Artist Profiles: El Houssaine Kili

El Houssaine Kili

El Houssaine Kili grew up in Morocco with Arab folk music, Berber songs and American Pop songs, which he became familiar with over the radio. As a bass guitarist, Kili played with his first band all over Morocco. In 1977 a very coincidental, but nevertheless momentous, encounter between two men took place in one of the streets of Agadir: Kili met Christian Burchard of the German Jazz-Rock band Embryo. Three years later, Embryo and Kili’s band toured together in Morocco.

Invited by German word music band Dissidenten, Kili traveled Germany in 1984 and toured with them in the USA and Europe. After having worked on the release of three Dissidenten LPs as musician, composer, writer, singer and arranger, Kili left the group in 1988 and started working on a solo project.

It could be said that Kili lives with one leg in Morocco and one in Germany. The roots of Kili’s music are to be found in the Gnawa culture of southern Morocco. The Gnawas, descendants of black slaves from Guinea and Mali, play their music to ceremonies, in which appear ghosts and demons with healing powers. In respect to sequential order, musical content and many other details they appear much akin to many Afro-American syncretic religions like candomble, santeria or vodou.

Kili’s music is based on traditional Gnawa rhythms combined with new lyrics and modern Pop arrangements. The guimbri (also known as sintir) is the main instrument of the Gnawas and forms a central part of Kili’s musical work.


Embryo Feat. Yoruba Dun Dun Orchestra* & El Hussaine Kili – Jazzbühne Berlin ’89 (Amiga, 1989)
Safran ‎(Tropical, 1999)
Mountain To Mohamed ‎(Tropical Music, 2001)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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