4. Institutional developments since the late
|In 1990, the twenty-fourth year of the
Testour festival, the government took a definitive step
in de-nationalising the maluf. At the initiative of
the Ministry of Culture, the festival ceased to function
as the national competition between amateur regional
ensembles, and the funds formerly allocated to prizes and
jury fees were diverted instead towards the hire of
professional and other specialist ensembles. The Ministry
of Culture had formerly supported an exchange programme
enabling the participation of foreign ensembles; this too
was disbanded, and the local festival committee was
encouraged to seek private sponsorship instead. As a
result, most of the visiting ensembles now come from
Tunis, and many have no particular connection with the
ma'luf. Deprived of the main focus of their efforts and
in numerous cases, the major incentive for their
commitment to the ma'luf, many amateur regional ensembles
have apparently dropped this repertory altogether,
concentrating instead on lucrative dance songs to play at
The CMAM is the home of the National Sound Archive; it hosts exhibitions and promotes research on aspects of Tunisian music, particularly those relating to d'Erlanger's life and work; it produces recordings of the ma'luf and other traditional repertories in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture; and it presents public concerts on themes relating primarily to the ma'luf, and to the achievements of past and present personalities of the Rashidiyya.
In 1988, the award-winning violinist Amina Srarfi, daughter of the eminent composer and lead violinist of the Rashidiyya Kaddur Srarfi (d. 1977), established the first private music conservatory in Tunis. Since then, a plethora of private conservatories have grown up in Tunis and its suburbs. These offer the same basic curriculum, with the maluf at its core, as the state-maintained conservatories; and in many cases, they employ the same teachers as the National Conservatory, but each has its individual character, emphases, teaching methods and specialisations. Running parallel to this development are the private music clubs informal musical gatherings, often attached to private conservatories. The clubs tend to specialise in particular types of repertory and many support a professional ensemble. The most prestigious club for the ma'luf is that of the veteran authority of the ma'luf, 'ud 'arbi player and chorus master of the Rashidiyya, Tahar Gharsa, who co-directs a private conservatory with his son Zied.
In 1992, after several turbulent years marked by leadership crises and financial disputes, the Rashidiyya ensemble acquired a new leadership and a new professional status. Ostensibly in order to raise the standards of the national ensemble for the maluf, the Ministry of Culture provided sufficient funds to appoint Muhammad Belalgia, retired leader of the Radio ensemble, leader of the Rashidiyya, and Tahar Gharsa, its chorus master. The former players, mostly conservatory professors and students, were replaced by professional Radio musicians, effectively transforming the Rashidiyya into a specialist branch of the Radio ensemble. With the ensembles unique history and reputation, and its association with successive generations of legendary figures in Tunisian music, the Rashidiyyas prestige remains undimished. However, while both Gharsa and Belalgia are undisputed authorities, the majority of the player s today have no special relationship with or commitment to the maluf. Originally an association of amateurs and professionals, united in their dedication to the conservation and promotion of traditional Tunisian music, the Rashidiyya is now just another job and the ma'luf just another repertory for a large proportion of its rank and file players.
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