saint in the region of Meknès.
Because of the modernization of Morocco, the future of traditional practices is uncertain, and the Hamadcha, as well as the other brotherhoods, are in danger of disappearing.
This article is reprinted with permission from www.hamadcha-fez.com