Musical Performance: Re-Encounter: Senegalese Mourid and Moroccan Gnawa Music

Sat, September 20, 2008 9:30 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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The Third Annual Alwan Festival of Sacred Music

$15 ($10 Students with valid ID)

House opens 9:00 PM

Re-Encounter: Senegalese Mourid and Moroccan Gnawa Music


Mousa Dieng Kala


Mohamed Bechar

The Music:

Hybridity is the rule. The genius of North and West African Islam has been its ability to prserve local traditions and values and at the same time remain part of the larger Islamic world. Music of the Mourids of Senegal, a Sufi order founded by Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1852-1927), reflects this symbiosis by blending local melodies and rhythms with the poems and teachings of the Sheikh. Not far up north, Gnawa music of Morocco is used for healing rituals and often invokes the Seven Colors, synonyms of the seven African Deities. While adopting Islam, Gnawa continued to celebrate rituals possession and healing called Derdba, and proceeding over a whole night (lila) that is animated jointly by a master musician (maâlem) accompanied by his troupe. Gnawa music mixes classical Islamic Sufism with pre-Islamic African traditions, whether local or sub-Saharan.

Mousa Dieng Kala, a Mourid from Senegal, and Maalem Mohamed Bechar, a Gnawa Musician from Morocco, will present the two regional faces of this music, then join on a re-encounter that explores their connected past.

The Musicians:

Mousa Dieng Kala

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Mousa moved to Montreal, Canada in 1993, after managing Youssou Ndour's recording studio for two years, to pursue a degree in film. While studying film making, Mousa started exploring his vocal talents and founded a group that performed locally. His music was a blend of many African styles and other genres. He was featured in three compilations: "African tranquility" (1997), "Soufi Soul" (1997) and "Prayer" (1998). While honing his vocal skills, Mousa's music turned inward to spiritual themes. In his album "Shakawtu" (1996), he put the poetry of Sheikh Amadou Bamba to his melodies. He followed with two other albums "Salimto" (2001)and "18 Safar" (2003). Mousa's meditative music breaks away from emphasis on rhythm and dance is at once old and new.

Mohamed Bechar

Born in Marrakesh, Morocco, Bechar moved to Brooklyn with his wife and children in 1997. He first learned Gnawa traditions as a young boy from his mother’s family; his cousin was ma’alem or master Gnawi and his aunt hosted all-night Gnawa trance ceremonies (lila) twice a year. Bechar has worked as a Gnawi in Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fna square and other settings, and is well versed in traditional chants and instruments such as qraqeb, tbel and sentir. He often performs alongside his son Mohsine, and his brother-in-laws Abdel Rahim Hakmoun and, world-famous artist, Hassan Hakmoun, who is one of the musicians who brought Gnawa music to the attention of audiences all over the world.

This event is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the support of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University.

Last updated: 2008-09-20 11:33:35

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