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Groupe Baalil

Maâlem Abdeni El Gadari

Day one: Thursday 26/06/08

Click an image to enlarge.

The 11th edition of the Festival Gnaoua in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast exploded into life; every street and square in the Medina (old town) reverberates with the infectious beats and rhythms of Gnaoua music, punctuated by the sound of the sea; cries of seagulls, and the call to prayer of the Muezzin from the mosques, all of which seem to blend perfectly with the drum beats of the Gnaoua… In addition to the numerous official stages and venues, which host performances from early afternoon throughout most of the night, impromptu jam sessions are happening on almost every street corner; young Moroccans roam the streets singing and playing & there is no corner of the town where music cannot be heard, 24 hours a day.

Almost all of the concerts in the Festival are free, and enthusiastic crowds of all ages and from all walks of life provide a noisy and energetic accompaniment to all the performances. There is an incredibly joyful, and uplifting vibe here; one that reminds me of what music is really all about. Festival Artistic Director Loy Ehrlich describes it as the power of music to transport us to a higher plane of consciousness…

The opening night of the festival was an explosion of colour and movement, with the Troupe Samulmori Molgae from Korea engaging in an energetic ‘dance-off’ with Groupe Baalil, a Gnaoua group from Marrakech. This was followed by Algerian multi-instrumentalist (guitar, mandola & banjo) Abdenour Djemaï, and Maâlem Abdeni El Gadari & his Gnaoua group.

A key feature of the Essaouira festival is its emphasis on collaboration between musicians, and its celebration of the connections between the Gnaoua and other musical traditions from around the world. The invited world artists rarely perform on their own, but are usually joined on stage by a Gnaoua group, and a unique and often improvised musical magic unfolds.

Nowhere was this illustrated more keenly than when Abdenour Djemaï & Maâlem Abdeni El Gadari were joined by Argentinian dancer-musicians Fermin Juarez and Nelson Javier Silva. The ‘Malembo’ rhythms stamped out on the stage by the duo, & their. ‘bombo’ drum beats were accompanied perfectly by the Gnaoua drummers, and suddenly the world seemed smaller. They ended with a spectacular performance using the ‘Boleadores’ – originally used for hunting - a dance involving weighted ropes spun around the head, and pounded on the ground to create a frantic infectious rhythm.

The Trio Joubran from Palestine perform a late night set in Dar Souiri, a traditional Moroccan Riad with cushions on the floor for the audience. The trio are three brothers, who were taught to play the Oud by their father, and are the first and only Oud trio in existence. Their skill is breathtaking, and they perform with an impressive passion and intensity, clearly drawn from their own experiences in their troubled homeland.

© Alice Mutasa

Abdenour Djemai

Fermin Juarez & Nelson Javier Silva

Nelson Javier Silva

Fermin Juarez

Trio Joubran


Click Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara's image to go to the Festival Gnaoua. Day 2...
Click Bassekou Kouyate's image to go to the Festival Gnaoua. Day 3 & 4...

Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara @ Festival Gnaoua. Day 2 (click to go to this page) Bassekou Kouyate @ Festival Gnaoua. Day 3 & 4 (click to go to this page)

Go back to the Festival Gnaoua Introduction.

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