Fanga & Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa
Fangnawa Experience (Strut Records STRUT096, 2012)
Gnawa music, the Moroccan musical genre with roots in sub-Saharan, has been in the spotlight since the 1960s. Expat writers and rock musicians ‘discovered’ the trance-like properties of this fascinating music style and exposed it to the west. Since then, European, American and African musicians have been mixing Gnawa music with jazz, rock, electronica and West African music. Now comes a remarkable album titled FFangnawa Experience that combines the Gnawa sound and musical instruments with Afrobeat, the musical genre that comes from Nigeria, further south in Africa.
The mix works because Gnawa music’s repetitive trance mode led by the bass lute guimbri (also known as sintir), the iron castanets called karkabas (also spelled qraqab and qaraqab) and chanting blends really well with the jamming nature of Afrobeat.
Fangnawa brings together French Afrobeat collective Fanga and Moroccan master musician Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa. The collaboration has its roots in 2011, when the Détours du Monde festival in Montpelier (France) presented Fanga and maâlem Abdallah Guinéa. “The project appealed to us, especially the trance aspect of both forms,” says Korbo, the Burkina Fasso-born vocalist of Fanga. “Our objective from the sessions was not so much to create an entirely new flow but more to bring the real Gnawa sound to some of our songs – we wanted to make the songs work so neither group’s sound was compromised.”
The album features two vocalists, Korbo and Guinéa. Korbo’s lyrics follow Afrobear tradition by exposing social injustice, while Guinéa showcases his characteristic ‘fusion trance’style through spiritual chants, and the circular rhythms on the gimbri.
Fangnawa Experience is an extraordinarily vibrant album that brings together two great African musical traditions.