Gnawa is an ancient musical fusion, which originated in North Africa in the 1600’s. At this time, the slaves being brought to the new world were held in port cities along the Moroccan coast. The West African slaves began to blend culture, music, and religion with Arabic and Islamic elements and Gnawa, as a music and Sufi sect, emerged. Gnawa music is a sort of Sufi Blues where the Ma’Alem (teacher) leads the Brotherhood of musicians through call and response songs of prayer for freedom and blessings from the heaven and spirits. The lyrical, soulful vocals combined with infectious rhythms transport the audience into a groove that transcends ordinary reality.
Ma’Alem, Hassan Ben Jaffar, is a traditional Gnawa musician that comes from a long lineage of Gnawa musicians from Fez. See this beautiful video of Hassan Ben Jaffar and Innov Gnawa as they perform my favorite Gnawa Song, Toura Toura.