Tag Archives: Moroccan music

Artist Profiles: Hassan Hakmoun

Hassan Hakmoun

Hassan Hakmoun was born in Marrakech in 1963. At the age of seven he began to study tagnawit, the Gnawa related arts and lore, under the renowned Hmida Boussou. Starting with a few dances and songs, he gradually moved on to learn drumming, sintir playing ( sintir is a three-stringed long-necked lute), litanies, chants, costume and knowledge of the spirits. Hakmoun began to play for the Derdeba (Gnawa ceremony), which can last from ten in the evening into the next day. It is believed to release spirits that have inhabited a person or place.

At fourteen, Hakmoun left school to pursue a less formal education on the road. He traveled throughout Morocco, Spain and up into France, learning from his experiences and from the Gnawa masters he visited on his journey. Returning to Marrakech, Hakmoun continued to work as a Gnawa, performing as an entertainer on Jamaa el-Fna, the town square and working as a m’allem (master musician) in the Derdeba. Along with other young musicians in Marrakech, he has begun to broaden the repertory of Gnawa entertainment songs by performing Arab and Berber tunes in the Gnawa style.

Whether onstage, or visiting with friends in a small apartment, as Hakmoun sings and plays himself into a trance, people around him seem not too far from a trance-like state themselves. The pentatonic scale and driving rhythm of the Sintir are instantly appealing and familiar to Western audiences; music of the Gnawa, like much American popular music, is built from elements borrowed from West Africa. Clawhammer banjo enthusiasts will also find commonality in the percussive style of plucking the sintir.

Hakmoun made his U.S. debut in 1987 at Lincoln Center and has been living in New York City ever since. He performed at Woodstock ’94 and on the WOMAD ’94 tour. Besides performing traditional Gnawa music he has performed and recorded with jazz musicians such as Don Cherry and Adam Rudolph, pop stars like Peter Gabriel and Paula Cole, and world beat artists like Jamshied Sharifi.

In the year 2000, Hassan moved from New York to Los Angeles. He was romantically involved with pop singer Paula Cole.


Gift of the Gnawa, with Don Cherry & Adam Rudolph (Flying Fish Records, 1992) –
Pieces of Africa (1992)
Trance (Real World Records, 1993)
The Fire Within (Music of the World, 1995)
Black Mud Sound, with Cornelius Claudio Kreusch (Enja, 1995)
Life Around the World (Alula Records, 1999)
The Gift (Triloka, 2002)
Unity (Healing Records, 2014)


Artist Profiles: Amina Alaoui

Amina Alaoui

Amina Alaoui is a scholar of philology, linguistics, and dance, and a prominent exponent of the ancient music style gharnati. She was born in 1964 to a traditional Fassi family, and has pursued an eclectic musical path that lead her to work with musicians from medieval, Persian, and flamenco musical backgrounds. She is accompanied in many of concerts by the ensemble of Ahmed Piro, a native of Rabat who is considered one of the great Arab-Andalusian musicians.

Gharnati (Arabic for Granada) is one of the major Andalusian musical styles, migrated from Granada, Spain, to Morocco in the 15th century. Its roots lie in the diverse music schools of medieval Andalusia, where the Arab-Andalusian musical style originally developed some 800 years earlier. Gharnati was preserved by the Tlemceni families and other communities that fled Spain to settle in several places, Morocco, especially in Fes.

Amina Alaoui


Gharnati: Arab-andalusian Music of Morocco/Musique arabo-andalouse du Maroc (Auvidis Ethnic, 1995)
Alcántara (1998)
Gharnata Soul, Moroccan Court Music (King Records, 2005)
Gharnati: En Concert (Saphrane, 2009)
Siwan, with Jon Balke (ECM, 2009)
Arco Iris (ECM, 2011)


Artist Profiles: B’net Houariyat

B’net Houariyat

B’net Houariyat is formed by five women from the region of Marrakech, singing and dancing to the rhythm of their drums, performing traditional music of the Houara (the region between Taroudant and Tiznit), of the Hammada (plain of the Dra’a), together with Berber dances and urban styles like the Aitci (female seductive appeal) and the Chaabi, popular style that originated Rai music. The image of women as represented by the music of B’net Houariyat reflects the multiple facets of Islam on a daily life and the female condition, above and beyond the stereotypes, with emotion, humor and energy. Among the themes of their songs: the exaltation of love and beautythe cry of the young woman that refuses the combined marriage with a rich old manthe derision of the man that has more wives and that works to maintain themthe ritual dance of the woman possessed by her spiritsthe incitement to the Moroccan football team in occasion of the World Cup 1998the criticism of Bob Marley and pop’s fanaticism.

