Andalusi musical origins at the Moroccan-Algerian frontier

Beyond charter myth

by Jonathan Glasser

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For North African devotees of Andalusi music, the story of the repertoire's origins in al-Andalus (medieval Muslim Spain) and its post-1492 transfer to the Maghreb is a central part of the practice. The Andalusi origin narrative, with its attunement to current needs and projection of present onto past, echoes key aspects of Bronislaw Malinowski's “charter myth” hypothesis. Yet ethnographic investigation in Morocco and Algeria suggests that origin narrative goes beyond instrumental need and projection. Drawing on five case studies, I consider the feedback between origin narrative and the practice that it comments on and emerges from. I offer a rereading of Malinowski's charter myth hypothesis that emphasizes the dynamic, varied, and temporally extended nature of the relationship between practice and commentary on practice.