Tag Archives: Moroccan music

Artist Profiles: Oudaden

Oudaden at Rainforest World Music Festival- Photo by Suchens, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Oudaden, one of Morocco’s mythical groups of the last twenty years, draws its inspiration from traditional Amazigh (Berber) music. The group is passionately devoted to its roots, which they update into a lively music that enjoys the support of North African audiences since its early days, while more and more international sspectatoraudiences rapidly become enthusiastic.


Oudaden at Rainforest World Music Festival- Photo by Suchens, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board


Their music is an innovative mix of traditional bendir and nakus sounds; these traditional Amazigh instruments they combine with modern ones including banjo, electric guitar and tam-tam. In their universal lyrics they explore the subtleties of love as well as the economic and social difficulties of their region, being the spokespersons of Amazigh culture.

After several successful tours in the United States of America and in Europe, especially on the stages of Bercy and the Zenith in Paris, and 14 albums contributing to the revival of Amazigh songs, the group has attracted the attention of international media and world music professionals.



Partial Discography

* Tafokt Ortbadlt
* Intlk Ayadil Ifr
* Empreinte (Buda Musique, 2011)
* Mayna (2012)


Artist Profiles: Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa

Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa

Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa is descended from an acclaimed family of artists. His father, Boubker Guinéa, is considered as one of Morocco’s greatest of all maâlems. Guinéa began playing the guimbri at age 12, and became a full maâlem and master musician at age 16.

Together with with his band, Nasse Ejadba, he quickly developed his own musical style, somewhere between traditional and modern Gnawa, which he calls “Fusion Trance.” As well as guimbri, Guinéa plays guitar, banjo and mandolin and has continued the progression of his music by introducing Western sounds into the mix, building a musical bridge between different musical styles.

In 2012, Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa released Fangnawa, a collaboration with French Afrobeat group Fanga. The collaboration had its roots in 2011, when the Détours du Monde festival in Montpelier (France) presented Fanga and maâlem Abdallah Guinéa.


Fangnawa (Strut Records STRUT096, 2012)


Artist Profiles: Dissidenten


Uve Müllrich, Marlon Klein and Friedo Josch founded Dissidenten in Berlin, Germany, in 1980.

Following a one-year tour of Asia, the group decided to move from Berlin to India. Upon invitation from Maharaja Bhalkrishna Bharti of Gondagaon they spent a year at his palace in Madja Pradesh in central India. There, Dissidenten’s first album Germanistan was written in collaboration with the Karnataka College Of Percussion and the female singer Ramamani from Bangalore.

This project with the American saxophonist Charlie Mariano received attention far beyond the borders of India. Performances at a series of the most prestigious festivals in the world followed.

In 1983, after a tour of North Africa, the group set up camp in Tangier, Morocco. The American composer and author Paul Bowles introduced them to many Moroccan musicians.

The Dissidenten studio was established at the Sultan’s Palace in Tangier with the help of Abdessalam Akaaboune, one of the most influential powers behind the Arabic music scene. (The Rolling Stones work at his place since the days of Brian Jones). Dissidenten’s second album Sahara Elektrik was produced at his palace.

The track ‘Fata Morgana’ took off in Spain, South America and Italy and became a top dance-floor hit in 1985. Over 250,000 Spaniards saw and heard the band during a three-week-tour alone.

After the British DJ John Peel repeatedly featured the group in England, the euphoria that had originally started in southern Europe spread via England to North America, especially Canada. Sahara Elektrik made the top of the Canadian Independent Charts. A European tour followed.

In 1986, having established themselves as intercontinental contemporary world music pioneers with a worldwide reputation, Dissidenten moved back to Tangier to concentrate on film-scores to relax from extensive touring.

Unfortunately their success in the Arab World soon took such psychotic dimensions that they decided to shift their headquarters to Madrid, Spain to record the album Life at the Pyramids.

In 1987/88 they played the most important cities in Canada and the United States of America. Their final breakthrough came with their concert at the opening gala of the New Music Seminar in the New York Palladium.

During 1989, Dissidenten worked in Morocco, India, the United States of America and Spain on their album Out of this World released worldwide by Sire/Warner Brothers in New York.

