Moore:Music ®

Witch Cross • BC Sweet • Gonads • Christie

Gnawa (Gnaoua) – Music of Morocco

Every year, on the Northwest African Atlantic coast, in a cool little Moroccan town called Essaouira, the Gnaoua World Music Festival is held. It creates a fabulous melting pot of fusion for musicians from all cultures, to mix with the mystical gnaoua, or gnawa, musicians of Morocco.

Gnawa music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African,Berber, and Sufi religious songs and rhythms. It combines music and amazing acrobatic dancing. The music is both a prayer and a celebration of life. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa, and specifically, the Western Sahel, its practice is concentrated in North Africa, mainly South-western Algeria and of course, Morocco.

The music is almost trance-like, with very repetitive lyrics, and some songs can last up to several hours.  It largely emphasises the tonic and the fifth, and the pitch play, and especially the flattening, around the third and fifth, is clearly the language of the blues.

Central to this fascinating music are the two main instruments. The Qraqab, which are large metal castanet-like percussion instruments, usually played furiously when the dancing and twirling begins, and The Hajhuj, which is a three string instrument, a direct ancestor of the Banjo.

They are harder to play than they look, requiring a sort of ‘claw’ posture from the hand to pluck and bounce off the animal skin soundbox.

We spent a few days in Essaouira, sadly not at festival time, but I met a young guy who made Hajhuj’s, and very beautiful they were too. Luggage restrictions made it impossible to take one home, but when we go over with the Motorhome or car next year, you can be sure one will be heading for my studio!

We managed to hear some real-live Gwana too, as we went for mint tea and couscous in a restaurant in the heart of the Medina, a Gwana trio entertained us with some mesmerising music and dancing. The next Essaouria World music festival is on June 24th 2012.

Kev Moore

December 30, 2011 - Posted by | blues, Music, Recording, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for your nice comment with Felix Mauyé Rodriguez, I posted the song!

    Comment by xandimusic | January 1, 2012

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