Gnawa

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This article is about the Gnawa people. For the music, see Gnawa music.
Gnawa from Algiers with his guembri (circa 1906) by Jean Geiser (1848-1923).

The Gnawa (or Gnaoua, Ghanawa, Ghanawi, Gnawi) people originated from North and West Africa; to be precise the ancient Ghana Empire of Ouagadougou (present day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Burkino Faso and 85% of Mali (pre Gnawi/Mali Wars)).

This name Gnawa is taken from one of the indigenous languages of the Sahara Desert called Tamazight. The phonology of this term according to the grammatical principles of Tamazight is as follows: Gnawi (singular), Gnawa (collective) and Gnawn (plural rarely used).

The Gnawa are an ethnic group whom, with the passing of time became a part of the Sufi order in Maghreb.

History[edit]

Gnaouas from Oran (Algeria) with their guembri.
Gnawas circa 1920s

The Gnawa population is generally believed to originate from the Sahelian region of West and Central Africa, which had long and extensive trading and political ties with the Maghreb.

While adopting Islam, Gnawa continued to celebrate ritual possession during rituals where they are devoted to the practice of the dances of possession and fright. This rite of possession is called Jedba (Arabic: جدبة‎. Gnawa music mixes classical Islamic Sufism with pre-Islamic African traditions, whether local or sub-Saharan.

Gnawa and music[edit]

Main article: Gnawa music
Gnaoua in a North African Interior

The term Gnawa musicians generally refers to people who also practice healing rituals, with apparent ties to pre-Islamic African animism rites. In Moroccan popular culture, Gnawas, through their ceremonies, are considered to be experts in the magical treatment of scorpion stings and psychic disorders. They heal diseases by the use of colors, condensed cultural imagery, perfumes and fright.

Gnawas play deeply hypnotic trance music, marked by low-toned, rhythmic sintir melodies, call-and-response singing, hand clapping and cymbals called krakeb (plural of karkaba). Gnawa ceremonies use music and dance to evoke ancestral saints who can drive out evil, cure psychological ills, or remedy scorpion stings.

Gnawa music has won an international profile and appeal. Many Western musicians including Bill Laswell, Brian Jones, Randy Weston, Adam Rudolph, Tucker Martine, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, have drawn on and collaborated with Gnawa musicians. Some traditionalists regard modern collaborations as a mixed blessing, leaving or modifying sacred traditions for more explicitly commercial goals. International recording artists such as Hassan Hakmoun have introduced Gnawa music and dance to Western audiences through their recordings and concert performances.

The centre for Gnawa music is Essaouira in the south of Morocco where the Gnaoua World Music Festival is held annually. The Gnawa of Marrakesh hold their annual festival at the sanctuary of Moulay Brahim in the Atlas Mountains. The Gnawa of Khamlia hold their annual festival in August at the village Khamlia in Erg Chebbi.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

On-line sources

Books

  • Bernasek, L & Burger, H. S. (2008) Imazighen!: Beauty and Artisanship in Berber Life, Peabody Museum Press
  • Courtney-Clarke, M & Brooks, G. (1996) Imazighen: The Vanishing Traditions of Berber Women, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, UK
  • El-Ghissassi, H. (2006) Regard sur Le Laroc de Mohamed VI, Michel Lafon
  • Ennaji, M (2005) Multilingualism, Cultural Identity and Education in Morocco, Springer, New York, USA
  • Harris, W. (2003) Morocco that Was, Eland Books, London, UK
  • Hart, D.M. (2000) Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco, Frank Cass Publishers
  • Howe, M (2005) Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges, University of Oxford Press, New York, USA
  • Hoffman, K.E. (2008) We Share Walls: Language, Land, and Gender in Berber Morocco, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Maxwell, G (2000) Lords of the Atlas, Weidenfeld Nicholson Illustrated
  • Maxwell, G (2002) Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893–1956, The Lyons Press
  • McKissack, F. & McKissack, P. (1995) The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa, Henry Holt and Co. LLC
  • Pennell, C.R. (2003) Morocco: From Empire to Independence, OneWorld Publications
  • Pennel, C.R. (2001) Morocco since 1830: A History, NYU Press, USA
  • Porch, D (1983) The Conquest of Morocco - The Bizarre History of France's Last Great Colonial Adventure, the Long Struggle to Subdue a Medieval Kingdom By Intrigue and Force of Arms 1903–1914, Knopf
  • Porch, D, 2nd Ed (2005) The Conquest of the Sahara, Ferrar, Straus & Giroux
  • Rogerson, B & Lavington, S Edited by (2004) Marrakech, The Red City: The City through Writers' Eyes, Sickle Moon Books

External links[edit]