Some of the most prominent North African musicians collaborated in the recording-sessions. Besides the string section of the Royal National Orchestra of Morocco, the album also features Cherif Lamrani and Mahmoud Saadi, members of the legendary groups Lem Chaheb, Jil Jilala and Nass El Ghiwane.

in 1990, after nearly a decade absence, Dissidenten’s home-base was moved back to Berlin. From there, they set out to promote Out of this World with concerts around the world. In Canada they started filming and recording for a project involving Native American music.

The album Live in New York was released in 1991, recorded live during their legendary concert at the Opening Gala of the New Music Seminar in New York’s Palladium. The rest of the year the group spent recording in Canada.

The year 1992 finds Dissidenten traveling between Berlin, Mumbai Bombay and Bangalore in South India to complete works on the album The Jungle Book which brought back many friends from their first Indian works in the early 1980s. Many of them have become renowned artists of their own, like Trilok Gurtu or Ramesh Shotham of the group Oregon.

The Jungle Book was released worldwide in 1993 and Dissidenten toured to promote the album around the globe. Top European radio DJ’s voted the album into second place amongst 800 productions in their annual World Music Charts Europe.

In 1994 Dissidenten topped various dance charts around the world – this time not their own production but through the Rave-remixes of Germany’s techno-Guru Sven Väth. This was the ideal opener for the world tour which lasted into 1995.

The rest of this year and 1996 the group spent traveling between recording studios from Los Angeles, Maui, Hawaii (where drummer Marlon Klein produced an album for Gary Wright and George Harrisson), Casablanca and Bombay where Uve Müllrich worked on soundtracks for Hindi Movies, while Friedo Josch was turning the knobs in native Berlin.

The resulting album, Instinctive Traveler , was released in 1997. More than forty musicians were involved in the production of Instinctive Traveler. The most outstanding discovery is the voice of BAJKA, then 18 year old daughter of Dissidenten bassist Uve Müllrich. No real surprise for insiders, Bajka, born in Dissidenten’s founding-place at the maharaja’s palace in Central India, spent most of her lifetime traveling with the group around the world and therefore knew the clues of Dissidenten.

After Bajka left the band to work on her own projects, Izaline Calister of Curacao, former singer of Holland`s world fusion pioneers Pili-Pili, joined the group.

The rest of the year Dissidenten spend touring around the world, mainly playing Festivals in Europe. Amongst them the prestigious Stuttgart Jazzopen Festival in Germany, Festa De La Diversidad in Barcelona (Spain) and the Leverkusen Jazztage in Germany.

During 1998 the band made occasional appearances at various festivals around the world- among them a concert at the Glastonbury Festival in England, the World Roots Festival in Amsterdam and the famous Enzimi Festival in Rome and the Sunsplash Festival in Leverkusen, Germany.

As a result of all these concerts, in November 1998 the album “Live In New York” was published, featuring long-time Dissident and American jazz legend Charlie Mariano on saxophone.

The turn of the year Dissidenten’s Müllrich and Klein spent in India and Brazil, preparing new projects for their label Exil Musik.

Marlon Klein produced the album Ten. A project of the Spanish composer Tomas San Miguel with the chalaparta and the 40 member Basque choir Coro Samaniego.

In 1999 Dissidenten played at various festivals around Europe, amongst them the Tollwood-Festival in Munich, Germany, the Montreux jazz-festival and another appearance at the Jazz-World-Stage in Glastonbury, England.

Marlon Klein was invited by jazz keyboardist Jasper van’t Hof to South Africa. In Durban he recorded the Zulu Choir Phikelela Sakhula and the Real Happy Singers and produced the Pili-Pili album Love Letter.

In 2000 Dissidenten took a new step into another musical world. Together with 70 year-old classical American composer Gordon Sherwood they worked on an opera about the river Danube, performed together with various classical orchestras in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine in 2000.



Sahara Elektrik (Exil, 1990)

Life At The Pyramids (Exil, 1990)

Out Of This World (Sire / Warner Bros., 1990)

Live In New York (Exil, 1991)

Germanistan (Exil, 1992)

The Jungle Book (Exil, 1993)

Love Supreme Remix (Exil, 1994)

Mixed Up Jungle (Exil, 1996)

Instinctive Traveler (Exil, 1997)

Live In Europe (Exil, 1998)

2001, a Worldbeat Odyssey (Exil, 2001)

Tanger Sessions (Exil, 2008)

Web site: /www.dissidenten.com


Artist Profiles: Abdeljalil Kodssi

Abdeljalil Kodssi
Abdeljalil Kodssi

In 1980 Abdeljalil Kodssi recorded his first album with the group Mlouk el Hawa, followed by four more in the following four years. Until that moment, despite coming from a musical family, he had worked as a barber, playing in his spare time in his hometown of Marrakech. He met a famous Spanish writer, Juan Goytisolo, at his barbershop. Goytisolo fell in love with the group’s music and took them to Spain to accompany his book presentations. Through Goytisolo, Kodssi met Spanish rock musician Miguel Rios, who became involved in the project.

