An evening of Gnawa and Blues music is taking place in Tangier on February 10th at the Ahmed Boukmakh Cultural Centre. Performing will be Maalema Joyce Tape and Maalem Boulkheir El Gourd. According to the organisers Gnawa’n Blues is a chance for the public to “To sing Africa, to dance Africa, to tell stories of Africa … to vibrate to African rhythms with Africa.”
Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd, one of the main ambassadors of Gnawi culture, was born in 1947 in the Kasbah of Tangier. Along with studies, he was introduced to the Gnaoua philosophy. In 1967, Abdellah Boulkhair worked at radio station Voice of America when he met American pianist Randy Weston. In 1992, the two friends realised an old dream by bringing together on the same disc the majority of the old maâlems (master musicians) active in Morocco.
Gnawa (Gnaoua) music is a rich North African repertoire of ancient African Islamic spiritual religious songs and rhythms. Its well-preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is traditionally performed at lila, entire communal nights of celebration dedicated to prayer and healing guided by the Gnawa maalem, and their group of musicians and dancers.
Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan West-Africa, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco and the Béchar Province in southwestern Algeria.