Single-stringed gourd instrument played only by Tuareg women reviving an ancient tradition in Algeria

A single-stringed gourd instrument played only by Tuareg women is making a comeback in Algeria, reviving an ancient tradition that was used to chase away evil spirits and heal the sick.

Known as the imzad, the ancestral instrument made from calabashes and animal skins has made a resurgence in recent years after imzad teacher, Khoulene Alamine, in her 80s, set out to teach her art to younger generations in the desert town of Tamanrasset, southern Algeria.

By the early 2000s, only two women in Algeria – one of those being Kholene Alamine – still played the unique instrument crafted out of half a gourd shell covered in animal skin, a wooden handle and a string of horse hair.

In an interview with AFP in 2016, Khoulene Alamine said: “Young people are only interested in the television and telephone these days. When I was younger, I lived in the desert and took the time to learn to play and enjoy the instrument.”

Women in the matriarchal Tuareg communities in the Tassili and Haggar mountains of southern Algeria and nearby desert areas of Mali and Niger have played the instrument for generations. Men and women chant and sing along with the imzad players during performances.

Image Credit: Farouk Batiche/AFP/Getty Images

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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