I recently returned from the coastal little town of Essaouira in Morocco, where the world-renowned 12th Festival of Gnaoua Music took place from June 25 to 28. This is an annual event, religiously attended by fans of international and African music since it’s the venue of many world-class musical groups, generally from Africa, Europe and the Americas. To me, the attraction was to photograph the exotic Gnaoua musicians during their performances, as I had heard they had small–almost private–seances in various parts of the little medina in the very heart of Essaouira.
Gnaoua (sometimes also spelled Gnawa) music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber, and Arabic Islamic religious songs and rhythms, and it combines music and acrobatic dancing. Aurally and historically, its main influence is traced back to sub-Saharan Africa, but its current practice is concentrated in north Africa, mainly Morocco and Algeria. However, I have discerned similarities between Gnaoua music and folk songs from Sudan, so perhaps its influence extends even further. (more…)