The songs of Rokba


During the time of warfare between tribes, the Draoua people would celebrate victory with a dance imitating the pounding of the hooves of a horse gearing towards heading into battle. “Rokba” in fact means “knee”, and the music is named after this motion – the lifting of the knee in unison and stomping of the foot. “Draoua” refers broadly to people of the Draa River Valley, diverse in ethnicity and background, but during the time of warfare was an identifier to distinguish the non-Amazigh, non-Aarib, and non-Jewish ethnic groups who settled along the Draa River, working the land to establish and maintain the lush oases and build the magnificent fortified villages (ksour) that would bring nomadic caravans from Timbuktu and beyond for the greater part of the first millenium B.C.E. The descendants of these “Draoua” people are of mixed ethnicity, but have been united culturally by the traditions associated with Rokba music.

Rokba music is no longer performed as wartime music as peace has reigned among the tribal groups in the region for the last several centuries. Rokba music persists however, as a music that is now associated with the ksour of the Draa Valley, performed at weddings and large community events in the squares of each village (ksar). Rokba music has become famous for its long poetic interludes, serving as oral histories of the Draoua people. Within the southern Draa Valley, Rokba music is performed throughout the Fzouata, Ktawa, and M’hamid oases, in villages such as Ksar Timtig, Ksar Talha Beni Mohammed, Ksar M’hamid El Ghizlane, Ksar Oulad M’haya, among many others.

Map of The M'hamid El Ghizlane Oasis

  • Rokba Map

History of Rokba

Rokba history
Rokba musician Mohammed Lghrami introducing Rokba music
The production of traditional Rokba drum Tabal


Music & Lyrics


  • Foolish and avid is the one who thinks life is eternal
  • Where are those who lived before us
  • None of them are here
  • A good advice to one who will enter a dark chamber
  • Wake up at the morning prayer time
  • To do your prayers and kneel to the almighty god
  • Oh God spare us from the burning flames of hell
  • The day when each one would be judged according to his deeds
  • All of you Muslims, give thanks and praise to the Prophet
  • The one who wishes us to be saved and forgiven
  • Having many intentions and expectations I headed to the Alaoui
  • I went to see the sultan of our kingdom, may god protect him
  • He is the guardian of the holy book and its divine words
  • To him we are devoted to fulfill our commitment
  • Being a Mahmoudi myself I have an ardent desire to meet him
  • May the blessings of saints and the mercy of God be upon our sultan
  • And cursed be those who chose to be his enemies.


  • Idiot et avide celui qui crois qu’on vie éternellement
  • Ou sont ceux qui vivait avant vous ?
  • Ils n’y sont plus.
  • Conseil à celui qui rentre à la chambre obscure
  • Réveilles-toi à l’heure de la première prière
  • Pour que tu te prosterne devant dieu.
  • Ô dieu évite nous les flammes de l’enfer
  • Le jour ou chacun est jugé selon ce qu’il a fait
  • Ô musulmans ; Louanges et prières sur le prophète
  • Celui qui nous souhaite grâce et pardon.
  • Chez l’Alaoui je suis venu plein d’intentions
  • Chez le sultan de mon pays que dieu le préserve
  • Il est porteur de livre sacré avec ses mots divins
  • Et auprès de qui nous aspirons tous à s’acquitter
  • Moi-même comme étant M’hmoudi j’ai le désir ardent de le rencontrer.
  • J’implore la bénédiction des saints et la clémence de bon dieu pour le sultan
  • Et gars à ceux qui lui sont ennemis.


The Draoua people have resided with the Draa River Valley for millenia. The Draoua people residing in Ksar Talha in the M’hamid Oasis have performed Rokba music for several generations at least, as the village has the battles that come with time. Ksar Talha still stands, although much of the ksar is badly damaged.

  • Rokba Spaces