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