Kodssi’s time in Spain led to performances in Madrid, Barcelona, Salamanca, Valencia, etc. A fortuitous meeting with the folk group Al-Tall facilitated Mlouk el Hawa’s entry into France, with a concert in Marseilles.

In 1986 Mlouk el Hawa was invited for the second time to Valencia’s Troubadour Festival. The group recorded an album with Aktal: Chirk el andalus, as well as another of their own : Goman el frek. More tours followed throughout Spain and Morocco.

Kodssi met Hassan Hakmoun in 1987. Hakmoun is a famous Moroccan Gnawa musician, who has worked with Peter Gabriel and Don Cherry. Kodssi collaborated with Hassan Hakmoun and Don Cherry until Cherry’s death in 1995.

In 1990 Kodssi joined Nass Marrakech and participated in the group’s album, with contributions from Goytisolo. The following year, Nass Marrakech performed at Barcelona’s Grec Festival and decided to make this city their permanent base. For the neat years, Kodssi worked with Nass Marrakesh, Ektal and Javier Mas.

Abdeljalil Kodssi recorded Tamiz with Javier Mas and Jordi Rallo in 2000. That same year, he met Cuban musician Omar Sosa at the WOMEX conference in Berlin.

The year 2001 saw the release of Nass Marrakesh’s Bounderbala, featuring contributions from Omar Sosa and Jorge Pardo.

Kodssi’s first solo album Mimoun, produced by Omar Sosa for Ventilador Music, was released in 2002. A new solo album titled Oulad Fulani Ganga came out in 2007.


Gnawa Music

Gnawa Sidi Mimoun

Gnawa is a term used to define both a Moroccan music style and a Muslim religious brotherhood that invokes God and many prophets. The patron saint of the Gnawa is Bilal al Habashi, an Ethiopian who was the first African to convert to Islam and Prophet Mohamed’s first muezzin (caller to prayer). The Gnawa also recognize and respect all Muslim saints.

The origin of Gnawa music originally comes from West Africa, south of the Sahara. Over 500 years ago, slavery, conscription and trade brought people from West Africa to the Magreb in North Africa, which is current Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania. When they arrived to the north, the sub-Saharan Africans brought their music with them which was called Gnawa. Since these different groups all played the same type of music, they call themselves the Gnawa people.

Gnawa song texts contain many references to the privations of exile and slavery. Gnawa music is based on pentatonic melodies and the syncopated rhythms led by the propulsive drive of a bass lute called guimbri or sintir, metal castanets known as karkabas (also known as k’rkbs and qaraqeb) and chanting.

Mehdi Nassouli – Photo by Angel Romero, 2019

The Gnawa as entertainers

The Gnawa are most visible as entertainers. Each afternoon on Jamaa el-Fna, the large entertainment town square in Marrakesh, groups of Gnawa perform acrobatic dances to the accompaniment of large side drums (tbel or ganga) and the karkabas. The sound of the drums also rousts any spirits (jnun) that may have settled in the neighborhood.

Gnawa musicians – Photo courtesy of Direction du patrimoine culturel, Morocco, 2015

The Derdeba

Gnawa music is very powerful spiritual music and it is primarily used for healing. The Gnawa carry out trance ceremonies (derdeba) in order to heal people who are very sick. The goal may be to purge an evil spirit that has brought the illness, infertility, stress or some other affliction or the purpose may be to prolong a positive relationship with a spirit that has brought prosperity, good fortune, or some other baraka (blessing).

The derdeba is performed all night long in order to carry out the healing and purification. The musicians and devotees warm up for the derdeba with entertainment music played on the sintir. When they are ready to begin the ceremony, all the participants gather outside, in front of the house where the derdeba is to take place. The drums and karkabas announce to neighbors and spirits alike that the derdeba is about to begin. The crowd then walks back inside the house in a candlelight procession. The maallem (lead musician or maestro) again plays the sintir, and the group sings and plays a series of songs to dedicate the robes to be worn during the ceremony, while the other participants share dates and milk.

