Gnawa’s Time Is Now

Become entranced by the hypnotic sound of Gnawa.

Gnaoua Festival Opening Parade. Photo by Sabir El Mouakil

Can’t make it to Morocco for the annual momentous Gnaoua and World Music Festival this summer? Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has teamed up with the School of Jazz at the New School, the Kennedy Center, and Pioneer Works to bring the celebration Stateside as the festival rings in its 20th anniversary. In addition to being a musical style, Gnawa refers to a group of people who hail from sub-Saharan Africa and came to Morocco as slaves and soldiers. The key sounds of this hypnotic trance music are the guembri, a lutelike bass instrument; iron castanets called qraqebs; and hauntingly beautiful vocal chanting. The music is experiencing a revival in Morocco and now here in NYC, thanks in part to the Brooklyn-born ensemble Innov Gnawa, led by Maalem (master) Hassan Ben Jaafer, the only master of Gnawa this side of the Atlantic. The kickoff show at Lincoln Center will feature Jaafer alongside Maâlem Hamid El Kasri and Mâalem Abdeslam Alikkane. Other concerts in this tour include a more sacred night of Gnawa with Alikkane and a Gnaoua et Jazz show at Pioneer Works on March 19, with jazz virtuosos Will Calhoun, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Marc Cary, and Marcus Strickland.

Why You Should Go: To be hypnotized by a whole new (to us) genre of music. There will also be a panel/performance on March 20 at the New School for anyone who wants to learn more about Gnawa.

Gnaoua Festival Tour 2017
David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
61 West 62nd Street (between Columbus Avenue and Broadway)
March 16, 7:30 p.m.

View the full tour schedule here. And for a preshow Mediterranean feast, our planners know just the place: