Gnawa, A Cross-section of Moroccan Culture
Morocco exhibits its diverse culture and rich history in many ways. This is illustrated on the superficial level in areas such as fashion and the code-switching Moroccan language, combining traditional Berber languages, Arabic, French and English (often in a single sentence). Also in more subtle ways through its delicately spiced food and merging of musical traditions from a wide variety of backgrounds.
The deep history of Moroccan folk music predates Arab times spanning centuries of interacting with other cultures through trade and a maintaining of her people’s own traditions to create musical styles that are unlike anything found elsewhere. Gnawa music is an excellent example of intersecting cultures in Morocco. Beginning in Sub-Saharan Africa, Gnawa combines the beautiful bass tones of the guembri, a guitar-like string instrument, with percussion and trance-inducing chanting.
To get a taste, watch this video with Mahmoud Guinea, widely regarded to be a master of Gnawa, at the Essaouira Gnawa Festival this year.