Public Programs And Events

The Ganawa: Abdellah El Gourd and Randy Weston Present the Traditional Music of Morocco

The Ganawa: Abdellah El Gourd and Randy Weston Present the Traditional Music of Morocco

John L. Tishman Auditorium, University Center
General Public 

The Ganawa in Morocco, like African-Americans in the United States, were taken as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa and developed a unique and very spiritual music and culture. On October 13, Abdellah El Gourd will talk about and demonstrate aspects of traditional Ganawan music, and New School Jazz Artist-In-Residence Randy Weston will consider how this traditional music influences his own music. They will also perform together, along with Dar Gnawa of Tanger, a group of traditional Moroccan musicians led by El Gourd. 

Ganawa 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. 

The music is characterized by instrumentation. The large heavy iron castanets known as qraqab (or krakebs, large iron castanets; Ar. قراقب) and a three-string lute known commonly as a gimbri are central to Gnawa music. The rhythms of the Ganawa, like their instrumentations, are distinctive. 

The melodic language of the stringed instrument is closely related to their vocal music and to their speech patterns, as is the case in much African music. It is a language that emphasizes on the tonic and fifth, with quavering pitch-play, especially pitch-flattening, around the third, the fifth, and sometimes the seventh. This is the language of the blues.

"The term Ganawa has three important meanings. First, it refers to black people who were enslaved in West Africa. It is commonly believed that Gnawa of Morocco were originally black slaves [and who also served as soliders] and who over time had become free under various historical circumstances.

These enslaved groups were called “Gnawa"...there is also some historical evidence that a large enslaved population came from the great market of Djenne in Mali, and that Gnawi is a slight deformation of Jennawi. The term Gnawa is thus a color designation. It historically means “the black people.”

Second, it defines both a religious/spiritual order of a traditionally Black Muslim group. The Gnawa are traditionally a mystic order which marks their exclusiveness within Islam and the religious and spiritual components of Gnawa practice incorporates references to their origin and their enslavement.

Third, it denotes the style of music associated with this order. The ancestral memory (turath) of the displaced and enslaved people that were brought to Morocco is preserved mainly in their songs and dances." --Dr. Chouki El Hamel

This program is part of the Randy Weston Artist-In-Residency series at The New School for Jazz. 

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