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World Music CD Reviews Africa

WORLD OF GNAWA

By Bruce Carnevale
Published June 22, 2006

Rounder

The Moroccan Gnawa descend from black slaves of deeper Africa, likely Mali. Their music is trance-like and is used to appease the good spirits and drive out the bad. In other words, they are medicine-men and tourist attractions in, for example, Marrakech. Their instrumentation couldn't be simpler: often only two metal castanets, the qareqeb, and two bass drums, the tabi. Occasionally a three-stringed lute, the guinbri or sintir, and voices add melody. The music is very repetitious, the qareqeb giving the music almost a galloping-like sound, as does the clapping. The voices call and respond. If you cannot take part in the ritual, why listen to two CDs of original trance music? Even without the original context, we can still enjoy this, but like just like the length of the spiritual sessions, sometimes lasting several nights, the music needs time to sink in: the repetitions slowly filter into the mind. It’s for those with patience, and the informative 38-page booklet is worth its weight in gold. The World is wide ranging and an excellent place to start exploring, but comparatively Ocora's field recording, Hadra des Gnaoua d”Essaouira, bites more dangerously.