The group played for the first time out of their traditional context in July 1995, in Milan, at the Festival Notti di San Lorenzo. Since then, B’net Houariyat has numerous international festivals and concert halls.

At the end of the 1990s, there were some changes made to the group by a French promoter that led to conflicts. Two groups ended up touring under similar names: B’net Houariyat and Binet Houariyat. The professional musicians formed a new band called Bnet Marrakech and B’net Houariyat remained with its traditional focus.

B’net Houariyat:

Zahi-a Bani: voice, ta`cuija, tubsil

Khadija Haliba: voice, dance, ta arija, bendir

Malika Rahmi: voice, dance, tara

Sai’da Madrani: voice, d’awd’a Halima Zeiter: voice, dance, naqqiis, triydr


Love Poems of the Women of Southern Morocco (Al Sur, 1995)
Voix Des Femmes De Marrakech (Al Sur, 1997)


Artist Profiles: Bnet Marrakech

Bnet Marrakech

The five women of Bnet Marrakech play the music of both Arabs and Berbers – the original people of Morocco. Invited to sing at births, weddings, and other ritual events within, and outside, their community, they have achieved an independence unusual for women in Islamic societies.

Bnet Marrakech is a spin-off of a previous group called B’net Houariyat, which is still touring with some of the original members.

To the traditional Berber repertoire they have added chaabi (popular urban, with lots of improvisation), Gnawa, and raï (from Algeria) songs. They accompany themselves on ud (Arab lute), kamanjah (Arab violin), guimbri (long-necked lute), darbuka (pottery drum), bendir (frame drum), and taarija (tambourine). Malika Mahjoubi punctuates the music with her energetic dances-be ready for the sudden somersault, or a tray of lighted candles balanced on her head!

B’net Marrakech


Chamaa’a (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2002)
Terres Du Sud: Hallel (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Aisha Kandisha’s Jarring Effects

Aisha Kandisha’s Jarring Effects

Aisha Kandisha’s Jarring Effects, was formed in Marrakech in 1987 by Abdou El Shaheed, Habib El Malak and Pat Jabbar, to develop a Shabee (Popular Moroccan music) dance crossover, influenced by diverse elements such as Gnawa, Reggae, Ragga, HipHop, Ambient, Trance, House, and experimental noises.

The group was named after a spirit from the Moroccan mythology. Aisha Kandisha is a figure in the form of a woman. Legion. Manifold. A Mass Psychosis. Paul Bowles said that she was married 25 years ago to 35,000 men in Morocco. A lot of the people in Ber Rechid – the psychiatric Hospital – are married to her.

In 1988 Cheb My Ahmed, S’Mohamed Kbirr and Cheb Qchatar joined the band and the first recordings were made for the debut album, El Buya. The label Barraka El Farnatsi Productions was started in 1990 to release and distribute the album, which got a surprising positive reaction from all around the globe. During at this time all members were still students and a promoting live presence was not possible, so the work was concentrated on a second album.

In the meantime, an American journalist, whom the band met at Paul Bowles’ home in Tangiers, made contact with Bill Laswell in 1992. Laswell became producer and bassist for Shabeesation, released in 1993. The New York experience, which included jams with Omar Ben Hassan from the ” Last Poets ” and Bernie Worrell from Funkadelic/Parliament, helped the band a lot to get a worldwide response and to find booking agencies for their first Europe tour in 1994. At the same time, Cheb Qchatar (who worked also for Ahlam) left the band and got replaced by 23 year old Cheb Youssef (Rai and Shabee musician) and frontman Amira Saqati. Abdelhadi became the bass player and My Mansour the percussionist.

The new line-up brought a certain penchant for a more synthetic and bass oriented dance sound, but still keeping the traditional basics. The Shabeesation Tour 94/95 was a big succes, with audiences varying from small Jazz Clubs to Open Airs with over 40,000. They all seemed all to be taken by the Marrakshi Jedba Beat. The traditional parts of the set (Bonus Tracks at the end of a show) and tracks 12 and 13 on El Haoua got always an intense reaction and could go on for a half an hour at some shows and the people still wanted more.


