Malhun, a popular poetic and musical art


Your browser is not supported by this application. Please use recent versions of browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Safari to access 'Dive' interfaces.

Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Académie, Maroc, 2019

Malhun is a popular form of poetic expression in Morocco. The verses are sung in dialectical Arabic and sometimes Hebrew. They are accompanied by music played on traditional instruments, notably the lute, the violin, the rebab and small drums. Popular topics include love, the joys of life, the beauty of people, nature, religious prayer and pleas, pleasure and merrymaking, gastronomy, imaginary journeys, political events and social issues. The poems also convey moral messages and encourage constructive discourse. By combining song, theatrics, metaphor and symbolism in accessible language and a festive atmosphere, malhun unites all Moroccans, regardless of religion. In the past, the practice was transmitted informally, through apprenticeships with vocalists, musicians, transcribers, lyricists and the craftspeople who make the traditional instruments and costumes. Today, it is also transmitted through organizations and music conservatories, as well as through publications containing traditional texts. Enjoyed and performed by people of all genders, malhun has had a considerable impact on Moroccan culture and collective memory for centuries. It is performed in many spaces, from family gatherings to large performance halls and malhun festivals. As a collective art form, it promotes social cohesion and creativity while serving as a historical record of social issues throughout the centuries.