Friday, 25 July 2008

Rebabs, Flutes and the Gembri

The Guembri

This my friends is the guembri....used by Gnawa musicians here in Essaouria.  It's a deep three stringed wooden bass, in the lute family.  Fretless, with a long, cyndrical neck and soundbox, covered with mainly goat skin.  

Gnawa music is a mystical music, brought to Morocco by Sub-Saharan Africans, it later became part of Moroccan tradition.  The ritual of the gnawa follows rules that are part of the muslim Sufi tradition and part of African animistic tradition, similar to traditions found in African diaspora in Brazil, Cuba and Haiti.  The centre of the ritual is the so-called "leelah" (the night) also called "derdeba", the night of trance.  On these nights the seven spirits are evoked through around 100 chants.  There are many leelahs held in the spiritual community, in the Muslim month of Sha'aban, just before Ramadan.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Salam Alaykum...Peace be Upon You

I wish you a good evening and welcome to Essaouria, my home town on the Atlantic Moroccan coast; a fabled magical town that linked Timbuktu to Europe and home of the
 G-nawa brotherhood, of mystic musicians.  

When I speak about G-nawa, I am talking about both the music and the musicians.  

Ancestry traced
Sub-Saharan Africa
from Ghana or Guinea
dragged to Morocco as

spiritual descent from Bilal
an Ethiopian slave
suffering before
the Prophet's first

                                                              Gnawa is just
                                                               drum and bass
                                                              The gembri
                                                              a long-necked lute
                                                              a fat bass
                                                              accompanied by
                                                              castanets, the

                                                           Repetitive and hypnotic
                                                          all night healing ritual
                                                          in trance and possession
                                                          Leila - arabic for night
                                                          we play until we feel the color of
                                                         the spirits or djinns,
                                                          seven djinns: seven colors

                                                          Pains of exile
                                                         no beginning, middle
                                                          or end
                                                         one continuum of G-nawa
                                                          sound and rhythm.

                                                        Marhaba - Welcome