El Buya (Barraka El Farnatshi, 1990)
Shabeesation (Barraka El Farnatshi, 1993)
L’Haoua ‎(Barraka El Farnatshi, 1995)
Koyo Habib (Barraka El Farnatshi, 2000)


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)


Artist Profiles: Kol – Tof Duo

Kol – Tof Duo

Kol Tof Trio was formed by three musicians. Three instruments, three native lands, three languages, all gathered in Jerusalem to play the music of Morocco which remembered Spain, which in turn, yearned for Jerusalem.

The trio was born out of deep love and appreciation of the Moroccan Jewish musical traditions, thanks to a special bond between Moroccan born ud player Armand Sabach, singer Esti Kenan Ofri and percussionist Oren Fried. Together they brought a personal and distinctive selection of four different musical repertoires: Spanish women’s songs from northern Morocco, sung in their original language (the Haketia); songs in Jewish Moroccan Arabic dialect; Moroccan Jewish liturgical music; and classical Andalusian songs sung in Arabic.

The Trio won the Israeli Ministry of Culture award for best chamber ensemble 2002, performed at the “Strictly Mundial” festival in Marseilles 2003 and played in various concerts and festivals in Europe and Israel.


Gazzelle (Magda, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Gnawa Diffusion

Gnawa Diffusion

The members of Gnawa Diffusion, who are based in Grenoble in the South East of France, come from a rich mix of musical and cultural backgrounds. Fusing their individual influences into a collective sound, Gnawa Diffusion have woven elements of rap, ragga, jazz, reggae and rai into a vibrant musical patchwork.

The group’s name is a reference to the Gnawa, black Africans who were deported to North Africa in the 16th century by the rulers of Fes and Algiers. While the Gnawa were officially converted to Islam by their new leaders, they continued to worship their own African gods in private.

The way Gnawa Diffusion sees it, this historic tale of people uprooted from their homeland and forced to begin a new life in a foreign land is remarkably similar to the lives of modern-day immigrants growing up in France. Indeed, the group’s lead singer, Amezigh, son of the famous Algerian writer Kateb Yacine, considers himself to be a 20th century version of the Gnawa.

Amezigh, who arrived in France in 1988 at 16, has been closely involved in the struggle to defend immigrants’ rights and abolish racial prejudice. When Amezigh formed Gnawa Diffusion in 1992 he saw the group as an alternative means to get his political message across. Amezigh, Gnawa Diffusion’s lead singer and songwriter, writes his lyrics in three languages, Arabic, French and English.

Gnawa Diffusion started their career in 1993 with the release of a mini 5-track album named “Legitime difference”. Following the release of their CD album the group began to concentrate on their live career, with an extensive tour of France, performing concerts with a host of French stars including FFF, Zebda, Massilia Sound System and Princess Erika.

Gnawa Diffusion’s innovative musical fusion and the hard-hitting lyrics of their protest songs have certainly made them one of the most prominent new groups on the French music scene. The group’s single “Ombre-elle” and their first full album “Algeria” (released in 1997 on GDO) served to increase their popularity – and Gnawa Diffusion’s live shows began to attract an impressive number of fans! When they hit the road for the Chibani tour – Gnawa Diffusion’s personal tribute to the past – the group’s lively on-stage performances attracted huge audiences across the world and led them to play in such places as the Africa Festival in Wurzburg, the Francofolies in la Rochelle, the Berlin Music Fest, Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland, Reading/Leeds festival in the UK, Pirineos Sur Festival in Spain, Rascimus Beat It in Netherlands, Fete des Cent in Belgium, etc.

In January 1999, Gnawa Diffusion returned to the studio to work on their second album “Bab El Oued-Kingston” (which was released in May). The album featured the band’s usual fusion sound, but this time Gnawa Diffusion also began experimenting with traditional music, recording their own innovative version of “Chara’Allah” – a three hundred years old song. Following the release of the album, Gnawa Diffusion went on the road again, kicking off an extensive tour in Toulouse. Before the end of the year, music fans flocked to see the group playing concerts all over Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Gnawa Diffusion also performed at various music festivals throughout the summer of 1999.

Gnawa Diffusion rocketed back into the music news in June 2000 with a new album entitled Bab El Oued 2. At the end of the year the group also headed out to perform a tour in Algeria and flew back there again in 2001 for a mini-series of four dates. Renowned for their energetic live performances, the group returned to the festival circuit in the summer and traveled to such countries as Yemen, Syria, Jordania and Sudan.

