Saturday, June 30, 2012

Festival d'Essaouira

Last weekend the 15th Gnawa Festival in Essaouira was held. The festival usually features a number of ad-hoc collaborations between Gnawa groups and European or American musicians, usually jazz musicians. Sometimes these collaborations produced interesting textures (Mustapha Baqbou at the 2000 festival proved that Gnawa rock could pump up arena-sized crowds). Sometimes they produced train wrecks - Gnawa musicians don't necessarily understand jazz, and jazz musicians don't necessarily understand Gnawa music, so there is often much stepping on one another's musical toes.

I have a few tapes and CDs labeled "Festival d'Essaouira" from prior to 2003, but they are merely pirate mixtapes of tracks from Orchestre National de Barbes, Gnawa Diffusion and other artists. This CD is the earliest one I've seen that appears to be an official compilation of performances recorded on the festival stage. I've seen 2 editions of this disc, one with a 2003 date and one (pictured here) with a 2004 date.

This CD culls some pretty good performances from the festival stage. I believe the performances took place in either 2002 or 2003. It was around this time that drummer Karim Ziad began his artistic involvement with the festival, and his group Ifrikiya plays on several of these tracks. If you like the way fusion jazz and Gnawa sound together, this is a pretty good set. Also includes Amadou & Maryam on a couple tracks, some Houariyat fusion (!?) and a nice trad piece by an Algerian group, Ouled Sidna Bilal.

1)  Sadati Manayo - Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa & Band
2)  La Illaha Illa Allah - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band + Louis Bertignac
3)  Samaoui - Maâlem Hamid El Kasri & Band
4)  Laribi - Maâlem Abdelkebir Merchane & Band
5)  Dawi - Ouled Sidna Bilal
6)  Hamdouchia - Maâlem Hamid El Kasri & Band
7)  Baba El Arabi - Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa & Band

8)  Hamouda - Ifrikya, Maâlem Abdelkébir Merchane, Maâlem Abdeslam Alikane
9)  Moul Hkaim - Bnet Houariyat & Ifrikya
10) Dek Illalane - Amadou & Maryam & Hamid El Kasri
11) Bayerma - Maâlem Hamida Boussou & Band
12) Ouled Bambara - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band
13) Al Adda - Maâlem Mustapha Bakbou & Band

Dig it here.


  1. Coolest thang, Thanks, Tim.

    Pass the news, everyone.

    F.n.: A huge, unbelievably-detailed post is coming on the subject of Gnawa very very soon. I wanted it to commemorate the Essaouria Festival, but gah! way passed by the 21-24, June mark. It's already July, 'ere.


  2. Me too - I wanted this up last weekend, but... Well, it's still June here!

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