Al-Maghrib, Gnawa music

Sintir Player – Ahmed Bakbou
Marrakesh, Morocco
Produced by David Parsons

1 Ulad Bambara
2 Yobati/Kalkani Bulila
3 ‘Ada
4 Buderbala/Buhala
5 Itchalaba Titara
6 Yomala
7 Mimuna



Ten years in the making, The Music of Islam series recorded in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Qatar represents the most comprehensive sound documentation available to Westerners today, of a world religion dating back to 1/622. Although governed by strict rules for fourteen centuries, contact with other cultures has radically affected Islamic music throughout history. As the world enters the XV/21st century the timing of this collection serves an even larger purpose, documenting the traditions that have survived and will continue to survive for centuries to come. Today, one fifth of the world’s population, one billion people, are Muslims, occupying a large territory stretching from the Atlantic shore of north and west Africa, through west, central, and south Asia to island southeast Asia, and attracting an increasing following in India, western Europe, north America, east Asia, and southern Africa. This is a global presence which cannot be ignored.

This volume features songs from various sections of the lila (music ritual) repertoire of the Gnawa. The Gnawa inhabit the same religious world as Arab Muslim Moroccans, yet find their entry into it via a different path. Instead of reciting prayers in preparation of trance ceremonies, the Gnawa’s authority is invoked by recounting their people’s experience as in Ulad Bambara (track 1). A long suite of songs, it opens with praise to God and the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter Lalla Fatima, but also refers to the Gnawa centers, including Marrakesh, as well as entreat the assembly to make pilgrimage to the local awliya’ saints. Thus establishing the present location in Muslim Morocco, the song moves south and recalls the Gnawa’s lands and people of origin as well as some spirits of West African origin and the abduction and transporting of slaves from the Sudan. The singing ends with the proclamation of faith and gives way to a series of dances. Singing in a call/response style – the lead singer being answered by other members of the group in chorus – the lead singer determines the length of sung portions, while the sintir signals changes in tempos or meter, announces new songs by switching the melody, and signals the ends of songs with cadential cues. The songs are flexible in length, allowing the leader to shorten or lengthen a song to accommodate the needs of dancers in trance.


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