Each year, the beautiful city of Mogador devotes its maze of streets, lovely beaches, and vibrant public squares to music. In just a few years the city has become Morocco’s answer to Woodstock.
Colourful and exciting nights to soothe the spirit, thousands of music lovers swaying to the music in a convivial and intimate atmosphere – this is the city during the Festival! It’s above all an ambiance. No setting is so conducive to listening and letting oneself go. In Essaouira the maalems feel at home, their chants and laments were born in this land open to the cultures of the world. In Essaouira the musicians excel in virtuosity, inventiveness and flair. They call upon the spirits, and with them all is possible !
When their magic begins, even the most reserved onlookers start moving to the rhythm and let themselves go. The « enchantment » of the Gnaoua and World Music Festival is at work. Musical encounters are renewed – attracting, astonishing.
2011 marked the opening of a new venue, the Bastion at Bab Marrakech. Following the success of the 1999 exhibition organised for the festival and curated by Nawal Slaoui, the ground floor of the Bastion has become Essaouira’s latest exhibition space. On the initiative of the festival organisers, the idea of the restoration of this 19th century edifice was discussed, in particular the upper floor and terrace in order to make an outdoor stage with a seating capacity of 650. Carried out jointly by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Essaouira, the renovationof the Bastion injects a breath of new life into the bastion, and the city benefits from an entertainment space worthy of its prestigious image.
Gnawa music is a rich repertoire of ancient African Islamic spiritual religious songs and rhythms. Its well preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is performed at ‘Lila’s’, entire communal nights of celebration, dedicated to prayer and healing, guided by the Gnawa Maalem and his group of musicians and dancers. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan West-Africa, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco and the Béchar Province in South-western Algeria.
Gnawa music is one of the major musical currents in Morocco. Moroccans overwhelmingly love Gnawa music and Gnawas ‘Maalems’ are highly respected, and enjoy an aura of musical stardom.