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Gnaoua Music

Gnaoua Music

Gnaoua music has its origins in sub-saharan Africa. Black slaves from Senegal, Sudan and Ghana, who were taken to Morocco in former centuries brought it here.Their ecstatic dances remind of the voodoo cult. Gnaoua music has a great socio-psychological importance, as it is supposed to heal diseases.In Essaouira the tradition of Gnaoua music dates back to the 16th century, when Sudanese slaves were brought to the Haha territory. This is the first Gnaoua of Essaouira and its language is berber. In 1760, with the construction of the harbour and the medina, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah brought a lot of slaves to Essaouira. Their songs tell about the painful march through the Sahara desert and the sufferings of slavery “Ouled Banbara”. A part of the Gnaoua of Essaouira comes from the Senegalese of the colonial times. In Morocco, a gnaoua group always consists of the master (maâlem) and the musicians. The instruments they use are the guimbri, a long lute with three strings, the qarqba, large, metal castanets and the tabal, a cylindrical, wooden drum. The traditional gnaoua performance is called Lila. It is a strictly organized gnaoua night with traditional meals, dances and of course music. The first part is profan and tells about the history of the ancestors (Oulad Banbara-children of the Banbara), further on, the musicians show their dancing abilities. The second, sacral part of the night tries to set the participants into Trance. Normally a Lila is held with special occasions, but it is also common that a Gnaoua group is invited for a private Lila. The belief in the power of Gnaoua music to heal diseases or to influence fate is still very strong.Since Gnaoua music has got worldwide importance, the style got more free and was often combined with other styles. The music performance and not the “religious” meaning is the most important. Anyway, Gnaoua music has always been a very lively music and seeing a Gnaoua performance is an unforgettable experience.The Gnaoua festival of Essaouira, which this year is from 11th to 17th of June, is maybe the best example for a modern Gnaoua performance, which still holds on tight to its origins. Gnaoua music throughout the year Next to Rue S.M Ben Abdallah in the Medina is a quite common place for Gnaoua musicians. You will see their musical instruments in front of the door. A good deal might also be Bab Doukkala in the afternoon.