About the city, Culture

Petit précis de la musique et des rituels Gnaoua

Per: Alice JOUNDI  

MUSIC Each year, the Gnaoua festival highlights the musical heritage of a community whose roots draw on ancestral beliefs. History, mystical rituals and instruments of music: small overview of the essentials of Gnawa music.

It all begins with a story between the Morocco and black Africa. The sultan Ahmed El Mansour, returning from an expedition in the Songhai Kingdom (southern Senegal, Chad, Mali) returned to the country at the end of the 16th century its convoy loaded with gold and thousands of slaves, that part will be installed in the region of Mogador. The traditions of these first Gnawa are time involved in the local feature and Berber, influences today found in their music, both Métis and definitively African.

Musicians therapists, organized into brotherhoods, the Gnaoua heal the ills of the body and the spirit night ceremonies, or lila, whose adherents engage in dances of possession to the rhythm of the music and songs. At the crossroads between the pré-islamiste cult of the spirits (djinns) and animist beliefs, the esoteric ritual involves also a Mqadma, Priestess to gifts of clairvoyance and only one capable of designating the useful healing care. The brotherhood of Essaouira is the most active of the country and the only one to have a Zaouiareligious and sanctuary centre: the Zaouia of Sidna Bilal.

Entry in fusion

Announced by drums (ganga), the Maâlem is the master of ceremonies, the preacher in a way, claiming the geniuses in singing and playing the sintir. The central instrument, traditional three-stringed bass, is made in wood of Fig and camel skin. The other musicians, singers and dancers, are in their hands ringing the rattlesnakes, or qraqeb, these double cymbals, which resemble large castanets, which if recognizable metal nagging rhythm dodeliner heads and move the body.

Whether sensitive or not its mystical dimension, traditional music gnaouie refers to the rhythmic roots of blues, rock and soul. Search new "insights" at the end of the 1960s, some like Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin fell under the spell of the music of the gnawa that they will then in some of their compositions. These first mergers were somehow presage of the most beautiful musical encounters which there since 1998 on the stages of the Festival of Essaouira.

For the 2011 Edition, the festival celebrates its origins with a return to the sources and black Africa, somewhat like a message to the elders, the Mystics for the first time, these slaves from Senegal, Mali, Guinea; the "Guinea-aoua" as we say in Arabic...

Text Alice Joundi

Photo DR.

≫ read also: Gnaoua Festival, return to the roots.

≫ find program the 2011 Festival Gnaoua and world music publishing in theagenda of Made in Essaouira.