Thanks to a break in the wet weather and a warmer than usual evening the Gnawa layla at Riad Zany was able to take place in perfect conditions. The rare chance to see the old-style Gnawa ritual performed in full was appreciated by both locals and visitors to Fez
As musicologist Christ Witulski explained to the guests, the musician, Malem Aziz wuld Ba Blan, is the sole remaining Gnawi here in Fez who exclusively performs the old local style of Gnawa music. The Gnawa use their music to repair relationships between people and saints or spirits. They move through a series of musical segments, each praising and welcoming a group of these spirits into the ritual space, inciting trance in adepts. The nature of these spirits is the subject of much heated debate, as practitioners and detractors locate them in local Islamic history or sub-Saharan devil worship, respectively. The possessing spirits, grouped and labeled by color, have preferences for specific incenses, songs, and even foods, making the event a sensory and spiritual journey during an evening.
For those who were unable to attend, here is a short photo essay to give you a taste of what was another wonderful musical event at Riad Zany.
|The group leader: Malem Aziz wuld Ba Blan (left)|
|Musicologist Chris Witulski explains the ritual to the audience|
As is the normal practice, the musicians gather in the street where they chant prayers and bless the milk and dates (stuffed with walnuts and sprinkled with rose water) as well as blessing the incense for the ritual.
|Sue Bail from Riad Rcif sprinkles rose water on the musicians as they enter the riad|
Once inside the riad, the music begins with a circumambulation of the fountain. At the same time the audience and guests are offered dates and milk as a form of welcome.
|During the ritual there are various "solo" dances such as the one|
balancing a full bowl on his head while dancing
|An older member of the group dances while burning himself with candles|
Because the ritual takes several hours to perform, there are breaks for min tea and cakes. The audience comprised a wide rang of age groups and nationalities. Present for this ritual were Argentinians, French, German, Dutch, American and Australian visitors as well as local residents and Moroccan families.
|And as usual, the evening ended with dancing|
The View from Fez would like to thank:
Malem Aziz wuld Ba Blan
Chris Witulski - Musiciologist
Phil Murphy - Musicologist
Rachida - Hostess and Couscous preparation
Sue Bail - Rose water and outdoor heating specialist
Photos: Suzanna Clarke, Sandy McCutcheon