After their Algerian tour, following the murderous confrontations in Kabylia, the band released a double live album titled Live DZ – the first live album ever recorded during a tour in Algeria.

in June 2003, the band came back with a new album, Souk System. Sung in French, Arabic and English, the lyrics were more political than in the previous albums. They referred to international news, denouncing as well as satirizing the events. As for the music, it consisted in the usual mixture of reggae and raga muffin, chaabi and Gnawa music. They began another worldwide tour from France to Canada and from Europe to North Africa.


Légitime différence (1993)
Algeria (Melodie, 1997)
Bab el Oued – Kingston (Musisoft, 1999)
Bab el Oued 2
DZ Live (Next Musique, 2002)
Souk System (Warner, 2003)
Fucking Cowboys (D’Jamaz Production, 2007)
Shock El Hal (2012)


Tawassol by Gabacho Maroc Tops the Transglobal World Music Chart Album in March 2018

Gabacho Maroc – Tawassol

Tawassol, the album released by French band Gabacho Maroc is the number one album at the Transglobal World Music Chart in March 2018. The band performs a captivating fusion of North African traditions, jazz and trance music.

Current band members include Hamid Moumen on vocals and guembri; Aziz Fayet on vocals, ud and percussion; Frédéric Faure on African percussion, ngoni and backing vocals; Illyes Ferfera on tenor saxophone and backing vocals; Pierre Cherbero on keyboards and backing vocals; Eric Oxandaburu on bass; and Vincent Thomas on drums.

The album also features Jean-Philippe Rykiel on keyboards; Pascuala Ilabaca on vocals; Ermanno Panta on flute; and Mixel Ducau on alboka and tin whistle.

The rest of the chart:

2. TootArd – Laissez Passer – Glitterbeat
3. El Naán – La Danza de las Semillas – El Naán
4. 3MA: Ballaké Sissoko, Driss El Maloumi, Rajery – Anarouz – Six Degrees
5. Samurai Accordion – Te – Visage Music
6. Monsieur Doumani – Angathin – Monsieur Doumani
7. Boubacar Traoré – Dounia Tabolo – Lusafrica
8. Júlio Pereira – Praça do Comércio – Tradisom
9. Okra Playground – Ääneni Yli Vesien – Nordic Notes
10. Omar Sosa & NDR Bigband – Es:Sensual – Otá

11. Elena Ledda – Làntias – S’ard Music
12. Gaiteiros de Lisboa – A História – Uguru
13. Sara Tavares – Fitxadu – Sony Music Portugal
14. Malagasy Guitar Masters – Volo Hazo – Buda Musique
15. Maya Youssef – Syrian Dreams – Harmonia Mundi
16. L’Alba – A Parulluccia – L’Alba
17. Efrén López, Stelios Petrakis, Bijan Chemirani – Taos – Buda Musique
18. Sinan Cem Eroğlu & Muhlis Berberoğlu – Hemdem – Ahenk Müzik
19. Son Palenque – Kutu Prieta pa Saranguiá – Palenque
20. Toto Bona Lokua – Bondeko – Nø Førmat!


The White Medinas

Carmen París y Nabyla Maan – Dos Medinas Blancas (Fol, 2017)

Dos Medinas Blancas is an album that features two outstanding vocalists, Carmen París (Spain) and Nabyla Maan (Morocco). Carmen is well-known in Spain for her vocals skills and her combinations of Spanish traditional music like jota and flamenco with jazz and world music. She’s also a composer and songwriter. Meanwhile, Nabyla Maan is a young and rising talent with a beautiful voice that brings her Moroccan roots to the mix. Nabyla also composes music and writes her own songs.

The album features songs in Spanish and Arabic, brilliantly fuses the musical influences from the two countries and includes musicians and musical instruments from both cultures.
The lineup includes Carmen París and Nabyla Maan on vocals; Tarik Hilal on Spanish guitar; Mahmoud “Chouki” on mandola, banjo and outar; Peter Oteo on electric bass; Borja Barrueta on drums; and Pablo Martín Jones on pamderos (frame drums), caxixi, darbuka and cajón.

The CD is nicely packaged and includes liner notes in Spanish, English and French.

Dos Medinas Blancas is also a musical project that was co-produced and presented live by two music festivals, L’Boulevard in Morocco and Pirineos Sur in Spain.

Dos Medinas Blancas is a splendid, masterfully performed album that brings together the musics of Spain and Morocco and two of their finest vocalists.




Buy Dos Medinas Blancas