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Gnawa music rocks Essaouira

07-13-2010 09:13 BJT

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Once a year, the Moroccan port of Essu-WI-rah rocks to the sounds of sub-Saharan Africa. Now in its 13th year, the Gnawa Music Festival has transformed the fortunes of the town and the event itself.

A man dressed in traditional costume spins and dances to a Gnawa beat.

The music echoes the story of their ancestors.

The Gnawa people were brought to Morocco as African slaves.

The double castanets, or Kakabas make the sound of their ancestors' slave chains.

Maalem, or master musician, Mahmoud Guinea explains that the music and religious rituals of the Gnawa brotherhood are their inheritance.

Maalem Mahmoud Guinea, Gnawa musician, said, "You can describe being a Gnawa as inheriting an ancestral art. This is passed through the blood as strongly as if I had learned at my father's knee. In Morocco there are two large extended families who possess the musical skill and the ability to alter consciousness through rituals. The night-time rites take participants into a state of trance and can help cure sicknesses that conventional doctors cannot heal."

The now annual Gnawa World Music Festival breathes energy into the port town of Essaouira, which is home to a large community of Gnawa.
The now annual Gnawa World Music Festival breathes energy into the port town of 
Essaouira, which is home to a large community of Gnawa.

The now annual Gnawa World Music Festival breathes energy into the port town of Essaouira, which is home to a large community of Gnawa.

The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of Moroccans and foreigners to Essaouira.

One of the founders of the festival is the Essaouiran-born Counsellor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco Andre Azoulay.

He says that the festival has increased the town's economic fortunes - with a huge rise in the number of hotels.

Andre Azoulay, festival founder, said, "At the first edition of this festival there were less than ten hotels in Essaouira now we have up to 250 in thirteen years. Can you imagine how many new hotels every year just because of the magic of music."

With the distinctive sound of Gnawa music attracting visitors not only to the staged performances but also to buying CDs of the music to take home, the magic of this religious and musical brotherhood has cast a spell over Essaouira.

Editor:Liu Fang |Source:

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