The complete ceremony includes seven sections, each controlled by a different saint or family of spirits. Each section is associated with clothing of a particular color. The ritual sends some of the participants into a trance or a spirit may first possess a devotee, and then express through the dancer’s mouth its desire for the appropriate tune. The trance state is accelerated by the proper combination of spices and incense that must be burned, and the dancer must be dressed in the spirit’s preferred color.

A complete derdeba may last all night, well past dawn on the following day. As the trance ceremony ends, the musicians return to lighter music to relax the spectators.

The Gnawa Lute

Gnawa musician playing guimbri – Photo courtesy of Direction du patrimoine culturel, Morocco

The Gnawa lute goes by a variety of names, including guembri or guimbri, sentir (a term related to the Persian word santur), hejhuj (an onomatopoeic Arabic word) and gog (probably derived from a West African word for fiddle).

Rising Gnawa artist Asmaa Hamzaoui

Gnawa Artists

Asmaa Hamzaoui
El Houssaine Kili
Gnawa Halwa
Gnawa Sidi Mimoun
Hamid El Gnawi
Hassan Hakmoun
M’alem Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd
Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa
Mehdi Nassouli
Nass Marrakech

Gnawa Web sites


Gnawa Music of Marrakesh: Night Spirit Masters. (Axiom/Island Records, 1990).
Gift of the Gnawa with Hassan Hakmoun, Adam Rudolph, Don Cherry, and Richard Horowitz (Flying Fish/Rounder 571, 1991).
The Splendid Gnawa Masters Featuring Randy Weston (Verve, 1992).
Trance – Hassan Hakmoun and Zahar (Real World 62334, 1993).
The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco Featuring Randy Weston. (Antilles/Verve 314 521 587, 1995).
Le Gnawa du Maroc. Ouled El ‘Abdi (Auvidis/Ethnic, 1995).
Trance: Balinese Barong, Gnawa Music of Morocco, Zkir from Chinese Turkistan – The Musical Expeditions Series/Audio CD and Book (Ellipsis Arts, 1995). Compiled by David Lewiston.
Ancestral Healing – Pops Mohamed, Hassan Hakmoun, and Ephat Mujuru (B&W Music 069, 1995)
The Fire Within: Gnawa Music of Morocco – Hassan Hakmoun (Music of the World, 1995).
Gnawa from Marrakech: Song for Sidi Mimoun (Robi Droli rdc 5035, 1996) .
Volume I. Gnawa Songs and Music from Morocco (Al Sur AL 101, 1996).
Al-Maghrib, Gnawa Music. Vol. 6 of The Music of Islam. 15 vols. Prod. David Parsons. (Celestial Harmonies, 1997).
Gnawa Essaouira – Maaleem Mahmoud Ghania (Sounds of the World, 1999).
Life Around the World – Hassan Hakmoun (Alula Records, 1999)
Volume II. The Masters of guimbri: The White Suite. (Al Sur AL 145, 2000).
Volume III. The Masters of guimbri: The Blue Suites. (Al Sur AL 146, 2000).
Volume IV. The Masters of guimbri: The Red and Green Suites. (Al Sur AL 147, 2000).
Volume V. The Masters of guimbri: The Dark and Yellow Suites. (Al Sur AL 148, 2000).
Sabil a Salaam – Nass Marrakech (Alula Records, Alu-1021, 2000)
Bouderbala – Nass Marrakech (World Village 498001, 2002)
The Gift – Hassan Hakmoun (Triloka 7930185228-2, 2002)
Essaouira, festival gnaoua (Creon Music, 2003)
Heritage musical des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Sono Disc, 2002)
Hadra des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Ocora, 2003)
Ouled Bambara-Portraits of Gnawa
Fangnawa, a collaboration with Moroccan master musician Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa (Strut Records STRUT096, 2012)


Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Gnawa Trance and Music in the Global Marketplace by Deborah Kapchan, Wesleyan University Press, 2007.
The Gnawa Lions: Authenticity and Opportunity in Moroccan Ritual Music (Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) by Christopher Witulski, Indiana University Press, 2018. ISBN-10: 0253036755, ISBN-13: 978-0253036759.