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Toumani Diabate

Sidiki Diabate

Day Three & Four: Saturday 28/06/08 & Sunday 29/06/08

Click an image to enlarge.

Toumani Diabate, legendary Malian kora player and the 71st generation of kora players in his family performed in Essaouira for the first time on stage with his 15 year old son, Sidiki – already clearly an accomplished kora player in his own right. The musical chemistry between the two was electrifying. Toumani has been playing kora from the age of five, and is recognised as one of the most important musicians in Africa today. He has played and recorded with numerous international artists and performed in over 2000 concerts and over 170 festivals.

Over on the stage at Bab Marrakech Maâlem Hamid El Kasri from Rabat stirred the crowd into a frenzy of dancing and frantic head shaking…. the scene is as close to the performance of a huge rock star as Essaouira gets.

The last performance of the night on the main stage was Malian griot and n’goni player extraordinaire Bassekou Kouyaté, who has played with Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate as well as contributing to Dee Dee Bridgewater’s recent album “Red Earth”. Kouyaté and his band are superb, and at one point perform a storming Chuck Berry style shimmy from one side of the stage to the other, ripping out some West African rock n’ roll on their tiny n’gonis. Kouyate was joined on stage by US saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, who has appeared with various musicians throughout the Festival Each time I saw Shaw perform he seemed to become more relaxed and in tune with the Gnaoua vibe and rhythms.

After the main performances finished, the music continued until dawn, in various small squares where Gnaoua bands play to lively crowds, and act out some of the aspects of the traditional ‘lilas’, or healing trance sessions.

Final show: Sunday 29/06/08

The 11th Essaouira Festival was brought to a close with a wild, joyous performance from Paris-based ‘Orchestra National de Barbes’ (ONB), fusing reggae and sub-Saharan African rhythms with a variety of styles from North Africa. ONB formed in 1996 with the aim of creating an uplifting fusion of the various musical cultures of the band members, yet still retaining aspects of their individual styles. This eclectic group provided an appropriately joyful performance; swapping instruments and musical styles and filling the stage with an infectious energy that sets the whole square on fire.

As the sun set on this years’ Gnaoua festival, I had the sensation of having shared in a piece of unique musical magic that I know will stay with me for a long time.

© Alice Mutasa

Festival Gnaoua patrons

Festival Gnaoua patrons Festival Gnaoua patrons

Festival Gnaoua patrons

Festival Gnaoua  - kids circus Festival Gnaoua patrons


Bassekou Kouyaté

Bassekou Kouyaté

Bassekou Kouyaté

Jaleel Shaw & Bassekou Kouyaté

Bassekou Kouyaté

Orchestra National de Barbes

Orchestra National de Barbes

Orchestra National de Barbes


Click Fermin Juarez's image to go to the Festival Gnaoua. Day1...
Click Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara's image to go to the Festival Gnaoua. Day 2...

Fermin Juarez @ Festival Gnaoua. Day1 (Click to go to this page) Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara @ Festival Gnaoua . Day2 (click to go to this page)

Go back to the Festival Gnaoua Introduction.

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