Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gnaoua Festival Spreads its Wings

As part of the festivities marking the 20th edition of the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, to be held in Essaouira from June 29 - July 1, the major Gnaoua maalems (leaders) are setting out to conquer American and French audiences

The Gnaoua Festival Tour will take place from March 16 - March 27, 2017 as the initiative of the Yerma Gnaoua Association and the organisers of the Festival.

The Gnaoua Festival Tour will bring together some of the greatest Moroccan Gnaoua maalems with jazz and world music musicians to perform in New York, Washington and Paris.

Gnaoua Musicians: photo Jesse Poe

At each venue well known musicians will join the Gnaoua on stage to merge their musical universes in harmony with the spirit of the festival. “In 20 years, we have come a long way, and we wish to recall to what point, and beyond the cultural dimension, the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival has shown the face of a new Morocco; authentic and modern at the same time, specific and universal, and resolutely African," says Neila Tazi, Producer of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival, and Founding Member and Deputy President of the Yerma Gnaoua Association.

During the tour, the Gnaoua maalems will first perform their traditional repertory, before sharing the stage with internationally renowned artists for collaborative sets. The Gnaoua Festival Tour will start in New York on March 16, 2017 at Lincoln Centre, then will fly to Washington to perform on March 18 at the Kennedy Centre, before travelling back to New York for the last concert at Brooklyn Pioneer Works on March 19. In these concert halls, the Gnaoua maalem Hamid El Kasri and Abdeslam Alikkane will perform alongside Karim Ziad, Will Calhoun, Jamaaledeen Tacuma, Shahin Shahida and Humayun Khan.

Hamid El Kasri : photo Sandy McCutcheon

After the United States, the tour heads to Paris where, on March 27 at the Bataclan,  maalems Mustapha Baqbou and Hassan Boussou will perform along with Tony Allen, Hindi Zahra, Titi Robin, Mehdi Nassouli and Karim Ziad.

The Gnaoua Festival World Tour 2017 is presented by the Yerma Gnaoua Association and The Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival. The tour is made possible thanks to the official sponsorship of OCP, the partnership of TV5MONDE Group, and with the support of the Moroccan Embassies in France and the USA, and the support of Momex.

The Gnaoua fraternity has sprung from populations originating from Black Africa, mainly comprised of slaves and their descendants. Gnaoua are a fraternity practicing ritual possession of a mystical and therapeutic nature which might have been inherited from sub-Saharian animist cults.

Some maalems believe Gnaoua music and rituals share common origins with Voodoo, Cuban Santeria and Brazilian Candomblé. These practices then evolved adapting to their local settings to ensure continuity.

A Gnaoua troup usually consists of master musicians, instrument players (three-string guembri lute, qarqabu metal castanets, tbal drum), fortune-telling therapists (chouwafate), mediums and simple followers. Together they practice a syncretic possession rite (called lila de derdeba), which combines the cultural contributions of Black Africa, the Arab-Muslim civilisation which came from the East as well as the indigenous Amazigh (Berber) cultures. During the lila, the adepts take part in rites of possession.


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