Mauritania (Fr. République Islamique Arabe et Africaine de Mauritanie)
- Michel Guignard
- and Christian Poché
(Fr. République Islamique Arabe et Africaine de Mauritanie)
Country in West Africa. The former French colony, which achieved independence in 1960, has an area of 1,030,700 km². The population of 2·58 million (2000 estimate) is composed of several peoples, most of whom are Arab-speaking Moors (Maures). These Moors, who call themselves the Beni Hasan, are mostly nomadic, descendants of Berbers who in the 11th century founded the Almoravide dynasty in Morocco, of Bedouin Arabs who arrived at a later date and of Africans. In the south, the Moors live in contact with sedentary settlements of Wolof from Senegal and Mbara (Bambara) from Mali, as well as with two other Mauritanian peoples, the Tukulor or Toucouleur (FulBe/Fulani group) and the Soninke (Sarakole).
Each of these peoples is subdivided into hierarchical castes, each caste often having its own characteristic musical activities. The common religion is Islam, which generally regards secular music, especially music for string instruments, as a somewhat disreputable form of entertainment. Nevertheless, hereditary classes of ...